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Smooth Sailing With A Ship Checklist

Safety at sea must be the primary concern of mariners and thus checking the ship before leaving the port is a must as it must be in top condition. The vessel must hold all safety equipment and mariners must watch out for the weather news bulletin, for example. Learn which other important elements your pre-departure and -arrival checklist should contain.

What is a Ship Checklist?

A ship checklist is a tool that mariners use to ensure the safety of a vessel and that its safety equipment is in place before leaving port. Such a ship checklist will guide you on how to prepare well pre-departure, as it lists actions still to be performed before departure, while at sea, and before the arrival to a new port.

But a ship checklist is not merely a preparatory tool: It can also be employed in order to conduct risk assessments, establish preventive measures or investigate when accidents do happen after all. With a checklist in place, ship safety officers can find out what issues are, where a problem started, and if there are safety measures that have perhaps been overlooked.

As a third component, aside from identifying risk hazards onboard, the checklist also includes how cleanliness should be maintained in every part of the vessel.

In short, a ship checklist is a versatile and necessary document that ensures the health and safety of all crew members and the success of operations, by encompassing three main sections:

  1. Preparation
  2. Risk Assessment
  3. Maintenance

In this article, you will learn:

1. Which Elements Your Ship Checklist Should Include

2. How Arrival And Departure Checklists Should Be Structured

3. Why Ship Checklists Are Important

4. How A Digital Checklist Maker Can Support Your Voyages

Ship Captain in Cabin

Three Main Elements To Include In a Ship Pre-Departure Checklist?

Before leaving for a voyage, review the things that you will need and the actions that still need to be performed before leaving port. Depending on the purpose of your journey, the components of the list will vary, however, there are three main elements that should be paid attention to and ticked off the checklist before every sea voyage, regardless of the journey’s purpose.

  1. Check the weather forecast
    In order to know what you can expect during your time out at sea, it is important to check the weather forecast. Of course, the weather is often unpredictable and subject to change, but being prepared for rough conditions if they have been forecast will facilitate your travels, preparations and calculations.
  2. Check the boat condition
    Before every journey you should inspect your vessel to ensure its seaworthiness. In regular intervals you should also perform SIRE inspections to ensure maximum maritime safety. Some of the critical things to pay attention to at every inspection are the hulls, electrical system and lights, steering and throttle controls, as well as the propulsion and cooling systems.
    Tanks, carburetors, and fuel lines should also be double-checked for any leaks. Further, it is necessary to ensure that the oil and fuel levels are adequate and that the filters and spark plugs have been changed.
  3. Check the safety equipment
    In order to ensure the health and safety of your crewmates. There should be enough life jackets, flotation devices, and lifeboats available which need to be in good condition, be of the correct size and equipped with all the necessary safety and emergency items.

    However, only having safety equipment on board is not enough. The crew and everyone on board should be aware of where to find them in case of an emergency. Other safety checks to look out for are:

    • All safety paraphernalia are in good condition and accessible
    • You have a first aid kit, basic tools, spare parts, plugs for all through-hull fittings
    • You have official nautical charts
    • The engine shut off line is in good order
    • You must have one anchor attached to an anchor line
    • Have two fenders for docking
    • The dock line and anchor must be in good condition
    • Let passengers know proper docking procedures

  4. General preparations
    • Keep the weight low and balance the weight of people and gear
    • There must be proof of competency onboard
    • Know the location of local hazards and expected water level tides
    • Leave a float plan
    • Run blowers for at least four minutes before you start the engine. There should be no smell of fume
    • Check the airflow
    • Bring flashlight
    • Navigation lights are in correct positions and working properly

The Contents of Arrival & Departure Checklists

In order to not only make sure everything that is necessary is aboard and that the safety of crew and passengers is provided for, it is also imperative that you comply with both local and international regulations in all ports. This is specifically what departure and arrival are for:


There are multiple areas that need to be covered by a departure checklist relating to topics such as navigation/communication, documentation or general safety. Questions you should ask yourself include but are not limited to:

  • Are all crew members oriented on their duties aboard the vessel?
  • Is the crew list complete?
  • Do you have permission to depart?
  • Is the inter-ship communication working?
  • Are radars and other equipment working?
  • Is vessel’s draft recorded in logbook?
  • Is steering gear tested?
  • Are emergency lights working properly?
  • Are watertight doors and hatches secured?
  • Has proper PPE been ensured for staff operating mooring lines?


Just as a departure has to be prepared for, the arrival checklist is as vital to ensure proper procedures when landing at a seaport. Ask yourself the following questions when approaching a port:

  • Has the receiving port been informed of arrival 3 days in advance?
  • Is all information gathered that port authorities require?
  • Is inter-ship communication working?
  • Have wind changes been anticipated?
  • Have mooring lines, cables and straps been secured?
  • Has the crew been briefed on mooring duties?

Ship in Strait

5 Reasons Why Arrival and Departure Checklists Are Important

Safety at sea and preparation is very important and one must not be complacent when it comes to boat safety. Always refer to your ship checklist and make sure you have everything. The arrival and departure checklists are especially crucial whenever you set out to sea, for reasons such as:


A ship checklist helps your crew ensure a safe departure and arrival of the vessel. Serving as a guide, the checklist includes what steps the crew must take to keep the ship, its crew, and passengers safe at all times.

Having a checklist is essential for preparedness to leave. Both the deck and engine departments must prepare everything for a safe journey. The crew must be aware how to berth the ship and move the cargo which can prevent confusion and facilitate proper unloading of cargoes.

Failure to complete the arrival checklist can cause problems. You will meet difficulties in sailing and maneuvering into the receiving port.


A checklist contains instructions on what to do before departures and includes steps for checking for the smell of fume or an insufficient amount of fuel as both can cause accidents.


Performing a pre-departure or arrival check will prevent delays. Discovery of an engine problem, for example, would require fixing it first before leaving, which could seriously delay your journey.

Inspect the ship hours before departure. This will guarantee that you depart on time and arrive at your destination at the expected arrival time.


Prepare in advance for the ship’s arrival. This will result in hassle-free unloading of cargoes. Passengers can disembark smoothly and all operations can come to a close for the time being.


Delays in the arrival of a ship can result in extra costs since a ship that arrives late has to wait for space where it can maneuver into. Such a delay means that the vessel consumes more fuel than it should.

In other cases, the use of a charter boat has a time limit that should be adhered to. A delay of only a couple of hours could mean extra costs as you will likely have to pay the corresponding fees for the extra hours.

With an arrival or departure ship checklist, you can ensure a safe and prompt trip so that your ship, crew and services can earn and maintain a good reputation with customers and clients.

Smooth Sailing With A Digital Checklist Software

With Lumiform’s audit app you can easily perform a multitude of safety and quality inspections on the go from your smartphone or tablet – online or offline, onboard or offboard. Create checklists for your ship’s arrival and departure and perform safety inspections in order to reduce errors and threats and ensure your vessel’s seaworthiness.

Try Lumiform for free

Container Ship
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