What is BNWAS, its Performance & Carriage Requirements?

Written by Amit Sharma
What is BNWAS (Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System)?

A Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System,( BNWAS) , is an automatic system which sounds an alarm if the watch officer on the bridge of a ship falls asleep, becomes otherwise incapacitated, or is absent for too long a time. The BNWAS is automatically engaged when the ship’s autopilot is activated.

The bridge navigational watch alarm system shall be in operation whenever the ship is underway at sea; 

Bridge Navigational Watch & Alarm System – BNWAS is a monitoring and Alarm system which notify other navigational officers or master of the ship if the officer on watch (OOW) does not responds or he/she is incapable of  performing the watch duties efficiently which can lead to maritime accidents.

The minimum requirement for a BNWAS under International Maritime Organization standards is to have a dormant stage and three alarm stages, except that on a non-passenger vessel, the second stage may be omitted. 

Stage 1: When the autopilot is engaged, the bridge officer is required to signal his presence to the BNWAS system every 3 to 12 minutes in response to a flashing light, either by moving an arm in front of a motion sensor, pressing a confirmation button, or directly applying pressure to the BNWAS centre.

Stage 2: When a confirmation signal fails to occur within 15 seconds in Stage 1, an alarm will sound on the bridge, and if there is still no confirmation signal after a further 15 seconds, in the captain’s and the first officer’s cabins. One of them must then go to the bridge and cancel the alarm.

Stage 3: If neither the captain nor the first officer cancels the alarm within a specified time period (between 90 seconds and 3 minutes depending on the size of the vessel), an alarm will sound in locations where other personnel are usually available.

What is the need of  BNWAS?

“The purpose of the 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.

The BNWAS should be operational whenever the ship’s heading or track control system is engaged, unless inhibited by the Master.”

About the author

Amit Sharma

Graduated from M.E.R.I. Mumbai (Mumbai University), After a brief sailing founded this website with the idea to bring the maritime education online which must be free and available for all at all times and to find basic solutions that are of extreme importance to a seafarer by our innovative ideas.