BNWAS Basics

The BNWAS is a small investment into the SAFETY of your vessel, life on board and cargo.

Yes, it is in YOUR benefit. No, you DO NOT have a choice. The BNWAS (or the Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System) is mandatory. Moreover, you need a BNWAS that complies with the SOLAS requirement.

This equipment was made mandatory by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) June 2009. Amendments to Chapter V of SOLAS Regulation 19 specify the need for alarms and the BNWAS schedule, or schedule for the implementation of the BNWAS.

An ideal BNWAS should:

  • Be certified by a reputed organization
  • Adhere to the standards set by the IMO
  • Be easy to install

Why Have the BNWAS Installed?

The BNWAS monitors bridge activity to ensure that there is timely information in the event that the bridge is unmanned. By detecting operator disability, it helps in safer navigation and to prevent maritime accidents.

The importance of having equipment to detect activity on the bridge was highlighted by the collision of KAREN DANIELSEN with the Great Belt West Bridge. Investigations of the collision suggested that the OOW (Officer on Watch) may have been incapacitated prior to the accident. The use of the BNWAS or a dead man alarm may have prevented this accident.

A joint paper was subsequently presented to the IMO by the Bahamas Maritime Authority and the Danish Maritime Authority. This paper emphasized the need to make it mandatory for vessels to install and use bridge alarm systems.

How Does the BNWAS Work?

The BNWAS enhances navigational safety by monitoring the alertness of the OOW. Essentially, the BNWAS sounds off a series of alarms. As and when the alarm goes off, the OOW is required to press a button. Not doing so triggers a series of alarms at specified intervals, summoning officers and then the Captain. Thus, in the event of the OOW being incapacitated, the BNWAS alerts other members of the crew, resulting in enhanced safety.

The BNWAS IMO Resolution

As per IMO resolution MSC.128(75) (128/A1), the purpose of a bridge navigational watch alarm system (BNWAS) is to monitor bridge activity and detect operator disability which could lead to marine accidents. The system monitors the awareness of the Officer of the Watch (OOW) and automatically alerts the Master or another qualified OOW if for any reason the OOW becomes incapable of performing the OOW’s duties. This purpose is achieved by a series of indications and alarms to alert first the OOW and, if he is not responding, then to alert the Master or another qualified OOW. Additionally, the BNWAS may provide the OOW with a means of calling for immediate assistance, if required. In order to comply with the SOLAS regulations, the BNWAS should be operational whenever the ship is underway at sea (SOLAS V/19.2.2.3).

 

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