Handbook of the Nautical Rules of the Road by Llana & Wisneskey

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2001 Amendments to the International Rules

This on-line nav rules book is current through 1998. Amendments to the International Rules were enacted in 2001 and came into force in 2003. These amendments deal with WIG craft, or wing-in-ground craft which in my experience I believe are aircraft designed to fly so low over the water that their wing is in "ground-effect." In other words, the lift of the wing is increased because the higher air pressure under the wing is constrained by the water -- a bubble of pressure that pushes up.

Conventional airplanes experience this phenomenon just as they settle down on the runway during landing. The aircraft seems to float just above the runway until speed bleeds off and the wheels then touch down. As a private pilot, I can tell you that beginning pilots landing long or too fast find this ground-effect somewhat disconcerting -- the plane refuses to put its wheels on the gound even as the end of the runway looms ever closer.

Anyway, the advantage of this extra lift is greater carrying capacity with the same power. A plane can carry more stuff more efficiently. The downside is you have to fly close to the ground or water, and the air is more dense there so drag increases prohibitively as speed increases. So you would want to keep speed relatively low, compared to high-flying jets. But it's going to be a lot faster than other forms of ground transportation.

Apparently someone has found a niche market for this type of craft, and so these amendments were enacted.

I don't yet have a copy of these amendments, so I can't give them to you. The International Maritime Organization will sell you a copy (although the link did not work for me). The IMO described these amendments:

The 2001 amendments; Adoption: 29 November 2001; Entry into force: 29 November 2003

"The amendments include new rules relating to Wing-in Ground (WIG) craft. The following are amended:

  • General Definitions (Rule 3) - to provide the definition of wing-in-ground (WIG) craft;

  • Action to avoid collision (Rule 8 (a)) - to make it clear that any action to avoid collision should be taken in accordance with the relevant rules in the COLREGs and to link Rule 8 with the other steering and sailing rules;

  • Responsibilities between vessels (Rule 18) - to include a requirement that a WIG craft, when taking off, landing and in flight near the surface, shall keep clear of all other vessels and avoid impeding their navigation and also that a WIG craft operating on the water surface shall comply with the Rules as for a power-driven vessel;

  • Power-driven vessels underway (Rule 23) - to include a requirement that WIG craft shall, in addition to the lights prescribed in paragraph 23 (a) of the Rule, exhibit a high-intensity all-round flashing red light when taking off, landing and in-flight near the surface;

  • Seaplanes (Rule 31) - to include a provision for WIG craft;

  • Equipment for sound signals and sound signals in restricted visibility (Rules 33 and 35) - to cater for small vessels;

  • Positioning and technical details of lights and shapes (Annex I) - amendments with respect to high-speed craft (relating to the vertical separation of masthead lights); and

  • Technical details of sound signal appliances (Annex III) - amendments with respect to whistles and bell or gong to cater for small vessels.

The chances of encountering one of these craft is remote for most everyone, but if you do run into (oops, poor word choice) . . . if you encounter an aircraft flying at high speed two meters above the water, you'll probably just hope that he sees you.


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