Friday, April 3, 2009

Steering and Sailing Rules

Steering and Sailing Rules, Conduct of Vessels in Any Condition of Visibility

Rule 4
Rules in this section apply to any condition of visibility.

Rule 5
Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.

Comments Rule 5
This is a basic Rule, which is sometimes the cause of small boat accidents or collisions with other boats. On smaller vessels the "lookout" is norminally the helmsman, and this is okay if you know your responsibility and perform your duties. You must be able to hear as well as see potential dangers. If in doubt a vessels operator should post an additional person with the duties of lookout, this might be necessary in situations of reduced visibility. If a collision occurs failure to have a proper lookout might be held against you in court.

This is also the Rule that is obviously violated by all single handing operators on long voyages, or even on voyages of more than a few hours.The Rule states that a lookout is required "at all times" this also means when you are at anchor.

Rule 6 Safe Speed
Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions. In determining a safe speed the following factors shall be among those taken into account by all vessels:

The state of visibility.
The traffic density including concentrations of fishing vessels or any other vessels.
The manageability of the vessel with special reference to stopping distance and turning ability in the prevailing conditions.
At night, the presence of background light such as from shore lights or from back scatter from her own lights.
The state of wind, sea and current, and the proximity of navigational hazards.
The draft in relation to the available depth of water.

Additionally, by vessels with operational radar:
The characteristics, efficiency and limitations of the radar equipment.
Any constraints imposed by the radar range scale in use.
The effect on radar detection of the sea state, weather and other sources of interference.
The possibility that small vessels, ice and other floating objects may not be detected by radar at an adequate range.
The number, location and movement of vessels detected by radar.
The more exact assessment of the visibility that may be possible when radar is used to determine the range of vessels or other objects in the vicinity.

Comments Rule 6
Here is another basic Rule that is so obvious that it shouldn't need a comment. In this rule there is no specific speed stated in terms of knots or miles per hour. The focus is on preventing collisions, and a "safe speed" will be determined by the prevailing conditions, there are six common sense factors specifically listed. Speed limits found in some harbors and waterways are not part of the Navigation Rules, they must not be exceeded, and in some conditions they are greater than a "safe speed." This Rule is applicable in all conditions of visibility normal and restricted.

If you have radar on your boat, and you are using it, you are responsible for using it properly, too many small boat operators do not know how to plot radar targets. Learn the capabilities and limitations of your radar and how to know when a risk of collision exist. The phrase of "stopping in half of the distance of visibility" does not appear in the Rules and is not applicable in many cases, such as when your radar is being used.

Rule 7 Risk of Collision
(a) Every vessel shall use all available means appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions to determine if risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt such risk shall be deemed to exist.

(b) Proper use shall be made of radar equipment if fitted and operational, including long-range scanning to obtain early warning of risk of collision and radar plotting or equivalent systematic observation of detected objects.

(c) Assumptions shall not be made on the basis of scanty information, especially scanty radar information.

(d) In determining if risk of collision exists the following considerations shall be among those taken into account:
Such risk shall be deemed to exist if the compass bearing of an approaching vessel does not appreciably change.

Such risk may sometimes exist even when an appreciable bearing change is evident, particularly when approaching a very large vessel or a tow or when approaching a vessel at close range.

Comments Rule 7
Radar is fine if you have it and use it properly, but it is not needed to the know if a "risk of collision" exists. The very basic means is by visual observation, called a "seaman's eye." First establish a compass bearing to the other vessel, and recheck it at frequent intervals, if it doesn't change with neither vessel maneuvering, there is a risk of collision. Even if it does change, there is still a possible risk, especially if the other vessel is a tug towing a barge astern, DO NOT try to pass between a tug and its tow.

Rule 8 Action to Avoid Collision
(a) Any action taken to avoid collision shall be taken in accordance with the Rules of this Part and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, be positive, made in ample time and with due regard to the observance of good seamanship.

(b) Any alteration of course and/or speed to avoid collision shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, be large enough to be readily apparent to another vessel observing visually or by radar, a succession of small alterations of course and/or speed should be avoided.

(c) If there is sufficient sea room, alteration of course alone may be the most effective action to avoid a close quarters situation provided that it is made in good time, is substantial and does not result in another close quarters situation.

(d) Action taken to avoid collision with another vessel shall be such as to result in passing at a safe distance. The effectiveness of the action shall be carefully checked until the other vessel is finally past and clear.

(e) If necessary to avoid collision or allow more time to asses the situation, a vessel may slacken her speed or take all way off by stopping or reversing her means of propulsion.

(f) A vessel which, by any of these rules, is required not to impede the passage or safe passage of another vessel shall, when required by the circumstances of the case, take early action to allow sufficient sea room for the safe passage of the other vessel. A vessel required not to impede the passage or safe passage of another vessel is not relieved of this obligation if approaching the other vessel so as to involve risk of collision and shall, when taking action, have full regard to the action which may be required by the rules of this part. A vessel, the passage of which is not to be impeded remains fully obliged to comply with the rules of this part when the two vessels are approaching one another so as to involve risk of collision.

Comments Rule 8
Here is another very basic Rule, but one that is sometimes overlooked. If you are approaching another vessel and some action is required of you, like changing your course or speed, make it soon enough to be effective, and make it apparent to the other vessel. From a distance, a change of course is usually more apparent than a change of speed, don't wait to slow down or stop if you need too for safety. Slowing down has the advantage of giving you more time to assess the situation. The phrase "all way off " means dead in the water without forward movement.

Rule 9 Narrow Channels
(a) (i) A vessel proceeding along the course of a narrow channel or fairway shall keep as near to the outer limit of the channel or fairway which lies on her starboard side as is safe and practicable. (ii) Notwithstanding paragraph (a)(i) and Rule 14(a), a power driven vessel operating in narrow channels or fairways on the Great Lakes, Western Rivers, or waters specified by the Secretary, and proceeding downbound with a following current shall have the right-of-way over an upbound vessel, shall propose the manner and place of passage, and shall initiate the maneuvering signals prescribed by Rule 34(a)(i), as appropriate. The vessel proceeding upbound against the current shall hold as necessary to permit safe passing.

(b) A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.

(c) A vessel engaged in fishing shall not impede the passage of any other vessel navigating within a narrow channel or fairway.

(d) A vessel shall not cross a narrow passage or fairway if such crossing impedes the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within such channel or fairway. The latter vessel may use the sound signal prescribed in Rule 34(d) if in doubt as to the intention of the crossing vessel.

This rule does not relieve the overtaking vessel of her obligation under Rule 13.

(f) A vessel nearing a bend or an area of a narrow channel or fairway where other vessels may be obscured by an intervening obstruction shall navigate with particular alertness and caution and shall sound the appropriate signal prescribed in Rule 34(e).

(g) Any vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid anchoring in a narrow channel.

Comments Rule 9
This is where the big guy pushes his weight around, and he should. The needs of a vessel that must have the deeper water are protected. The term "narrow" should be construed with respect to the size of the vessels using the waterway. A vessel required to "not impede" should take early action to keep clear of the other vessel by a wide margin. This might be a vessel that otherwise would be the "stand-on" vessel, but whose status is changed by the practical considerations of Rule 9.

Sound signals are required, but under different situations in the International and Inland Rules. On the Great Lakes, Western Rivers the Mississippi River its tributaries and other specified waters, the Inland Rules specifically provide privileged status to a vessel proceeding with the current. In other areas that may have tidal currents or normal river flows, this Rule does not apply, but common courtesy should lead to giving a vessel going with the current, and being less maneuverable, the right-of-way over a vessel opposing the current.

In Rule 9(d), the Inland Rules require the whistle signal of doubt or danger by sounding five short blasts. Under the International Rules, this signal is optional. The "bend" signal of one prolonged blast is also used by vessels entering a waterway from a side channel or coming out of a berth or slip, see Rule 34(g). Note that the Rules do not provide for a "long" blast, only short blasts (one second) or prolonged blasts (four to six seconds duration).

Rule 10 Traffic Separation Schemes
(a) This Rule applies to traffic separation schemes adopted by the Organization and does not relieve any vessel of her obligation under any other rule.

(b) A vessel using a traffic separation scheme shall:
Proceed in the appropriate traffic lane in the general direction of traffic flow for that lane.
So far as is practicable keep clear of a traffic separation line or separation zone.
Normally join or leave a traffic lane at the termination of the lane, but when joining or leaving from either side shall do so at as small an angle to the general direction of traffic flow as practicable.

(c) A vessel, shall so far as practicable, avoid crossing traffic lanes but if obliged to do so shall cross on a heading as nearly as practicable at right angles to the general direction of traffic flow.

A vessel shall not use an inshore traffic zone when she can safely use the appropriate traffic lane within the adjacent traffic separation scheme. However, vessels of less than 20 meters in length, sailing vessels and vessels engaged in fishing may use the inshore traffic zone.

Notwithstanding subparagraph (d)(i), a vessel may use an inshore traffic zone when en route to or from a port, offshore installation or structure, pilot station or any other place situated within the inshore traffic zone, or to avoid immediate danger.

(e) A vessel, other than a crossing vessel or a vessel joining or leaving a lane shall not normally enter a separation zone or cross a separation line except:
in cases of emergency to avoid immediate danger.
to engage in fishing within a separation zone.
(f) A vessel navigating in areas near the terminations of traffic separation schemes shall do so with particular caution.

Comments Rule 10
The International Rule is much more specific about proper behavior regarding Traffic Separation Schemes than the Inland Rule.
This is an important rule and there are two aspects of it that are of interest to smaller boats. First, all crossing vessels must cross on a heading as nearly as practicable at right angles to the lane, giving a full profile to vessels using the lane.
Second, a vessel even if under sail is required not to impede the safe passage of a power driven vessel following a traffic lane. You should try and cross as quickly and safely as possible.