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Lookout in a crow's nest on a German outpost boat, 1939
A starboard aft lookout on the US aircraft carrier John C. Stennis in 2008, as part of a training exercise
Armored frigate "King Wilhelm" (1867) with observation towers on which one could look out

In shipping, a lookout is used to refer to observing the surroundings of the ship for information that may affect the safety of the ship or other vehicles or people. On the other hand, the person who looks out is also called the lookout.

Lookout is also called an elevated point on ships from which one or can look out, such as a crow's nest .

Tasks of the lookout

The lookout must observe all things or occurrences in the vicinity of the ship that are important for safety and report its observations. This applies, for example, to other vehicles that are on a collision course (stationary bearing) or could come when changing course, or objects with a risk of collision (e.g. drifting tree trunks or containers, drift ice), but also emergency signals from other ships, possible sightings of pirates or enemy warships (or possible prey ships), possible dangers to others from your own ship (e.g. observation of swimmers in the water) etc. Signs of bad weather, fog fields etc. should also be reported as a rule. Depending on the assignment, observations that are helpful for navigation are added, such as navigational signs , land, etc. In view of ships (particularly war) that fear hostile actions from other ships or land, a lookout is of course also kept for appropriate information; If necessary, the lookout is doubled or multiplied for this purpose and used at different points on the ship (in particular fore and aft ) and / or in different directions. Of course, important observations on the ship itself (shift of cargo, man overboard , etc.) are also reported, even if they are not the task of the lookout in the narrower sense.

Binoculars (nautical: " Kieker ") are often used to improve visibility . The lookout is not limited to observations that relate to sight (i.e. keeping an eye out), but also relates, for example, to what is audible (e.g. foghorns , howling buoys ). The listening watch , however , is not the job of the lookout , i.e. H. the monitoring of marine radio traffic on the radio.

How close or far the vicinity of the ship to be observed is depends on the circumstances: In narrow, busy waters or at low speeds, only ships from the immediate vicinity are usually reported, as it is impossible to estimate whether movements are further away become a danger; Exceptions can be, for example, particularly large ships whose direction of travel can already be predicted and which may later require evasive action. On the high seas or at high speeds observations usually at longer distances, up to the horizon ( "Horizon"), expanded.

Observations made by the lookout are usually either reported directly to the guard or, in the case of greater distances and / or without an on-board radio , communicated to another person who goes to the guard and reports to him (see: "look true" ). The lookout also indicates the position of the vehicle / object being observed relative to your own ship and, if possible, its direction of movement, speed, etc.

Lookout obligation and lookout position

A lookout must be manned around the clock on ships during the voyage. This is not only required for safety reasons, but also for legal reasons ( collision prevention rules , applies in particular in international waters). This is intended to avoid collisions and thus an accident which can result in loss or damage to the vehicle.

In principle, a lookout can be made from any point on the ship from which the ship's surroundings can be observed. In commercial shipping, depending on the arrangement , the lookout is either at the front of the ship ( back ) or on the bridge, on large ships usually on the side of the bridge ( nock ). On smaller sailing ships, a fellow sailor in leeward position is often asked to look out, because on this side the sails obscure the helmsman and / or watchman. On older ships the lookout was in the crow's nest , a raised point on the front mast. B. in the Second World War - on observation towers.

An elevated position is generally advantageous in order to see more distant objects earlier over the horizon, or to look over the cargo on modern cargo ships. The height of the lookout determines the visibility; at a location 2 m above the water surface, an area of ​​approx. 5 km is overlooked, at 10 m the radius expands to approx. 12 km, at 15 m to 15 km. At a higher location, however, nearby objects may be more difficult to see if they are no longer visible against the generally brighter sky (possibly also: starry sky).

Lookout in modern shipping

Modern technology has made the lookout significantly less important - especially in peaceful commercial shipping - but it basically remains. It continues to play an even greater role on warships - especially in war zones or during military naval maneuvers - as well as when there is a risk of pirates, and, due to fundamentally less technical equipment, also in recreational shipping.

The main contributors to reducing the importance of the lookout are:

  • With the help of radar , objects could soon be seen much better, especially in poor visibility, than with the eyes of the best lookout. Radar devices also allow the location (determination of the exact direction and distance) of the object and, with the ARPA system, even the calculation of possible collisions. However, radar images can also be misleading, require a short delay, etc., which is why a radar device alone is no substitute for the lookout.
  • The Automatic Identification System (AIS) allows the participating ships to be recognized on an electronic nautical chart , including the identification of the ship, its speed, course, etc. However, many smaller ships - especially sports vehicles - do not participate in AIS, and they also need the AIS themselves another little delay.

According to the collision prevention rules , the look-out is mandatory around the clock to this day. This also applies on the high seas, even if the obligation is neglected again and again, both by commercial shipping and yachts (e.g. impossible for single-handed sailors ). In particular on narrow, busy waters (e.g. the Elbe), the lookout remains an important means of preventing collisions, even for commercial shipping.

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Wiktionary: lookout  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations