• MTC

COLREGS 101

To all current skippers and skippers in training lets take a look at the rules contained in the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 and see how many we remember. In this chapter we will look at Part A - General which covers Rules 1 to 3.



Rule 1: Application

a. These rules shall apply to all vessels upon the high seas and in all waters connected therewith navigable by seagoing vessels.

- yes guys these rules apply to all of us going to sea and even operating in sheltered waters.


b. Nothing in these rules shall interfere in the operation of special rules made by an appropriate authority for roadsteads, harbours, rivers, lakes or inland waterways connected with the high seas and navigable by seagoing vessels. Such special rules shall conform as closely possible to these rules.

- so when launching from harbours or operating on waters under a local authority, there might be some special rules pertaining to these waters, so please ensure that you are aware of any special rules. These rules however will be as close to the colregs as possible.


c. Nothing in these rules shall interfere with the operation of any special rules made by the Government of any State with respect to additional station or signal lights or shapes or whistle signals for ships of war and vessels proceeding under convoy, or with respect to additional station or signal lights for fishing vessels, fishing as a fleet. These additional station and signal lights or whistle signals shall, so far as possible, be such that they cannot be mistaken for any light, shape, or signal authorized elsewhere under these rules.

- Governments might have there own signals and shapes for their fleets but these signals and shapes cannot resemble those in the Colregs.


d. Traffic separation schemes may be adopted by the Organization for the purpose of these Rules.

- the organization is the International Maritime Organization (IMO).


e. Whenever the Government concerned shall have determined that a vessel of any special construction or purpose cannot comply with the provisions of any of these Rules with respect to the number, position, range, or arc of visibility of lights or shapes, as well as to the disposition and characteristics of sound-signalling appliances, such vessel shall comply with such other provisions in regard to the number, position, range or arc of visibility of lights or shapes, as well as to the disposition and characteristics of sound-signalling appliances, as her Government shall have determined to be the closest possible compliance with these Rules in respect of that vessel.

- if a vessel of special construction or purpose cannot carry the lights or shapes as per the rules, the government under which this vessels fall, shall determine compliance as close as possible to the rules.


Rule 2: Responsibility

a. Nothing in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case.

- know and follow these rules because if you neglect the rules or not act like a prudent seaman applying them you will be in trouble and will not be exonerated.


b. In construing and complying with these rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.

- if you realize that a collision is imminent even when abiding by these rules you can deviate from them only to prevent such collision.


Rule 3: Definitions

For the purpose of these Rules, except where the context otherwise requires:


a. The word “vessel” includes every description of water craft, including non-displacement craft, WIG craft and seaplanes, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.



b. The term “power-driven vessel” means any vessel propelled by machinery.


c. The term “sailing vessel” means any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used.


d. The term “vessel engaged in fishing” means any vessel fishing with nets, lines, trawls or other fishing apparatus which restrict manoeuverability, but does not include a vessel fishing with trolling lines or other fishing apparatus which do not restrict manoeuverability.


e. The word “seaplane” includes any aircraft designed to manoeuvre on the water.


f. The term “vessel not under command” means a vessel which through some exceptional circumstance is unable to manoeuvre as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel.


g. The term “vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre” means a vessel which from the nature of her work is restricted in her ability to manoeuvre as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel. The term “vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuvre” shall include but not be limited to:

i) a vessel engaged in laying, servicing or picking up a navigation mark, submarine cable or pipeline;

ii) a vessel engaged in dredging, surveying or underwater operations;

iii) a vessel engaged in replenishment or transferring persons, provisions or cargo while underway;

iv) a vessel engaged in the launching or recovery of aircraft;

v) a vessel engaged in mine clearance operations;

vi) a vessel engaged in a towing operation such as severely restricts the towing vessel and her tow in their ability to deviate from their course.


h. The term “vessel constrained by her draught” means a power-driven vessel which, because of her draught in relation to the available depth and width of navigable water, is severely restricted in her ability to deviate from the course she is following.


i. The word “underway” means that a vessel is not at anchor, or made fast to the shore, or aground.


j. The words “length” and “breadth” of a vessel mean her length overall and greatest breadth.


k. Vessels shall be deemed to be in sight of one another only when one can be observed visually from the other.


l. The term “restricted visibility” means any condition in which visibility is restricted by fog, mist, falling snow, heavy rainstorms, sandstorms or any other similar causes.


m. The term “Wing-in-Ground (WIG) craft” means a multimodal craft which, in its main operational mode, flies in close proximity to the surface by utilizing surface-effect action.



In the next post we will look at Part B - Steering and Sailing Rules, Section I - Conduct of vessels in any condition of visibility which contains Rules 4 to 10.

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