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
Part B - Steering and Sailing Rules
- 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
(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:
(i) Proceed in the appropriate traffic lane in the general direction of traffic flow for that lane.
(ii) So far as is practicable keep clear of a traffic separation line or separation zone.
(iii) 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
(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
(i) 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.
(ii) 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:
(i) in cases of emergency to avoid immediate danger;
(ii) 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.
(g) A vessel shall so far as practicable avoid anchoring in a traffic separation scheme or in areas near its terminations.
(h) A vessel not using a traffic separating scheme shall avoid it by as wide a margin as is practicable.
(i) A vessel engaged in fishing shall not impede the passage of any vessel following a traffic lane.
(j) A vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the safe passage of a power driven vessel following a traffic lane.
(k) A vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver when engaged in an operation for the maintenance of safety of navigation in a traffic separating scheme is exempted from complying with this Rule to the extent necessary to carry out the operation.
(l) A vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver when engaged in an operation for the laying, servicing or picking up a submarine cable, within a traffic separating scheme, is exempted from complying with this Rule to the extent necessary to carry out the operation.
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