Lookout still has a role

Skuld Assistant Vice President, Claims, Vishal Khosla has said that a human lookout still has a role even in an age of artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and autonomous ships.

He noted that the word “lookout” could appear to sound outdated or even irrelevant, but asserted that the role of the lookout on board ships remained more important than ever, given increasing traffic volume and the more complex equipment being used in integrated bridge systems.

“It is for the watchkeeper to understand the limitations of the equipment available to them and decide what means they must use to properly determine the risk of collision”, he wrote.

The watchkeeper needed to be able to adapt to the prevailing traffic, weather and visibility conditions and use all the resources available to him to assess whether or not a risk of collision existed.

Khosla accepted that the increased number of aids to navigation such as ARPA, AIS and more recently the ECDIS had provided the watchkeeper with an additional aid to determining if a close quarter situation was developing or if risk of collision existed. The watchkeeper therefore needed to use a combination of both plain sight and all other available aids to navigate safely. Khosla warned that there was a danger that over reliance on electronic aids could become common and that the watchkeeper would rely solely on these without looking out of the bridge windows.

Khosla said that Skuld wanted to highlight to Members the importance of implementing clear procedural guidelines that prohibit the use of any personal electronic equipment on the bridge during watch-keeping hours. “The watchkeeper must understand that their undivided attention is required throughout the period of their watch and right up until the time that the watch is handed over”, concluded Khosla.