30 Types of Navigation Equipment and Resources Used Onboard Modern Ships

Gone are the days when a ship navigation officer had to take help of unconventional ways to plan and navigate a voyage at sea. Today, a ship officer has myriad of marine navigation equipment which makes his life a lot simpler, thanks to the advancement in technology.  Moreover, present day seafarers are trained so as to know the functioning and operation of all modern day navigational equipment that have made the journey at sea smoother and safer.

With modern day facilities and automation, a ship today has several advanced navigation equipment systems which give accurate data for the voyage.

Herein, we have enlisted 30 types of navigational equipment, both old and new, which are present on all merchant ships.

1.   Gyro Compass:  It is used for finding the right direction. Unlike magnetic compass, gyro compass is not hampered by external magnetic field.  It is used to find correct North Position, which is also the earth’s rotational axis. Its repeater system must be present in the steering platform for emergency steering. Read more here

2.   Radar: It is used to determine the distance of the ship from land, other ships, or any floating object out at sea. Read more here

3.   Magnetic Compass: The magnetic compass work in conjunction with the magnetic field of the earth. It is used to get planned direction for the voyage.



4.   Auto Pilot: It is a combination of hydraulic, mechanical, and electrical system and is used to control the ship’s steering system from a remote location (Navigation bridge).

5.   ARPA: Automatic Radar Plotting Aid displays the position of a ship and other vessels nearby. The radar displays the position of the ships in the vicinity and selects the course for the vessel by avoiding any kind of collision.



6.   Automatic Tracking Aid: Just like ARPA, automatic tracking aid displays the information on tracked targets in graphic and numeric to generate a planned layout for a safer and collision free course.

7.   Speed & Distance Log Device: The device is used to measure the speed and the distance traveled by a ship from a set point. By calculating the same, ETA of the ship is adjusted or given to the port authority and agent.

8.   Echo Sounder: This instrument is used to measure the depth of the water below the ship’s bottom using sound waves.


9.   Electronic Chart Display Information System: Read more about ECDIS here.

10. Automatic Identification system: Read more about AIS here.

11. LRIT: Read more about LRIT here.

12. Rudder Angle Indicator: Rudder angle indicator, as the name indicates, provide the angle of the rudder. The display is provided on bridge to control the rate of turn and rudder angle of the ship.


13. Voyage Data Recorder: Read more about VDR here.

14. Rate of turn indicator: It indicates how fast the ship is turning at steady rate, normally shown as number of degree turned.

15. GPS Receiver: A Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver is a display system used to show the ship’s location with the help of Global positioning satellite in the earth’s orbit.

16. Sound Reception System: This system is required for a ship with fully enclosed type bridge. It enables the navigating officer inside the cabin to listen to the sound signals and fog horn from other ships.


17. Navigational Lights: Read more here.

18. Ship Whistle: A ship’s horn is known as whistle and it is generally provided in duplicate. One is driven by air and the other is electrically operated.



19. Daylight Signaling Lamp: They are light signaling devices used for emergency signaling in the day time.

20. Pilot Card: It is an informative booklet provided to the ship’s pilot. It consists of the dimension, draught, turning circle, maneuvering, propulsion equipment etc. of the vessel for safe maneuvering.

21. Voyage Plan: A voyage Plan must be present onboard for referring past voyage plans or planning a future voyage.


22. Forecastle Bell: It is used to mark the presence of the ship in fog or bad weather and sound the alarm in case of any emergency.

23. Maneuvering Booklet: In this booklet the performance of the propulsion plant and the ship during maneuvering in different weathers and situations is recorded for quick reference.

24. Black Ball Shape: It is a day time signaling shape used to determine the characteristics of vessel with different arrangement of ball shapes. For e.g. a vessel at anchor will show a blackball at foremost end of the forecastle.



25. Record of Navigation Activities: All the navigational activities must be recorded and kept on board for ready reference. This is a mandatory and the most important log book.

26. Record of Maintenance of Navigational Equipment: Hard copy of the record must be present onboard ships for ready reference of port and regulatory authorities and must be signed by master and duty officers of the ship.

27. Wheelhouse Posters: Present in the Navigation bridge, it displays a detailed information of maneuvering characteristics of the ship.

28. Transmitting Heading Devise: They are used to display the information of the vessel’s true heading.

29. Black Diamond Shape: When the ship is being towed or when a vessel is unable to maneuvers on itself, a black diamond shape is shown during the day time.

30. Ship Flags: Various types of ship flags with different colors and signs are used to indicate a ship’s position. Signal flags are they are commonly known, have been used since the ancient times and are still used on all vessels.



Image Credits: hydro, kaboodle, equip4ship, nauticexpo, nauticexpo, agrymarine, watercraftsonline, tankercompany, jimbuoy

beroepsvaart, alteredbythesea

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  1. gideon says

    this is educating for the beginners. i guess to make this site a complete marine site, more diagrams of navigational equipment and their function should be uploaded.
    good work

  2. says

    This page is helping many maritime student to know the fundamentals of marine navigation, especially student of Maritime Management Technology (MMT). Federal University Of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), In Nigeria.
    I love this page, kudos to the owner..!

  3. stallone says

    This is really navigation made easy….recommended for every navigator. A must read for every seafarers…i have really learnt enough.

  4. richard ugdiman says

    i really like this pages, this information helps me a lot. i am a BSMT student.

  5. says

    nice site but needs full navigating equipment’s update for us maritime students in Nigeria, especially for our students in federal college of fisheries and marine technology that does not have a vessel to show and teach us practical things about ships

  6. victor says

    This remains my best maritime website ever seen very rich and educating, i have recommended it to a number of my friends in Nigeria and they were glad indeed. The marine combo pack has widen my knowledge as a young practitioner and i now stand tall among my colleaques. kudos to you for a job welldone.Love you all

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