5 ways to get the Bridge Teamwork going: A Master’s take


Bridge Teamwork does not start and end on the Bridge. This is a ship Master's take on a few apparently insignificant changes that can greatly affect crew morale and foster Bridge teamwork on board.

Bridge Teamwork

The Bridge Teamwork does not start and end on the Bridge.

To get the head working the body also needs to be sound and healthy. If the Bridge is the head then everything below that can be considered to be the body. You would want the body to function at its optimum in order to have a sharp, attentive and innovative mind.

Here are a few things you as a Master can do to foster a healthy environment and in turn, improve bridge teamwork.


Let me ask you this as bluntly as possible!!

Do you as a Master remember the first name of your Bosun of your last vessel?


Did you ever address the 3/E by his name?


Appreciate the sumptuous meal prepared by the cook by calling out his name!!

I guess not!!!

Don’t worry; you are not alone!! Most of us are in this category. But then again, we all like to be called by our names and when any job has been assigned to us categorically we would all appreciate our names to be called out. It increases our sense of responsibility and raises our morale.

We end up doing a better job and the Bridge Teamwork gets its 1st spoke in the wheel moving. As Master and senior officers, we have the ability and authority to change these age-old practices and get our officers and crew more involved in the process of safely getting a vessel from one port to another with the cargo intact.

All it takes is a conscious effort – Remember the NAME!!!


Prem Singh was an Engine Fitter I sailed with, in the year 2008 when I was a Master and he has been in touch with me ever since. He sends me one message every year on the same date of the year and enquires about my health and well being, and then he is quiet for the rest of the year till that particular date arrives again. I asked him out of curiosity as to why he waits a full year to know my whereabouts?

His answer gave me a superbly satisfying and elated feeling.

“You don’t remember Sir, you had celebrated my birthday on the ship and it was the first and last time anyone made me cut a cake”, he reminisced!!

I remembered instantly. It was a small cake I made him cut while we were neck-deep in work and had gathered only for ten minutes in our dirty overalls. I did not want him to miss the celebration. He had tears in his eyes when he ran the knife through the cake as we sang along.

I realized that I got a strong and committed team player right there who like all others will add strength to the Bridge Team machinery and the vessel team in general.

I always had a copy of an updated crew list in my cabin highlighting everyone’s birthday so that I can plan a little something in advance. It is the thought that counts… not the extent of the celebration.

You cannot imagine the lengths the crew goes to celebrate my birthday on board!!! 😉😉


What is the biggest difference in the way of thinking as a Chief Mate compared to a Master?“ 🙄🤨

My Captain asked me on the brink of getting my Command. I gave him all the answers I could think of. He shook his head vehemently and told me:

“Now you have to start caring about the engine room like you have loved and protected the deck”

I immediately understood what he was trying to drill into me. I had observed that he always took his morning 10 ‘O’Clock tea in the ECR and the couple of times when he dragged me with him I noticed that he never spoke about work or the ship. He would involve himself with the Engineers and Engine crew about matters related to finances, cars, movies or wherever the conversation took him.

What I or for that matter no one understood was that he was getting the mind of the vessel prepared through the body. The Bridge Team Work was being strengthened by gelling and motivating the Engine Room Team. The work was underway but no one was notified.

The Bridge Teamwork is incomplete without the Engine Room Team.

“Just a matter of a tea break” or as they say in India “chai pe charcha!!”


The family that eats together stays together.

A vessel in today’s scenario is already a lonely place with excessive work pressure and relief delays to add to the existing trying times. Good food they say do wonders to your mind, but the tastiest of food feels horrible to the palate if you don’t have any company to share it with.

As far as possible try to get your officers on the table at a particular time to eat together. You will be amazed at how de – stressing this activity can be and like I mentioned earlier, the ship that eats together stays together.

Eating like any other activity is also a team-building exercise often taken for granted and on most of the vessels, I have noticed the officers are not having their meals together. The Officers Mess room wears a dismal and deserted look.

This situation certainly does not add nourishment to the Bridge Team Work which relates to the stomach of the vessel’s officers and crew.


Receiving a compliment from anyone, even if it were from a stranger doubles up our smile and boosts the confidence which may be the only thing lacking in a team member. We need not wait for the crew to outperform to appreciate their efforts. The need of the hour is to keep reminding them of his importance and significance in the vessel organisation and they will keep outperforming themselves.

Simple phrases can do the trick:

‘Good Job’, ‘You saved the day today’ OR even, ‘I did not know this trick on the ECDIS’ – even if you were aware!!

There can be a million such morale-boosting sentences that can be used depending on the situation.

Don’t feel shy and wait the turn to appreciate – all members contribute equally to get the bridge teamwork smoothly!!


Bridge Teamwork is as strong or as weak as your strongest or weakest team member.

I have deliberately not highlighted any particular activity on the Bridge to prove my point. In my humble opinion I believe that as a Master, you have to get everyone involved and make them feel wanted; to let them know that they matter and the vessel requires each and every one of them to succeed as a team and the Bridge Team is just an extension of the vessel team.

Bridge teamwork is directly proportional to the vessel team performance.

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