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Harbour Master's Safety Briefing - October

Harbour Master's Safety Briefing - October

14 September 2021
This month, I want to draw your attention to Rule number 5 of the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (IRPCS) and recently revised in 2018. These COLREGs are maintained by the International Maritime Organization and applies to every ship on the sea, from the largest container ship to the smallest pleasure craft.

What are COLREGs?

The COLREGs as they are known, are in effect, the Highway Code of the sea. The rules were introduced to ensure all vessels navigating at sea knew their obligations when it came to preventing collisions.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the COLREGs is they are a guidance document, something to help skippers understand who has ‘right of way’ in potential collision situations. This is not the case. They are the law and you are required to follow them.  If an incident occurs and you have chosen not to follow them or are not aware of them, you leave yourself open to prosecution.

Specifically, Rule 5 stipulates that,
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.

This is important in Cowes due to the high volume and density of all vessel traffic that uses the Harbour.  This rule also extends into the Solent where the vessel traffic can be very similar.

Exploring the Rule in More Detail

Maintaining a proper look-out at all times is an important part of safe watchkeeping.  The lookout should be stationed in the most suitable place on the vessel to enable them to see and hear properly.

All available means appropriate

The term ‘proper look-out’ includes the effective use of available equipment (e.g. AIS or VHF), in addition to the use of both sight and hearing.  Involving both sight and sound, this should include a full 360° scope.  Radar is an effective lookout tool, especially at night but does not replace any other means.

Anchor watch

The duty to keep a proper look-out applies also when a vessel is at anchor, especially if there is a strong tide running, or high traffic areas.  Actions can still be taken aboard a vessel at anchor to avoid a collision, however they can’t be taken if a look out is not being kept.

Night-time considerations

When navigating at night, it is vital to preserve night vision and not be dazzled by your own ship’s instrument or navigation lights, so these should be dimmed accordingly.   Lookouts should familiarise themselves with Part C of the IRPCS in order to be able to identify other vessels and objects from their light characteristics.  This will also always involve an appraisal of course and aspect which would be used for collision avoidance.

For further information and help to familiarise yourself with Rule 5 and the rest of COLREGs, please follow the links below.

Royal Yachting Association - Rules of the Road

Royal Yachting Association - Understanding COLREGs

Royal Yachting Association - Understanding COLREGs 2

CHC - Collision Regulations

CHC - Rules of the Road

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