At London's Trinity House the issue was addressed and this resulted in the British Parliament passing the Steam Navigation Act of 1846. Other Nations adopted these Trinity House Rules which became known as the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. They have been reviewed and changed several times over the years 1972, 1981 amendments took effect in 1989 and the latest International Amendments in 1993 which came into Maritime Law in 1995.
Two definitions were found to be necessary when two power-driven vessels meet one is designated the "give-way vessel" and the other the "stand-on vessel".
Rule 16: Defines the action to be taken by the Give-way Vessel.
Rule 17: Defines the action by the Stand-on Vessel. There are four (4) points listed guide mariners.
Rule 16: Is the same as for the International Rules
Rule 17: Is the same as for the International Rules
These definitions can give seafarers problems in some situations because the Stand-on Vessel is supposed to do just that until the last screaming moment!! The Rules say until the action by the Give-way Vessel alone will not avoid a collision. It is important to realize that IF you do decide to alter course you do not turn towards the give-way vessel. There is also some risk in stopping your vessel because you might end up in the path of the give-way vessel. Yes it IS a tricky situation and one of the many reasons those Traffic Separation Schemes came into being.
NAUTICAL LOG strongly recommends you join one of the towing service organizations such as BoatUS® they are the red hulled rescue boats or Seatow® these are the yellow hulled rescue boats. If you do get in trouble while out on the water their services will save you a lot of misery. There are links to both organizations in our Blog List.
NAUTICAL LOG would also highly recommends "The Colregs Guide" by Klaas van Dokken www.dokmar.com It covers the International Rules and is excellently illustrated making a nice addition to a navigation library - one sits in the bookcase behind me in my study.