What Are The Duties Of A Ship’s Lookout?

A lookout is a person at the ship’s bridge who maintains a continuous watch of the sea to report any kind of hazard that can be an obstacle in the navigation and cause harm to the ship. According to COLREG, a lookout is required to give his uninterrupted attention at all times to the ship’s navigation in order to inform the officer on watch (OOW) about other ships, shipwrecks, debris, floating objects etc.

Though the job might sound simple, the duty of a lookout is a responsible one and should be taken with utmost seriousness. Lookout helps in carrying out the duties of the officer on watch (OOW) more efficiently.

Ship Lookout


The lookout should inform the officer on watch when he observes any of the following:

  • Any kind of floating object
  • Navigation mark or lights
  • Any type of distress signal from other ships or ports
  • Land
  • Ice, irrespective of size or form
  • Any type of ship irrespective of its size
  • Sandbags or prominent navigational features
  • Problem with any of the ship’s navigation systems, including navigational lights
  • Any kind of hazards or derelicts that can be dangerous to the ship’s navigation

The main duties of a lookout are:

  • To give utmost attention through sight, hearing, and any other means in order to assess any change in the operating environment
  • Detecting and reporting on ships, shipwrecks, debris, shipwrecked person, and other navigational hazards
  • Reporting on possibilities of collision, stranding, and other dangers to navigation
  • The lookout should remain at his position at all times until he is relieved from his duties. On relieving, he should provide all the information to his reliever about things that he has reported.

The job of lookout is mostly carried out by Able Seaman (AB) or Ordinary seaman (OS) of the ship. However, it is to note that the lookout duties cannot be shared with other works.

Today, the job of a lookout is of utmost importance on ships plying in piracy affected areas.


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About Author

An ardent sailor and a techie, Anish Wankhede has voyaged on a number of ships as a marine engineer officer. He loves multitasking, networking, and troubleshooting. He is the one behind the unique creativity and aesthetics at Marine Insight.


  1. Lookout person helps by sight and hearing and helmsman via maintaining course as ordered by oow

  2. According to the regulations, can a Deck Cadet be considered a proper lookout? I have searched about it and I have never found an explicit prohibition for cadets to be the lookout.

  3. contact sighted example: Boat sighted crossing to port bearing: 010 Approximate distance ; 800 YARDS

  4. My Question is – Can a Able Seaman can observed in Radar and ECDIS during bridge watch and lookout. Ab can check in Radar an ECDIS during bridge watch lookout. What are the Authorities for AB On bridge lookout system.

  5. Yes, an Able Seaman (AB) can be trained to observe radar and ECDIS during bridge watch and lookout. The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) states that an AB should be trained in the use of radar and ECDIS as part of their basic training.

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