Ministry of Popular Power for Education
Maritime University of the Caribbean
Catia la Mar, June 2010
The 1972 Convention was designed to update and replace the Collision Regulations of 1960 which were adopted at the same time as the 1960 SOLAS Convention.
One of the most important innovations in the 1972 COLREGs was the recognitiongiven to traffic separation schemes - Rule 10 gives guidance in determining safe speed, the risk of collision and the conduct of vessels operating in or near traffic separation schemes.
The first such traffic separation scheme was established in the Dover Strait in 1967. It was operated on a voluntary basis at first but in 1971 the IMO Assembly adopted a resolution stating that that observance ofall traffic separation schemes be made mandatory - and the COLREGs make this obligation clear.
Under the "tacit acceptance" procedure incorporated in the Convention, an amendment must first be adopted by two-thirds of those present and voting in the Maritime Safety Committee. It is then communicated to Contracting Parties and considered by the IMO Assembly. If adopted bytwo-thirds of the States present and voting in the Assembly, it automatically enters into force on a specified date unless more than one third of the Contracting Parties notify the Organization of their objection.In addition, a Conference for the purpose of revising the Convention or its regulations or both may be convened by IMO at the request of not less than one-third of Contracting Parties.Technical provisions
The COLREGs include 38 rules divided into five sections: Part A - General; Part B - Steering and Sailing; Part C - Lights and Shapes; Part D - Sound and Light signals; and Part E - Exemptions. There are also four Annexes containing technical requirements concerning lights and shapes and their positioning; sound signalling appliances; additional signals for fishing vesselswhen operating in close proximity, and international distress signals.
Part A - General (Rules 1-3)
Rule 1 states that the rules apply to all vessels upon the high seas and all waters connected to the high seas and navigable by seagoing vessels.
Rule 2 covers the responsibility of the master, owner and crew to comply with the rules.
Rule 3 includes definitions.
Part B- Steeringand Sailing (Rules 4-19)
Section 1 - Conduct of vessels in any condition of visibility (Rules 4-10)
Rule 4 says the section applies in any condition of visibility.
Rule 5 requires that "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 ofthe situation and of the risk of collision.
Rule 6 deals with safe speed. It requires that: "Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed...". The Rule describes the factors which should be taken into account in determining safe speed. Several of these refer specifically to vessels equipped with radar.The importance of using "all available means" is further stressed in Rule 7 coveringrisk of collision, which warns that "assumptions shall not be made on the basis of scanty information, especially scanty radar information"
Rule 8 covers action to be taken to avoid collision.
In Rule 9 a vessel proceeding along the course of a narrow channel or fairway is obliged to keep "as near to the outer limit of the channel or fairway which lies on her starboard side as is safe andpracticable." The same Rule obliges a vessel of less than 20 metres in length or a sailing vessel not to impede the passage of a vessel "which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway."
The Rule also forbids ships to cross a narrow channel or fairway "if such crossing impedes the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within such channel or fairway." The meaning...