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NAUTICAL LOG would like to pose the question, is it time for a review and revision of the maritime International Rules of the Road ?

Reference material used in writing this Post was "NAVIGATION RULES International - Inland COMDTINST M16672.2E" and "The Colregs Guide" by Klaas van Dokkum. Comments are based on personal experiences and reviews of recent maritime incidents.

The Rules of the Road have always tried to be all things to all seafarers in all vessels, from small craft to ocean-going ships on international voyages all were bound by the same set of Rules on how to signal and respond when meeting at sea. It has worked remarkably well and provided one knows and follows the Rules incidents are largely avoided. However with the ever increasing size of personal yachts, now known as megayachts, and the unbelievable size and design of the current cruise ships, container ships and ones building, are they becoming outdated.

Why should the size matter? Take a look at the photos above of a typical ships navigation Bridge in the 21st. Century. In the first one the Officer of the Watch (OOW) is observing the other crossing vessel while standing in front of a bank of electronic instrumentation, the Bridge Console. In the second photo that Bridge Console is viewed more closely plus the two comfortable airline pilot type seats to "stand" watch from. From this it is clear that the OOW's place is close to that instrumentation so that the Navigation Watch can be safely and properly conducted. Available to the OOW at the Bridge Console are details of navigation, the surrounding ocean by ARPA Radar that is the look-out and collision avoidance data, main engine and auxiliaries conditions, cargo conditions, weather data both local and long-range, all safety information with emergency response equipment activation, communications and the Automatic Identification System (AIS). This latter is required by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in all vessels of 300 GT (gross tons) or more.
Clearly the OOW is a very busy person multitasking receiving and processing a large amount of data continuously. Also in many vessels, certainly passenger ships, there may be a Bridge monitoring system and a response timer which must be reset at regular intervals. In addition in recent decades the number of crewmembers in vessels has been reduced, some would say to dangerous levels, with the addition of regulations for mandatory rest periods doubling the watches is no longer a viable option.
All this is busy enough in decent weather in daylight, the workload clearly increases at nighttime and even more so in bad weather and fog. Now this is one of the points of concern to NAUTICAL LOG - passagemaking in fog. As the Rules stand today they state and require that the Watch shall under Rule 5. Look-out
"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."
Now think about this International Maritime Organization how are you going to advise the Masters and Watchofficers to observe this Rule 5. Should they abandon the Bridge Console with its wealth of required information for safe navigation. Should they open the sealed air-conditioned Bridge and stand outside to listen for possible fog signals as required to be sounded by both their own ship and other vessels. In modern vessels this is not just impractical it is impossible because of the design of modern totally enclosed Bridges. Yet that is what is required by the Rules of the Road, 18th. Century thinking in the 21st. Century.
As this series continues NAUTICAL LOG will address other points of concern not least of which are the fog signals themselves.
NAUTICAL LOG looks forward to your comments most particularly serving seafarers who face these problems every day.
Good Watch.


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