Navigation Rules - Rules of the Road
By: Captain Robert L. Gardana, Esq. - BoatLawyer™
Fault in almost every boating accident is measured by an operator’s compliance or non-compliance with the Navigational Rules, as a boat operator’s compliance with the rules is mandatory under both Federal and State law. A fresh look at the basic rules will provide the novice boater, or the salty dawg, with the understanding of what to do in the operation of their own vessel, as well as what to expect from other vessels, giving rise to safe and enjoyable boating.
The location of operation of your vessel dictates whether the Inland or International Rules apply. The Coast Guard requires that an up-to-date copy of Navigation Rules be carried on all vessels 12 meters (39 feet) or more in length at all times. But, along with the rules, it is important not to leave your common sense at the dock.
While the International Rules “apply to all vessels upon the high seas and in all waters connected therewith navigable by seagoing vessels,” The Inland Rules apply to “all vessels upon the inland waters of the United States. (Rule 1) "Captain Ken Wahl of the Sea School - Ft. Lauderdale – advises that before a boater starts the engine, they must give top priority to Rules 5 (Look-Out), 6 (Safe Speed), 7 (Risk of Collision), 8 (Action to Avoid Collision), 9 (Narrow Channels), 13 (Overtaking), 14 (Head-on Situation), 15 (Crossing Situation), 16 (Action by Give-way Vessel), 17 (Action by Stand-on Vessel), and 18 (Responsibilities Between Vessels)."
States often adopt the Inland Rules for their respective waters. For example, Florida Statute, Section 327.02 provides: “As used in this Chapter and in Chapter 328... "Navigation Rules" means: (a) For vessels on waters outside of established navigational lines of demarcation, the International Navigational Rules Act of 1977. “For vessels on all waters not outside of such established navigational lines of demarcation . . . the Inland Navigational Rules Act of 1980, 33 C.F.R. parts 83-90, as amended, through October 1, 2012.”
Hence, all boaters must pay particular attention to these critical rules, whether they are operating inland or on international waters and a basic review is, as follows: Rule 5 - Lookout 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. Rule 6 - Safe Speed (excerpt) 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. Rule 7 - Risk of Collision (excerpt)
(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.
Rule 8 - Action to Avoid Collision (excerpt) (a) Any action shall [be taken in accordance with the Rules of this Part and], 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. 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) (omitted) (Also - Refer to Rule 9 for (b),(c),(d),(e),(f) and (g)). Rule 13 - Overtaking (excerpt)
(a) . . . any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.
(b) A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking when coming up with another vessel from a direction of more than 22.5 degrees, abaft her beam, that is, in such a position with reference to the vessel she is overtaking, that at night she would be able to see only the stern light of that vessel, but neither of her sidelights.
(c) When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether she is overtaking another, she shall assume that this is the case and act accordingly.
(d) Any subsequent alteration of the bearing between the two vessels shall not make the overtaking vessel a crossing vessel within the meaning of these Rules or relieve her of the duty of keeping clear of the overtaken vessel until she is finally past and clear.
Rule 14 - Head-on Situation
(a) Unless otherwise agreed when two power-driven vessels are meeting on reciprocal or nearly reciprocal courses so as to involve risk of collision each shall alter her course to starboard so that each shall pass on the port side of the other.
(b) Such a situation shall be deemed to exist when a vessel sees the other ahead or nearly ahead and by night she could see the masthead lights of the other in a line or nearly in a line [and/or | or] or both sidelights and by day she observes the corresponding aspect of the other vessel.
(c) When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether such a situation exists she shall assume that it does exist and act accordingly. (d) (omitted)
Rule 15 - Crossing Situation (exerpt) When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel. Rule 16 - Action by Give-way Vessel Every vessel which is directed to keep out of the way of another vessel shall, so far as possible, take early and substantial action to keep well clear.
Rule 17- Action by Stand-on Vessel (a) (i) Where one of two vessels is to keep out of the way, the other shall keep her course and speed. (ii) The latter vessel may however take action to avoid collision by her maneuver alone, as soon as it becomes apparent to her that the vessel required to keep out of the way is not taking appropriate action in compliance with these Rules. (b) When, from any cause, the vessel required to keep her course and speed finds herself so close that collision cannot be avoided by the action of the give-way vessel alone, she shall take such action as will best aid to avoid collision.
(c) A power-driven vessel which takes action in a crossing situation in accordance with subparagraph (a) (ii) of this Rule to avoid collision with another power-driven vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, not alter course to port for a vessel on her own port side.
(d) This Rule does not relieve the give-way vessel of her obligation to keep out of the way. Rule 18 - Responsibilities Between Vessels – (excerpt)
(a) A power-driven vessel underway shall keep out of the way of (i) a vessel not under command; (ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver; (iii) a vessel engaged in fishing; (iv) a sailing vessel. (b) A sailing vessel underway shall keep out of the way of: (i) a vessel not under command; (ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver; (iii) a vessel engaged in fishing. (c) A vessel engaged in fishing when underway shall, so far as possible, keep out of the way of: (i) a vessel not under command; (ii) a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver. Captain Robert L. Gardana is a licensed U.S.C.G. Master and Attorney for over 30 years. He is the founder and president of Robert L. Gardana, P.A... His practice focus is maritime law, marine insurance, maritime liens, passenger and crew claims, and personal injury. His contact is Robert L. Gardana at Robert L. Gardana, P.A., 12350 SW 132nd Court, Suite 204, Miami, Fl 33186, website: www.BoatLawyer.com e-mail: [email protected]