Waypoint Amsterdam Sailing School

The Collisions Regulations for yachties

International Regulations for Avoiding Collisions at Sea or IRPCS. The rules are specified in great detail in the regulations and the serious student is encouraged to seek the definitive document. Certain individuals are legally required to carry or possess a copy of the rules, such as the owners and/or operators of certain vessels. These legal requirements vary by jurisdiction. Consult the appropriate maritime authorities for each jurisdiction. Any individual subject to such requirements should obtain a complete, official copy from a government or official source. However, the rules are summarized below.

Part A - General

  • 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.

This Rules apply to ALL vessels. From a tender under oars to the mega-tanker. And every person in charge of one of these vessels shall know these Rules.

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

Some local regulations can overtake this rules. Itís important to read all relevant information and local notices before arrival or departure.

(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 or 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.

If local authorities decide to create special rules, any additional signal lights, shapes and whistle should not be confused with these Rules

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

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

Warships are the main body of this particular Rule : Aircraft carriers, submarine, Ö


Part B - Steering and Sailing Rules

Section I - Conduct of Vessels in any Condition of Visibility

Section II - Conduct of Vessels in Sight of One Another

Section III - Conduct of Vessels in Restricted Visibility

Part C - Lights and Shapes

Part D - Sound and Light Signals

Part E - Exemptions

Right of the way

The International Navigation Rules do not confer upon any vessel the right of way however, certain vessels in sight of each other are responsible to keep out of the way of others. Usually, power-driven vessels are to keep out of the way of a vessel not under command or restricted in her ability to maneuver, sailing vessels or a vessel engaged in fishing. However, some exceptions exist when they themselves are not in command or restricted in her ability to maneuver (Rule 18), overtaking another vessel (Rule 13), are navigating a narrow channel or fairway (Rule 9), and other less explicit circumstances.

Navigation Rules should be regarded as a code of conduct and not a bill of rights. They do not confer rights or privileges, but impose the duty to either give-way or stand-on, dependent on the circumstances. What is important is not so much what things are, i.e. sailing vessel, operational, etc., but how to avoid collisions, e.g. although under sail yet able to be propelled by machinery, obtaining an early warning by radar, etc. Understand, the Rules are in place to prevent collisions not to define nautical terms or to be subjected to strict interpretation.

Finally, all this said, the ordinary practice of seamen requires precaution under all conditions and circumstances and not strict adherence to the rules or any other practice. Although strict adherence may not always be prudent, the Rules are very precise in stating that nothing shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect (Rule 2). Neglect, among other things, could be not maintaining a proper look-out (Rule 5), use of improper speed (Rule 6), not taking the appropriate actions to determine and avoid collision [Rules 7 & Rule 8] or completely ignoring your responsibilities under the Rules.