Farwell's Rules of the Nautical Road / Edition 1

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Professional mariners, military and civilian, will find this book to be an invaluable reference in understanding the rules of the road and the role these rules play in managing the risk of collision. The author provides a thorough commentary on the rules and an analysis of collision cases involving abuse of the rules. Maritime attorneys and judges will find the book continues to be an indispensable reference on collision law as Craig Allen provides a mariner's insight into how the rules apply in context and their application by the courts and administrative tribunals. This new edition completely revises chapters on the rules pertaining to good seamanship and special circumstances and on restricted visibility, and it vastly expands coverage of the narrow channel rule, traffic separation schemes, and the application of the rules to high-speed craft. It also extensively revises materials on the look out and risk of collision responsibilities to update coverage on radar and ARPA and to address new technologies, such as integrated bridge systems, automatic identification systems, voyage data recorders and the increasingly active role of VTS. The first update in ten years, the eighth edition upholds and even surpasses the standards set over the past sixty years of the guide's publication.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591140085
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2004
  • Series: U.S. Naval Institute Blue and Gold Profe
  • Edition description: 8TH
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 728
  • Sales rank: 445,741
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig H. Allen, a retired Coast Guard officer, is a professor of law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, Washington, where he specializes in maritime law.
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Read an Excerpt

Farwell's Rules of the Nautical Road

By Craig H. Allen

Naval Institute Press

Copyright © 2005 Craig H. Allen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-59114-008-0

Chapter One

History of the Nautical Rules of the Road


An appreciation for the rules for collision avoidance, as risk assessment, communication, and management measures, is best brought home by a short summary of the collision and near-collision problem itself. Writing more than a quarter century ago, law professors Grant Gilmore and Charles Black observed that maritime law reporters abound in collision cases. Though there is reason to believe the accident rate has declined on a per-vessel basis, the overall collision and near-collision rates show little sign of improvement. Data compiled by various government maritime safety agencies, marine insurers, maritime periodicals, law journals, and the Nautical Institute's marine accident reporting system all document a very real problem. The risk of collision puts vessels, crews, cargo, and passengers in jeopardy. The marine environment may also be imperiled. Collisions involving navy, coast guard, or army vessels jeopardize the continued availability of vital national defense and homeland security assets.

A brief look at the risk factors is revealing. Global trade, more than 90 percent of which (by weight) is carried by sea, is projected to triple between 1998 and 2020. The leading cargo carried by sea is, and will likely remain, oil. Ships transporting hazardous and noxious cargoes or liquefied gas introduce their own categories of risk. Rapid growth in passenger ferries and cruise ships increases both the nature and magnitude of the risk, particularly in light of the fact that many ferries now operate at speeds of forty knots or more. Much of the marine cargo and passenger traffic moves through already congested straits, fairways, and channels many of which frequently experience fog or other conditions of low visibility. The merchant fleet must share the oceans and waterways with a variety of warships, surface and submarine, whose unique operations often pose distinct risk factors, as well as fishing vessels and a burgeoning population of recreational vessels. In many coastal waterways, offshore resource extraction activities, particularly in the U.S. Gulf Coast area, add a variety of exploration and production craft and platforms that exacerbate the congestion and background light problems that confront the mariner. Finally, there is no denying that some flag states-often referred to as flag of convenience or by the Jess derogatory open registry states-fail to ensure that the vessels flying their flags, and the mariners who man those vessels, meet adequate standards of safety. As a result, the design, construction aim equipment on those vessels may be substandard; the crews may be undertrained, inadequate in number, poorly compensated, and frequently fatigued; and casualties involving those vessels may go unreported and uninvestigated, with no remedial actions against the officers, crew, or owner.


Despite advances in navigation and collision avoidance technology and the rapid development of legal regimes aimed at accident reduction, the incidence of marine collisions remains a major cause of concern. Analyses of collision data by several sources identify and rank a number of risk factors. In open and coastal waters, three times as many collisions occur in darkness, when fatigue and boredom are high, and lookouts less effective. than in daylight One source suggests that approximately one-third of the collisions occur on the morning four to eight watch, a statistic that is consistent with accident analyses in other industries. A comprehensive study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) concluded that visibility is by far the single most important factor influencing collision incidence. Risk also varies with the angle of approach; meeting situations lead all categories Based on data from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and Capt. Norman Cockcroft's studies, the MIT report concluded that 72 percent of the collisions analyzed developed from head-on (meeting) situations; crossing and overtaking situations accounted for 9 percent each and the remaining 10 percent were listed as doubtful. Later chapters will suggest causes for collisions in each type of approach situation.

A U.K. Department of Transportation study suggests that incompetence in collision situations is only rarely related to a lack of knowledge. More often it is a lack of practiced skills-that is, procedural competence-that leads mariners into a collision. Time at sea practicing the art has been demonstrated to be more critical in avoiding collisions than increasing the mere quantity of knowledge. The study showed violations of the nautical rules of the road arose more frequently from an improper weighing of, or even disregard for, the risk factors in a given situation than from outright mistakes. Watchstanders too often delayed making decisions until more information became available. Thus the probability of a collision increased as the trade-off between increasing situational certainty and decreasing risk management flexibility tilted toward the latter.

Providing more data earlier to the watchstanders is no panacea. In about half the collisions in the U.K. study, the researchers concluded that sufficient information was in fact available to the watchstander. Additionally, in many collisions the information was available but it had not been communicated to the person responsible for taking avoiding action. If watchstanders do not make use of all the information already available to them, would they be overwhelmed by even more information? In this regard, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a member of the United Nations family headquartered in London, has adopted a policy that new proposals for fitting extra equipment must show a "clear and compelling need."

The nautical rules of the road are at the center of the developing risk management scheme designed to respond to the collision threat. The present rules build on a hoary tradition of codes, naval practices, and court decisions, all animated by the goal of protecting vessels aim their crews from a fate that even the ancient Greeks recognized "can ruin your entire day."


The Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the upsurge in international commerce that resulted provided the impetus for a number of national and multinational vessel safety initiatives. In the twentieth century the pace of development markedly increased, considerably improving the standards of safety at sea. A comprehensive collection of international conventions and complementary national laws now address vessel design and construction, load lines, tonnage measurement, signaling, pollution prevention, mariner certification, training and watchstanding, and collision prevention.

As early as 1840 the London Trinity House drafted collision avoidance rules that were adopted by the British Parliament in 1846. In 1867 Thomas Gray, assistant secretary to the British Marine Department of Trade, wrote a pamphlet titled The Rule of the Road, which became famous for its well-known mnemonic verses. The present International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) date back to rules introduced in 1863 by Great Britain and France. Similar rules were adopted by the United States in 1864. These were in turn adopted, with amendments, by Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Norway, and Denmark in 1886. These early rules were modified at a conference of representatives of the maritime nations of the world in Washington, D.C., in 1889, and subsequently adopted by the respective nations concerned. In the United States, the rules became effective in 1897. Amended slightly in 1910, unsuccessful attempts were made to amend the rules further in 1913-14 and at the 1929 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Conference.

In 1948 the International SOLAS Conference proposed a revision to the 1889 international rules. Captain Farwell was a leading participant in that conference. He described the 1948 changes as "a house-cleaning job to eliminate dangerous confusion resulting from omissions and inadequacies in the requirements created by the passage of several decades." The final revision was passed by the maritime nations and came into force in 1954. In contrast to the 1889 international rules, the 1948 rules lasted only a short time. They were reconsidered and revised again at another SOLAS conference convened by the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) in London in 1960. The 1960 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, consisting of thirty numbered rules and a nonbinding annex titled "Recommendations on the Use of Radar Information as an Aid to Avoiding Collisions at Sea," entered into three in 1965. Many of the cases decided under the 1960 rules, and even their predecessor regimes, are still relied on by the courts in construing and applying the present rules.

The most recent international conference devoted to the rules of the nautical road convened in London in 1972 under the auspices of IMCO, later renamed the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Several developments persuaded the international maritime community of the need for change. Two were salient. The first was the need to adapt the rules to emerging technologies, particularly the increasingly widespread carriage of radar. The second was the need to address collision prevention rules in the newly established traffic separation schemes. The 1972 revision was a major one. The rules produced at the conference were more comprehensive and were arranged in a completely new format. The 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, generally referred to as "1972 COLREGS" or "COLREGS" to avoid confusion with the 1948 or 1960 International Regulations, became effective in 1977. More than 140 states, representing over 97 percent of the world's shipping tonnage, have ratified the 1972 COLREGS Convention.

The 1972 COLREGS Convention is organized into nine articles, followed by an unnumbered annex containing the collision regulations. Among the innovations included in the 1972 convention was the tacit acceptance procedure set out in Article VI for amending the regulations. The tacit acceptance amendment process generally begins in the Subcommittee on Safety of Navigation (NAV) of the larger Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) within the IMO. Under Article VI, any contracting party to the convention may propose amendments. On approval by two-thirds of the parties present and voting within the MSC, the amendments are put before the full IMO Assembly. The assembly may adopt them by numbered resolution, again by two-thirds of the parties present and voting. Article VI of the COLREGS Convention provides that proposed amendments approved by the IMO Assembly, and not objected to by more than one-third of the states-parties, enter into effect on the date set by the assembly. No state party that files an objection to the amendment is bound by it, even if the amendment otherwise enters into force for other parties. The convention's tacit amendment procedures, also used in other conventions, such as the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and its 1978 amendments (MARPOL 73/78), the 1974 Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea and its 1978 protocol (SOLAS 74/78), and the 1978 Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping tot Seafarers, as amended in 1995 (STCW 78/95), greatly expedite the amendment process. Through this tacit amendment process, the COLREGS Convention was amended in 1981, 1987, 1989, 1993, and 2001. In each case, the amendments entered into force approximately two years after adoption by the IMO Assembly.

The United States ratified the 1972 COLREGS Convention in 1977, following a unanimous advice-and-consent vote in the Senate. As called for in Article I of the convention, Congress implemented the convention in the International Navigation Rules Act of 1977, although not before a dispute over the tacit amendment procedures sparked a pocket veto by President Gerald Ford of the first bill enacted by Congress, which contained a one-house veto provision. The COLREGS are codified as statutes in Title 33 ("Navigable Waters") of the U.S. Code (U.S.C.), following 33 U.S.C. § 1602. The act establishes a somewhat unique procedure to be followed by the president in adopting amendments to the COLREGS. Reproduced in Appendix A, 33 U.S.C. § 1602(c) authorizes the president to proclaim U.S. acceptance of amendments to the COLREGS, provided the president first notifies Confess of the proposed amendment and Congress does not, within sixty days of such presentment, object to it. Presidential proclamations of U.S. acceptance to amendments must be published in the Federal Register (Fed. Reg.). Necessary changes to the U.S. Code are by acts of Congress, often as part of the annual U.S. Coast Guard authorization acts. Through this process, the United States has adopted each of the amendments approved by the IMO Assembly.


1981 amendments: The IMO Assembly adopted fifty-five amendments to the COLREGS in Resolution A.464(XII) on 19 November 1981. The United States proclaimed the changes on 16 June 1983 (see 48 Fed. Reg. 28,634). The 1981 amendments affected a number of the rules. Perhaps the most important change was to Rule 10, authorizing certain vessels carrying out special operations, such as dredging or surveying, to engage in those activities in a traffic separation scheme (TSS).

1987 amendments: The IMO Assembly adopted nine amendments to the COLREGS in Resolution A.626(15) on 19 November 1987. The United States proclaimed them on 29 June 1989 (see 54 Fed. Reg. 38,851). The 1987 amendments affected several rules, including Rule 1(e), vessels of special construction; Rule 3(h), which defines a vessel constrained by her draft; and Rule 10(c), regarding the crossing of a TSS. Paragraph (f) was also added to Rule 8 to clarify the nature of the duty not to impede.

1989 amendments: The IMO Assembly adopted a single change to the COLREGS in Resolution A.678(16) on 10 October 1989. The United States proclaimed the change 19 March 1991 (see 57 Fed. Reg. 29,219). The 1991 amendment changed Rule 10(d) in an attempt to halt unnecessary use of inshore traffic zones by deep draft vessels.

1993 amendments: The IMO Assembly adopted eight amendments to the COLREGS in Resolution A.736(18) on 4 November 1993. The amendments entered into force in 1995. The 1993 amendments to Rule 26 and Annexes I, II, and IV were concerned principally with the positioning of lights. They also eliminated the option for fishing vessels of less than twenty meters to display by day a basket instead of the two-cone shape.


Excerpted from Farwell's Rules of the Nautical Road by Craig H. Allen Copyright © 2005 by Craig H. Allen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 History of the nautical rules of the road 1
2 Collision law in the United States 23
3 Rule applicability, definitions, structure, and construction 55
4 The rule of good seamanship and the general prudential rule 87
5 Lookout, radar systems, and watchstanding 129
6 The safe speed rule 175
7 Risk of collision 207
8 Action to avoid collision 242
9 Responsibilities in narrow channels and fairways 280
10 Responsibilities in managed waterways : TTS and VTS 321
11 Responsibilities based on vessel type, status, or employment 346
12 The head-on situation 361
13 The overtaking situation 396
14 The crossing situation 429
15 Responsibilities in restricted visibility 451
16 Lights and shapes 484
17 Sound and light signals 518
App. A International regulations for preventing collisions at sea (1972 COLREGS) 545
App. B Inland navigation rules 580
App. C Interpretive rules for 1972 COLREGS and inland navigation rules 609
App. D Demarcation lines between COLREGS and inland rules waters 611
App. E Bridge-to-bridge radiotelephone regulations 634
App. F STCW watchstanding provisions 639
App. G Selected navigation safety advisory council resolutions 652
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2008

    A reviewer

    Farwell¿s Rules of the Nautical Road By Craig H. Allen Naval Institute Press Annapolis, Md. 2005 671 pages By Jim Austin Rarely does the subject of a work become synonymous with the author¿s name, but in the maritime world, Bowditch, Dutton, Knight and Farwell have traditionally defined their subjects. With its first edition in 1941, Farwell became a standard reference for mariners and maritime attorneys alike. The Naval Institute Press, under the authorship of Craig H. Allen, has recently published its eighth edition. Bringing both blue water and courtroom experience to his subject, University of Washington Professor of Maritime Law and retired Coast Guard Captain Craig H. Allen is a licensed master mariner, a fellow in the Nautical Institute, a member of the Royal Institute of Navigation and the U.S. Maritime Law Association. Professor Allen is admitted to practice in Oregon and Washington and in the Ninth and Federal Circuits, the Court of International Trade, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and U.S. Supreme Court. As hull speeds increased and technology expanded, the rules were steaming to catch up and in fact it wasn¿t until the advent of the 1972 ColRegs that the navigation rules adequately dealt with radar. Traffic separation schemes 'TSS' designed to reduce collisions have generated choke points as GPS-assisted passage planning funnels vessels together at their terminations high-speed craft can now outrun the period of their restricted visibility signals reduction in manning levels in the face of increasing demands on the bridge team, along with the flood of information technology, already threatens to overwhelm a watch. These are just some of the situations that illustrate the increased demands on mariners. It is no longer enough that they know the rules. They must also understand their application as well as their legal interpretation by the courts. Recognizing this, Allen organizes the subject by reminding the reader that in essence, the problem of collision prevention is one of: ¿ risk detection: where is the contact, what is it doing and where is it going? ¿ communication: passing the information to those who must evaluate it ¿ assessment: considering all information available ¿ what is the risk and what do I do? ¿ measures taken: doing it. An example is the 45-page chapter on ¿Lookout, Radar Systems and Watchkeeping,¿ underscoring the fact that the ¿lookout function¿ embraces many more data sources than simply ¿eyes¿ in meeting the demands of risk detection. It does so by putting the requirements of Safe Speed 'Rule 6', Risk of Collision 'Rule 7' and Action to Avoid Collision 'Rule 8' within the rubric of Rule 5 'Lookout'. Expanded coverage of rules pertaining to Narrow Channels 'including the nebulous phrase ¿not-to-impede¿', Traffic Separation Schemes, AIS and ARPA, and the 73 pages devoted specifically to ¿Risk of Collision¿ and ¿Action to Avoid Collision¿ alone would be worth the price of the book. Recurrent references to ¿situational ambiguity¿ 'in which the maneuver by one vessel is negated by the conflicting maneuver by another' emphasize just how common a phenomenon is. The nature of the problem is illustrated by the two most threatening approaches by one vessel upon another ¿ that from the starboard bow and starboard quarter. Throughout the book, reminder of the ever-popular Pennsylvania Rule¿s sinister presence is made, to wit: ¿if a ship at the time of collision is in violation of a statutory rule, that violation is deemed to be at least a contributory cause of the collision, with that presumption being only rebuttable by proof that the violation could not have been a cause of the collision.¿ Happily, the author points out that this presumption of cause 'based upon a statutory violation' can be challenged from a number of directions, one of which is typified by a decision of the Fifth Circuit, ¿the Pennsylvania rule applies only

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