The main responsibilities of navigating officers are the piloting of seafaring vessels and determining a ship's position by means of the sun, moon, stars, landmarks, magnetic compasses, electronic radio and radar systems. Continual reference to this equipment and to landmarks helps to keep the ship on course.
Navigating officers’ skills are particularly necessary in situations such as passing through narrow waterways and entering and leaving harbours. They need to be able to navigate a ship by radar alone.
They need to keep a continual watch on the ship’s position whilst coasting by means of objects or the shoreline. They take charge of the watch at sea and are responsible for the ship’s bridge instrumentation. Weather forecasts and radio messages are also considered when determining the course of passage. The navigating officer is in charge of a team, responsible for the ship’s navigating instruments. They are also responsible for ships’ refuelling.
Navigating officers need to have a good knowledge of the “rule of the road” at sea and be able to interpret it for their fellow watch keeping officers. As officers, they also have the normal shipboard duties, such as maintaining crew discipline.