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

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Rule 13 -- Overtaking


INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rules of Part B, Sections I and II any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.

(a) Nothwithstanding anything contained in the Rules 4 through 18, any vessel overtaking any other shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.

 

Overtaking on the water is pretty much like overtaking on land: the driver of the faster car is looking forward at the car to be passed and hence is in a better position to plan and execute the maneuver. From the bridge of most larger vessels, the view to the rear is substantially more limited than the view to the front. Should there not be room to pass, the overtaking vessel always has the option of slowing down; the vessel to be overtaken will often be unable to go any faster. Rule 13 therefore requires the overtaking vessel to keep out of the way of the vessel being passed.

Rule 9(e) also has requirements for overtaking in narrow channels and fairways, and the International version of that Rule requires some action by the vessel to be overtaken. Rule 34(c) gives requirements for sounding whistle signals in overtaking situations. Rule 16 requires the give-way (overtaking) vessel to keep well clear of the vessel to be passed. Keeping well clear while overtaking is especially important because the potentially strong hydrodynamic interactive forces may cause one or both vessels to veer off course.

Paragraph (a) of this Rule requires that any vessel overtaking another keep out of the way, even if another rule required otherwise. In overtaking situations, look first to Rule 13. Despite the seemingly absolute language of paragraph (a), there are a few situations where the overtaking vessel would retain the stand-on status given by another Rule.

Rule 9(b) and (c) and Rule 10(i) and (j) say that power-driven vessel less than 20 meters in length, sailing vessels, and vessels engaged in fishing "shall not impede the passage" of larger vessels following a narrow channel, narrow fairway, or traffic lane. Smaller vessels are usually slower and larger, faster vessels commonly overtake them. Rule 13 requires overtaking vessels to put aside the other "shall not impede" requirements and to keep out of the way of the vessel to be overtaken. But requiring, for example, a large and fast commercial vessel operating in a long narrow channel such that it cannot safely leave the channel to trail behind a small slow vessel might be described as an unintended result of a literal and strict following of Rule 13. Certainly the best solution to this troublesome circumstance is for both vessels to be accommodating. The smaller vessel should probably not be in the narrow channel in the first place, if it is wide enough for only one vessel, but of course, the larger vessel would not be justified in running over the smaller vessel, no matter how tempting!

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(b) A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking when coming up with another vessel from a direction more than 22.5 degrees abaft her beam, that is, in such a position with reference to the vessel she is overtaking, that at night she would be able to see only the sternlight of that vessel but neither of her sidelights.

(b) A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking when coming up with another vessel from a direction more than 22.5 degrees abaft her beam; that is, in such a position with reference to the vessel she is overtaking, that at night she would be able to see only the sternlight of that vessel but neither of her sidelights.

 

Paragraph (b) says what is meant by overtaking. A vessel approaching from a direction more than 22.5 degrees aft of the beam of another vessel--or stated differently, from within a 135-degree horizontal sector centered directly astern (the same as the light from the vessel's sternlight) of that vessel--is overtaking if there is risk of collision. If the approaching vessel is within the sternlight sector of another vessel but their courses will bring them no closer together than , say, three miles, then there is no risk of collision and no overtaking situation exists.

Overtaking continues even as the overtaking vessel moves out of the sternlight sector and pulls abeam of and then ahead of the overtaken vessel. It ends only when the maneuver has been completed.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(c) When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether she is overtaking another, she shall assume that this is the case and act accordingly.

(c) When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether she is overtaking another, she shall assume that this is the case and act accordingly.

 

At night if you are approaching a white navigation light but can see no sidelights, you may be overtaking another vessel (or perhaps approaching an anchored vessel, or meeting a vessel head-on beyond sidelight range, or . . .) and so you should stay clear until you know better the actual situation. If you see a white light and later a colored sidelight, either you could be overtaking and have come up enough to move into horizontal sector of the sidelight, or you could be crossing or meeting, having first seen the brighter white masthead light and then later the less visible colored sidelight. The arrangement, if discernible, should tell you which is the case (although all colored lights are certainly not sidelights). During daylight it may be difficult to estimate the angle of approach without the navigation lights as a reference. Paragraph (c) says that if you are in doubt, assume that you are overtaking and keep out of the way of the other vessel. If you are in doubt, remember that the radiotelephone and radar are also available.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(d) Any subsequent alteration of the bearing between the two vessels shall not make the overtaking vessel a crossing vessel within the meaning of these Rules or relieve her of the duty of keeping clear of the overtaken vessel until she is finally past and clear.

(d) Any subsequent alteration of the bearing between the two vessels shall not make the overtaking vessel a crossing vessel within the meaning of these Rules or relieve her of the duty of keeping clear of the overtaken vessel until she is finally past and clear.

 

Paragraph (d) makes clear that the overtaking vessel cannot (by any action of its own) shift its give-way status to the other vessel. The overtaking vessel remains the give-way vessel until the risk of collision has passed, that is, until the overtaking vessel "is finally past and clear." This requirement is a restatement of the Rule 8 duty of all vessels required to take action to continue their vigilance "until the other vessel is finally past and clear."

Paragraph (d) was included to cover the case of one vessel overtaking on the starboard side of another and then turning left across the other's bow. In an ordinary crossing situation, the vessel on the right would have the right-of-way. If this were also the case of the overtaking vessel crossing the other, the overtaken/stand-on vessel would suddenly become the crossing/give-way vessel and might not have enough maneuvering room.

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