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Tip for Ship Jobs:How to Create a Voyage Plan

People who seriously want to work as a ship officer or deck officer should know how to make a voyage plan or passage plan. Voyage or passage planning is a detailed description of the ships journey from the beginning to end. This knowledge is essential because it is an important part of navigation.

A good voyage plan should contain the following: departure on the dock and harbor area, the en route portion, arrival at the destination and mooring. The common term for this in the seafarer industry is 'berth to berth'.

The maritime international law states that voyage planning is the legal responsibility of the captain but the creation of a voyage plan is a duty of the navigation officer of the ship. In a merchant ship, this is usually the second officer.

A careful voyage planning is essential because according to studies, 80% of accidents due to navigation is a result of a human error and that in most cases, the error could have been prevented. To avoid this, passage planning should include continuous monitoring of the ship’s progress and regular checking if the voyage is still according to the plan.

The creation of a voyage plan goes through four stages as stated in the International Maritime Organization Resolution A.893, Guidelines For Voyage Planning.Here are the four stages: appraisal, planning, execution, and monitoring.

The said guidelines identify fifty elements of voyage planning, but some of them can only be used in certain situations. 

The voyage plan is checked by Port State Control, Vetting Inspections and other inspectors that may come onboard. It is highly recommended that you visit the ship’s library to read and expand your knowledge. The following are some books worth reading:  

Bridge Team Management 2nd Edition (by: Capt. AJ Smith)
Bridge Procedures and Guide 4th Edition (International Chamber of Shipping), Guides to Port Entry, Nautical Publications and Weather routing.

Here are some tips to be able to create a good voyage plan:

Before making a voyage plan, ask yourself the tools that you will need and prepare it. You should also know the destination port so you can plan your route ahead. Make a general or index chart to be used as reference. This is most useful when you have to handle many charts. It is typical for newbie’s to have a difficult time in plotting so to make it easier, one must have an overview of where to plot the courses.

If the route will not cross an ocean, it is recommended that one use “Mercator sailing”. For those that will cross an ocean, the Great Circle Sailing should be used. The Composite Sailing is an alternative but it needs to be approved by the captain.

Don’t forget to consult the ship’s captain and ask the following: distance-off coasts, restrictions in the voyage according to your draft and air draft, tides and currents of the destination port, reporting procedures during the passage or voyage, specific instructions and information from the charterers and agent of the destination port, and other information you may need.

Voyage Planning

When you have the gathered the complete tools and information, you can now start with the route planning. Start by identifying the waypoints and measure the courses and distances.

Don’t forget that the distance you will provide for the Captain will be from pilot station departure port to pilot station arrival port. Do not include the Pilotage waypoint in the sea passage calculation of distance run. A different calculation will be specifically made for that. You also need to determine the remaining distance from pilot station to berth.

After making the list of waypoints, calculate the courses and distances. You don’t have to do this manually as there are many computer software you can use for this.

Course Plotting

In plotting your courses, always take not of the following: air draft, maximum draft, air draft, maneuverability of your ship. You should also be aware of the ship’s limitation.

Appy the following: parallel indexing, position frequency, course alteration or wheel over position, bearing and distance off from a landmark, bouyage system, reporting positions and reporting systems, leading lines, and other means of position fixing other than GPS and ARPA. You can read more about this in the book, “Bridge Team Management.”

Voyage Planning Report

When you are done with the chart, you also need to do the Voyage Planning report. You will sign this document as the navigating officer. Other signatories would be the Master, Chief Officer and the Third officer to show that they checked and agreed with the voyage plan you made.

Voyage planning may seem complicated and it is also likely that doing it for the first time would take a lot of time. However with practice, voyage planning will become easier as you will get used to it and you will find a system or a way to make it easier. Constant upgrading of your knowledge will be your key to success and awareness to our constantly evolving and improving Maritime Industry.

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