A lookout or look-out is a person on a ship
Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

 in charge of the observation of the sea for hazards, other ships, land, etc. Lookouts report anything they see and or hear. When reporting contacts, lookouts give information such as, bearing of the object, which way the object is headed, target angles and position angles and what the contact is. Lookouts should be thoroughly familiar with the various types of distress signals they may encounter at sea.

Naval application

Lookouts have been traditionally placed in high on masts, in crow's nest
Crow's nest
A crow's nest is a structure in the upper part of the mainmast of a ship or structure, that is used as a lookout point.This position ensured the best view of the approaching hazards, other ships or land. It was the best device for this purpose until the invention of radar.In early ships it was...

s and top
Top (sailing ship)
On a traditional square rigged ship, the top is the platform at the upper end of each mast. This is not the masthead "crow's nest" of the popular imagination – above the mainmast is the main-topmast, main-topgallant-mast and main-royal-mast, so that the top is actually about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way...


The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea
International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea
The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 are published by the International Maritime Organization , and set out, inter alia, the "rules of the road" or navigation rules to be followed by ships and other vessels at sea in order to prevent collisions between two or more...

 (1972) says in part:
Every vessel must at all times keep a proper look-out by sight (day shape or lights by eyes or visual aids), hearing (sound signal or Marine VHF radio
Marine VHF radio
Marine VHF radio is installed on all large ships and most seagoing small craft. It is used for a wide variety of purposes, including summoning rescue services and communicating with harbours, locks, bridges and marinas, and operates in the VHF frequency range, between 156 to 174 MHz...

) and all available means (e.g. Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

Automatic Radar Plotting Aid
A marine radar with automatic radar plotting aid capability can create tracks using radar contacts. The system can calculate the tracked object's course, speed and closest point of approach , thereby knowing if there is a danger of collision with the other ship or landmass.Development of ARPA...

Automatic Identification System
The Automatic Identification System is an automatic tracking system used on ships and by Vessel traffic services for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships and AIS Base stations...

, GMDSS...) in order to judge if risk of collision exists.

Criminal definition

By analogy, the term "lookout" is also used to describe a person who accompanies criminals during the commission of a crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

, and warns them of the impending approach of hazards: that is, police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 or eyewitness
A witness is someone who has firsthand knowledge about an event, or in the criminal justice systems usually a crime, through his or her senses and can help certify important considerations about the crime or event. A witness who has seen the event first hand is known as an eyewitness...

es. Although lookouts typically do not actually participate in the crime, they can nonetheless be charged with aiding and abetting
Aiding and abetting
Criminal=Aiding and abetting is an additional provision in United States criminal law, for situations where it cannot be shown the party personally carried out the criminal offense, but where another person may have carried out the illegal act as an agent of the charged, working together with or...

 or with conspiracy
Conspiracy (crime)
In the criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future, and, in some cases, with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement...

, or as accomplice
At law, an accomplice is a person who actively participates in the commission of a crime, even though they take no part in the actual criminal offense. For example, in a bank robbery, the person who points the gun at the teller and asks for the money is guilty of armed robbery...

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