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

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Rule 15 -- Crossing Situation


INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.

(a) When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.

 

Encounters are of three types: overtaking, head-on, and crossing. Rule 15 addresses a crossing situation between two poer-driven vessels. This is another simple rule, and one that is the same for International and Inland, with an exception for the rivers of the Great Lakes and western rivers.

Rule 15 does not apply to power-driven vessels restricted in ability to maneuver, engaged in fishing, or not under command. Remember, towing vessels with their tows are considered to be ordinary power-driven vessels unless they are severely restricted in their ability to deviate from their courses (see Rule 3(g)).

The crossing rule applies only to vessels in visual sight of one another. It soesn;t apply when your radar screen shows perfectly clearly the approach of another vessel in a "crossing situation"; if you can't see the other vessel, Rule 15 does not apply and Rule 19 does.

Like the other Rules in this section/subpart, Rule 15 does not apply until risk of collision exists (see Rule 7). Earlier responsibilities between vessel may exist where "shall not impede" provisions pertain. These provisions apply to small power-driven vessels, sailing vessels, and fishing vessels in narrow channels or fairways, and in traffic lanes. Once risk of collision arises, however, Rule 15 takes over and may change the obligations of the vessels. Thus, if you are operating a large vessel and are in a narrow channel, narrow fairway, or traffic lane, and you encounter a crossing smaller vessel involving risk of collision, you must obey Rule 15, even though the smaller vessel is also required to stay well out of your way. Because of the possible shift of responsibilities, you should resolve any doubts early by using your radiotelephone or, failing that, sounding the signal of five or more short blasts described in Rule 34(d).

Rule 15 requires the vessel that has the other on its starboard side to stay out of the way, and to pass behind. The vessel on the right becomes the stand-on vessel and must follow Rule 17 (Action by Stand-on Vessel). The vessel on the left becomes the give-way vessel and must follow Rule 16 (Action by Give-way Vessel). At night, the stand-on vessel sees the green sidelight of the give-way vessel , and the give-way vessel sees the stand-on vessel's red sidelight. A vessel approaching from the quarter so that it could not see a sidelight would be overtaking and would look to Rule 13. A vessel seeing both sidelights would be meeting head-on and would follow Rule 14.

The give-way vessel is required (if the circumstances of the case admit) to pass behind teh stand-on vessel and so a turn to starboard would be in order. To keep the area to the left of the stand-on vessel clear for the give-way vessel's maneuvers, Rule 17 directs the stand-on vessel to refrain from turning to port.

There are few situations where application of the crossing rule is not straightforward. Vessels following a winding river or channel may approach each other in what may appear to be a crossing situation. They should, however, follow Rule 9 and stay to the far right of the channel (general rule). Rule 15 does not apply in such cases, and in other cases where the apparent "stand-on" vessel cannot or does not hold a steady course.

A stopped vessel that sees another power-driven vessel appproaching on its starboard side (involving risk of collision) is obligated to get out of the way unless the stopped vessel is not under command, is restricted in its ability to maneuver, or is engaged in fishing, or unless there are special circumstances. Special circumstances may consist of, for example, a stopped large loaded tanker that is physically unable to maneuver out of the way of a fast-approaching "stand-on" vessel or if the stopped vessel is maneuvering and not on any course. Operators of stopped vessels that cannot readily be maneuvered should exhibit the lights and shapes for a hampered vessel (that is, a vessel restricted in ability to maneuver, not under command, or constrained by draft) and should contact approaching vessels by radiotelephone to warn them of the situation.

 

INLAND

(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), on the Great Lakes, Western Rivers, or waters specified by the Secretary, a power-driven vessel crossing a river shall keep out of the way of a power-driven vessel ascending or descending the river.

 

The Inland Rule 15 differs from the International Rule 15 in that the Inland version contains an exception [paragraph (b)] to the general rule. This exception has been extended beyond the Great Lakes and western rivers to include the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, Tombigbee River, Black Warrior River, Alabama River, Coosa River, Mobile River above the Cochrane Bridge at St. Louis Point, Flint River, Chattachoochee River, and the Apalachicola River above its confluence with the Jackson River.

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