Wednesday, March 24, 2010


We seafarers have a set of Rules which are known as the International Rules of the Road. While not perfect, after all what is, they work pretty well when known and followed. Many countries have an Inland set of Rules of the Road for use by vessels operating within their rivers, waterways and canals. The US Inland Rules and the European Rhine Navigation Rules come to mind as examples of long established inland rules. As the size and draft of vessels increased in the 1970's it was realised that some consideration of this had to be incorporated . Because these vessels could not physically observe the Rules on occasions Rule 28 'Vessels Constrained by Their Draft' was passed. It applies to the International Rules but is not incorporated in the US Inland Rules, however signals are displayed day and night indicating the vessel is so constrained. Harbour and Pilotage Authorities have bye-laws covering this situation as necessary.

There lies a problem in the passing of bye-laws on occasions. While doing some nautical research last evening NAUTICAL LOG came across the website of the New Zealand Company of Master Mariners (NZCMM) In it was the above copy of a poster displayed prominently on the Greater Wellington Regional Council website and that had been published in Wellington, NZ newspapers.

Since the NZCMM is well able to speak for itself NAUTICAL LOG will quote them:

"The wording in the above is not the same as the rule and gives a completely false interpretation of the present international collision rules. The rule uses the word not impede but not give way. There appears to be a culture which has developed in New Zealand where large ships think that they are the stand on vessels and all small vessels must keep out of their way at all times with no rights what so ever.
This culture probably comes from Maritime New Zealand and its advisers as is demonstrated in the findings of investigations into collisions. (They then addresses two particular collisions as examples).
The non compliance of the unique New Zealand 500 tons rule by the small vessels was stated as a major contributing cause in each case and no action was taken against the Master's of the larger vessels. The operative words in this 500 tons rule are "not to impede" which are accepted internationally as not the same as "keep out of the way". In fact the international rules (and the New Zealand Rules) also state a vessel that is not to be impeded (the ship over 500 tons) remains fully obliged to comply with the Steering and Sailing Rules when two vessels are approaching one another so as to involve a risk of collision and in these cases the overriding rule would be that a power driven vessel must keep out of the way of a sailing vessel. This is certainly not the message that the above poster gives - MIGHT IS RIGHT - It is sad day that we have reached this state of affairs in New Zealand".
Now this is an example of local Councils taking it upon themselves, with the support of the National Government, Wellington is the Capital City of New Zealand, to impose maritime rules. Having spent two years running in and out of Wellington NAUTICAL LOG knows the Port Nicholson intimately having studied for a local Pilotage Exemption. Today it is even more busy with maritime traffic, sailing yachts and small boat activities. It would appear that this was why the bye-law 6.3 was originally written into Law. It also appears that there is a misinterpretation of bye-law 6.3 by the New Zealand Government body for maritime affairs, namely Maritime New Zealand, which clearly violates the International Rules of the Road.
Where the International Maritime Organization (IMO) stands on all this the maritime world, as usual. wonders.
Good Watch.

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