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

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Prefaces to Second and First Editions


Preface to the Second Edition

The International Rules have been amended three times since they were completely overhauled in 1972--twice since this book was originally published. Parallel amendments have also been made to the Inland Rules. Virtually all of these amendments can be described as fine-tuning rather than as basic changes. With the last set of amendments adopted, this "teething" process appears to be at an end, and we can look forward to a long period of stability before substantive changes are made again.

This edition of the Handbook of the Nautical Rules of the Road incorporates all of the amendments and other revisions to clarify and update the discussion of the Rules. We decided to present the Rules only in their latest form, without the mention of "this recent amendment" or "last year's change" (with a couple of notable exceptions). We felt that such historic detours might confuse and not be of much significance to a mariner encountering another vessel. On the other hand, with the many recent changes and the long existence of the Rules, we felt that a short history would be useful to those who want to know when changes occurred or to those who are simply interested in the histtorical perspective.

To satisfy these purposes, this book now contains a short history of the Rules, starting from the beginnings of modern maritime commerce and proceeding up through the latest amendments. A new Appendix III has also been added, summarizing the new U.S. vessel traffic service regulations being proposed as this edition was going to press.

Preface to the First Edition

This book is intended as an explanatory text or reference work on both the International and Inland navigation rules and is aimed at those who earn their living operating vessels as well as at the serious recreational boater. In addition, designers and builders of vessels, maritime lawyers, and suppliers of nautical equipment will find much of the material, such as technical lighting and signalling-appliance requirements, helpful.

The book follows the organization of the Rules themselves. The Rules are presented paragraph by paragraph, with the International Rule on the left of the page and the corresponding Inland Rule on the right. The succeeding discussion usually covers both the International and Inland requirements, pointing out similarities and differences. Where the requirements are wholly different, each version is discussed separately.

During our time at Coast Guard Headquarters, we saw the need for a book that would do more than simply restate the Rules in other language or analyze court decisions of historic significance. We saw the need for a book whose comments and interpretations would be applicable to real-life situations, a book that presented the Rules not as theoretical abstractions but as practical recommendations for behavior on the water. We have attempted to provide such a book. Using the expertise we developed through many years of providing, in response to letter and telephone inquiries, the "official" government interpretations of various Rules, we have striven to give as much specific advice here as possible. Specific advice, subject, of course, to whatever limitations apply, can be much more useful in assessing real-life situations than can general comments. Also, we have cross-referenced the Rules and have attempted to make the interpretations consistent with each other.

A word of caution: If we say something is a "requirement," it is because the Rules say it is. Our own interpretations and advice can generally be distinguished by the use of the conditional term "should," rather than "shall" or "must."

Finally, this book is not a scholarly treatise for assigning legal responsibility for a collision after-the-fact; it is, rather, a reference guide for applying the Rules on the water.