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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
Part B - Steering and Sailing Rules
Section I - Conduct of Vessels in any Condition of Visibility
- Rule 4 : Application
- Rule 5 : Look-out
- Rule 6 : Safe Speed
- Rule 7 : Risk of Collision
- Rule 8 : Action to Avoid Collision
- Rule 9 : Narrow Channels
- Rule 10 : Traffic Separation Schemes
Section II - Conduct of Vessels in Sight of One Another
- Rule 11 : Application
- Rule 12 : Sailing Vessels
- Rule 13 : Overtaking
- Rule 14 : Head-on Situation
- Rule 15 : Crossing Situation
- Rule 16 : Action by Give-way Vessel
- Rule 17 : Action by Stand-on Vessel
- Rule 18 : Responsibilities Between Vessels
Section III - Conduct of Vessels in Restricted Visibility
Part C - Lights and Shapes
- Rule 20 : Application
- Rule 21 : Definitions
- Rule 22 : Visibility of Lights
- Rule 23 : power driven Vessels Underway
- Rule 24 : Towing and Pushing
- Rule 25 : Sailing Vessels Underway and Vessels Under Oars
- Rule 26 : Fishing Vessels
- Rule 27 : Vessels Not Under Command or Restricted in Their Ability to Maneuver
- Rule 28 : Vessels Constrained by their Draft
- Rule 29 : Pilot Vessels
- Rule 30 : Anchored Vessels and Vessels Aground
- Rule 31 : Seaplanes
Part D - Sound and Light Signals
- Rule 32 : Definitions
- Rule 33 : Equipment for Sound Signals
- Rule 34 : Maneuvering and Warning Signals
- Rule 35 : Sound Signals in Restricted Visibility
- Rule 36 : Signals to Attract Attention
- Rule 37 : Distress Signals
Part E - Exemptions
- Rule 38 : Exemptions