Rule of the Road
Part A – General
Rule -2: Responsibility
(a)Nothing in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the Owner, Master or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seaman, or by the special circumstances of the case.
Exonerate: Does not relieve
Neglect to comply with these Rules: A vessel does not display appropriate lights and shapes required by RoR.
Neglect to comply with any precaution: These precautions may be required by good seamanship or special circumstances. The Rules are written for usual or likely situations; atypical situations are termed “special circumstances.” A complete list of special circumstances is, of course, impossible to provide. A number of examples should give some idea of the term’s meaning.
– Vessels proceeding stern-first are considered to be in special circumstances
– A vessel is expected to keep clear of an anchored vessel or a vessel not under command
– Vessels not making way may be in special circumstances. First, a vessel should avoid stopping in a high-traffic area, and when a vessel decides to stop, it should make its intentions clear to other vessels in the area. As always, a proper lookout should be maintained.
– A drifting vessel should not expect that other vessels will keep clear of her unless she displays proper lights and shapes for a vessel NUC.
– If a vessel is drifting, its course may not be obvious. If the stopped vessel is large, it may not be able to move out of the way of a fast oncoming vessel. Whatever the “if” of the situation, encounters with vessels not making way through the water deserve extra caution.
– A vessel must not proceed in dense fog if her radars are not functional, rather she should stay at anchorage till her radars are repaired or fog disperses.
– Another special circumstance occurs when two vessels have managed to get themselves much too close to each other and are headed in unfortunate directions. Collisions about to happen are often called “extremis” situations. The vessels involved are said to be “in extremis.”
– When two vessels approach one another at a difficult bend in a tidal river it’s a good practice that the one having the tide against her to wait until the other has passed. This is because a vessel against the tide has better maneuverability and can hang out for sometimes with controlled engine movements or she can even drop her anchor for the interest of avoiding collision.
– An extremis (imminent danger situation) situation occurs when a collision can be avoided only by the action of both vessels. Here Rule 17(b) requires the stand-on vessel to maneuver to avoid the collision.
– In shallow waters, a vessel is likely to experience Squat and Interaction. Squat causes bodily sinkage to a vessel and change of trim which consequently causing reduction of speed and/or grounding. Interaction can cause bow cushon or bank suction or smelling the ground, consequently causing grounding, collision, turbulence to other vessels at berth, etc. To avoid all these dangers, the good seamanship is to reduce speed and proceed with caution.
– In an extremis situation, the operators on one or both of the vessels have failed to take the first line of preventive actions prescribed by the Rules. The second line of defense comes into play; the parties in extremis situation are required to do whatever is necessary to avoid a collision or at least to minimize the damage.
– The physical limitations of the vessels may also impose special circumstances. Draft limitations will prevent some give-way vessels from turning into shallow water; a sluggish craft may preclude a timely maneuver for others.
(b) In construing and complying with these Rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.
Construe: It means explain.
Dangers of navigation: A vessel is unable to alter her course due to the presence of shallow water although she is required to do so in compliance with some rules (Rule-14, 15 etc.).
Dangers of Collision: On a head-on situation, a vessel is unable to alter her course to starboard due to the presence of another vessel on her starboard side. This way she is unable to comply with Rule-14.
Special Circumstances & Immediate danger: Mentioned below. A departure is only permitted when there are special circumstances and there is immediate danger. The departure must be of such a nature as to avoid the danger which threatens.
Embarking and disembarking pilots could be considered as special circumstances since manoeuvring of both vessels may expose both the pilot vessel and the pilot to danger.
Limitation of a vessel: Vessel in a convoy may have limitations to alter course in a crossing situation. Action taken in accordance with the advice to avoid a squadron or convoy on the port bow would not be a departure from the Rules if executed at long range before risk of collision begins to apply
Departure from these rules: Rule 2 is an overriding rule, often called the “Rule of Good Seamanship”. Strict literal compliance with the Rules may not be a defense if a collision occurs. Rule 2 holds the mariner responsible not only for complying with the Rules but also for avoiding collisions. Merely complying with the Rules is not enough. If, in fact, strict compliance with the Rules would result in immediate danger, a departure from the Rules (to the extent necessary to avoid the danger) is required. A mariner who chooses to adhere strictly to the word of the Rules, and thereby causes or fails to avoid a collision that could have been prevented by other action, may not use compliance with the Rules as a defense to liability.
A departure is under Rule-2(b) is justified only if necessary to avoid immediate danger. Both necessity and immediate danger must be present.
Your responsibility is not only to follow the COLREGs – you are also responsible for doing everything necessary to avoid the risk of collision and the dangers of navigation.