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

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Rule 3 -- General Definitions


This rule provides definitions to terms that reappear throughout the Rules. Less frequently used terms are defined where they appear; see Rules 12(b), 13(b), 14(b), 21, and 32.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

For the purpose of these Rules, except where the context otherwise requires:
(a) The word "vessel" includes every description of water craft, including non-displacement craft and seaplanes, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation of the water.

For the purpose of these Rules and this Act, except where the context otherwise requires:
(a) The word "vessel" includes every description of water craft, including non-displacement craft and seaplanes, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation of the water;

 

All vehicles that operate on the water are vessels, including displacement craft (those that "float" or are supported by the static buoyancy derived fro the water that their hulls displace), non-displacement craft (those that are supported by the dynamic lift of hydrofoils or other lifting surfaces, such as planing hulls), and seaplanes. The phrase "used or capable of being used as a means of transportation" implies the practical transportation of people or cargo. Inner tubes are not included, although sailboards are.

The "Act" in the Inland version refers to the Inland Navigational Rules Act of 1980, which contains the Inland Rules.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(b) The term "power-driven vessel" means any vessel propelled by machinery.

(b) The term "power-driven vessel" means any vessel propelled by machinery;

 

Vessels propelled by oars, paddles, or other human- or animal-powered means are not included in this definition, nor are they covered in the Steering and Sailing Rules (Rules 4-19)--if you are in a rowboat, canoe, kayak, or the like you must use Rule 2 (in other words, common sense and good judgment). Vessels propelled by machinery as well as any other means of propulsion are considered to be power-driven vessels. A day shape is required for most vessels using both sails and machinery for propulsion; see Rule 25(e).

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(c) The term "sailing vessel" means any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used.

(c) The term "sailing vessel" means any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used;

 

Vessels using only their sails for propulsion are included, even though they may be fitted with an engine. Operation of the engine to generate electricity or to heat water, for example, does not make the sailing vessel a power-driven vessel, so long as the propeller (or paddle wheel) is not engaged. Rule 18 tells us what the responsibilities of sailing vessels are with respect to other types of vessels, and Rule 12 does the same with respect to other sailing vessels.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(d) The term "vessel engaged in fishing" means any vessel fishing with nets, lines, trawls, or other fishing apparatus which restrict maneuverability, but does not include a vessel fishing with trolling lines or other fishing apparatus which do not restict maneuverability.

(d) The term "vessel engaged in fishing" means any vessel fishing with nets, lines, trawls, or other fishing apparatus which restrict maneuverability, but does not include a vessel fishing with trolling lines or other fishing apparatus which do not restict maneuverability;

 

As a general rule, this definition includes most commercial fishing vessels (while fishing) and excludes most recreational or sport fishing vessels. The term "lines" in the phrase "fishing with nets, lines, trawls" refers to lines such as long-lines which may be miles long and to which are attached at regular intervals many leaders and hooks. The term "trawls" refers to large open-mouthed nets that are towed through the water by one or two specially equipped fishing vessels (trawlers). Not included in the definition are vessels fishing with trolling lines (for example, a sport fisherman's rod and reel with the line towed astern), which do not restrict maneuverability.

The use of nets, lines, or trawls is presumed to restrict maneuverability while the use of trolling lines is presumed not to restrict maneuverability. The master determines whether the fishing apparatus restricts maneuverability; if a collision occurs, the court may subsequently make the determination. In any case, a master electing to take on vessel-engaged-in-fishing status is required to display the day shapes and lights prescribed by Rule 26.

Rule 18 assigns the privileges and obligations of vessels engaged in fishing with respect to other classes of vessels.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(e) The word "seaplane" includes any aircraft designed to maneuver on the water.

(e) The word "seaplane" includes any aircraft designed to maneuver on the water;

 

When on the water a seaplane is a vessel. Rule 31 gives the navigation light and shape requirements for seaplanes. <

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(f) The term "vessel not under command" means a vessel which through some exceptional circumstances is unable to maneuver as required by these Rules and is thereby unable to keep out of the way of another vessel.

(f) The term "vessel not under command" means a vessel which through some exceptional circumstances is unable to maneuver as required by these Rules and is thereby unable to keep out of the way of another vessel;

 

A vessel claiming not-under-command status must (1) find itself in exceptional circumstances, and (2) thereby be unable to maneuver as would ordinarily be required by the Rules. The following are examples of conditions that could result in not-under-command status:

  • Vessel with anchor down but not holding
  • Vessel riding on anchor chains
  • Vessel with inoperative steering gear
  • Sailing vessel becalmed or in irons
  • Exceptionally bad weather (relative to vessel claiming status)

Vessels claiming not-under-command status are considered to be underway. That is, they re not considered to be at anchor, made fast to the shore, or aground.

Rule 18 assigns the privileges and obligations of not-under-command vessels with respect to other classes of vessels. Rule 27 prescribes the lights and shapes to be displayed by npt-under-command vessels.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(g) The term "vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver" means a vessel which from the nature of her work is restricted in her ability to maneuver as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel.
The term "vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver" shall include but not be limited to:
(i) a vessel engaged in laying, servicing, or picking up a navigation mark, submaine cable or pipeline;
(ii) a vessel engaged in dredging, surveying or underwater operations;
(iii) a vessel engaged in replenishment or transferring persons, provisions, r cargo while underway;
(iv) a vessel engaged in the launching or recovery of aircraft;
(v) a vessel engaged in mineclearance operations;
(vi) a vessel engaged in a towing operation such as severely restricts the towing vessel and her tow in their ability to deviate from their course.

(g) The term "vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver" means a vessel which from the nature of her work is restricted in her ability to maneuver as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel; vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver include, but are not limited to:
(i) a vessel engaged in laying, servicing, or picking up a navigation mark, submaine cable or pipeline;
(ii) a vessel engaged in dredging, surveying or underwater operations;
(iii) a vessel engaged in replenishment or transferring persons, provisions, r cargo while underway;
(iv) a vessel engaged in the launching or recovery of aircraft;
(v) a vessel engaged in mineclearance operations; and
(vi) a vessel engaged in a towing operation such as severely restricts the towing vessel and her tow in their ability to deviate from their course.

 

Both the International and the Inland version carry the same message, despite slight variations in wording. A vessel restricted in ability to maneuver (1) must be unable to keep out of the way of other vessels (2) because of the nature of its work. The status does not apply to vessel that cannot maneuver because they are in a narrow channel or in shallow water or because of strong currents or bad weather.

The definition lists a number of vessel activities that entitle the vessel to restricted-in-ability-to-maneuver status. Note that vessel types are not named, but vessels engaged in certain activities are listed. The distinction: a cable laying vessel is not necessarily entitled to status as a vessel restricted in ability to maneuver, but a vessel engaged in cable laying is. The cable-laying vessel may claim the special status only when it ia actually laying cable.

A towing vessel with tow is under some circumstances less able to maneuver than a power-driven vessel alone. However, the master of a vessel engaged in a routine towing operation is not normally justified in claiming restricted-in-ability-to-maneuver status. This is emphasized in the definition by the words "severely restricts." The master must make the determination, and the towing vessel and the two are considered a unit--"restricted in their ability to deviate from their course."

Vessels restricted in ability to maneuver may or may not be underway.

 

INTERNATIONAL

(h) The term "vessel constrained by her draft" means a power-driven vessel which, because of her draft in relation to the available depth and width of navigable water, is severly restricted in her ability to deviate from the course she is following.

 

This term covers such cases as a large vessel passing between islands or a vessel in a channel whose draft exceeds the water depth outside the channel. The depth of water directly underneath the vessel is not the determining factor; rather, the depth (or lack of it) closee to either side of the vessel determines the level of constraint. International Rule 18(d) prescribes the action to be taken by vessels constrained by draft and other vessels in the vicinity. International Rule 28 gives the lights and shapes for vessels constrained by draft.

The Inland Rules do not contain a parallel definition for "vessel constrained by draft" because the term is not used in the Inland Rules. In inland waters almost all vessels will be limited in maneuverability by their drafts at one time or another.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(i) The word "underway" means that a vessel is not at anchor, ,or made fast to the shore, or aground.

(h) The word "underway" means that a vessel is not at anchor, or made fast to the shore, or aground;

 

"Underway" should be distinguished from the phrases "making way through the water" (used in Rules 26, 27, and 35) and "making no way through the water" (used in Rule 35). A vessel that is "underway" need not be moving through the water but may simply be not anchored, aground, or made fast to the shore. If a vessel is making no way through the water, it is stopped and drifting, unless it is not underway. If it is moving relative to the water, it is making way. For example, if a ship is headed up a river, making five knots through the water, and there is a five-knot current against it, then it is making wat through the water even though it is making no progress relative to the shore. Another ship drifting down the river is not making way, even though it is moving much faster over the bottom.

It is fairly common for river towboats (pushing ahead) to hold their position by putting the head of their tow against the bank and and applying some forward thrust to prevent movement. In this situation the tow is free to maneuver and not considered to be aground. Therefore, it is considered to be underway.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(j) The words "length" and "breadth" of a vessel mean her length overall and greatest breadth.

(i) The words "length" and "breadth" of a vessel mean her length overall and greatest breadth;

 

Length overall can be visualized by bringing the bow (excluding bowsprits and so forth) of a vessel's hull up against a vertical wall and then brining another vertical wall up against the stern. Length overall will then be the distance between the two walls. Other lengths commonly referred to, though not in these Rules, include waterline length (measure between points where stem and stern enter the water) and length between perpendiculars (measured from the point the stem intersects the design waterline and the centerline of the rudderpost).

The greatest breadth does not always occur amidships.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(k) Vessels shall be deemed to be in sight of one another only when one can be observed visually from the other.

(j) Vessels shall be deemed to be in sight of one another only when one can be observed visually from the other;

 

Rules 11 through 18 apply only to vessels in sight of one another. These Rules assign responsibilities as give-way or stand-on vessels for various situations. These eight rules do not apply to two vessels not "in sight of one another." Even though the vessels may know each other's exact course, speed, and position by means of automated radar plotting aids or other devices, Rules 11 through 18 apply only if visual contact is also made.

 

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(l) The term "restricted visibility" means any condition in which visibility is restricted by fog, mist, falling snow, heavy rainstorms, sandstorms or any other similar causes.

(k) The term "restricted visibility" means any condition in which visibility is restricted by fog, mist, falling snow, heavy rainstorms, sandstorms or any other similar causes;

 

Rules 19 and 35 apply only to vessels in or near an area of restricted visibility. Restricted visibility may be due to any of the listed natural causes or to other factors such as smoke or smog. Visibility need not be restricted all around the vessel, nor does the vessel in question have to be in the fog, mist, or whatever. For example, a vessel must follow the Rules for restricted visibility if it is close to a fogbank, even though it may be in clear air and have clear air on three sides. The vessel in this example would, however, follow the Rules for vessels in sight of one another with respect to vessels also in clear air that it can see.

Rule 20(c) requires the display of navigation lights during periods of restricted visibility. As a guideline, signals should be given when visbility in any direction falls below the minimum audibility range specified for the whistle on your vessel by Annex III--two miles for the largest vessels, down to one-half mile for the smallest.

 

INTERNATIONAL

(m) The term "Wing-In-Ground (WIG) craft" means a multimodal craft which, in its main operational mode, flies in close proximity to the surface by utilizing surface-effect action.

 

The definition for "Wing-In-Ground" craft was added to address hybrid water/air craft that can operate on the water and just above the water in ground effect -- on a cushion of air.

 

INLAND

(l) "Western Rivers" means the Missippi River, its tributaries, South Pass, and Southwest Pass, to the navigational demarcation lines dividing the high seas from harbors, rivers, and other inland waters of the United States, and Port Allen--Morgan City Alternate Route, and that part of the Atchafalaya River above the injunction with the Port Allen--Morgan City Alternate Route including the Old River and the Red River;

 

Certain provisions in the Inland Rules apply only to vessels operating on the Western Rivers or apply to the Western Rivers and other specially designated waters. These special special references to Western Rivers waters appear in Rules 9(a)(ii), 14(d), 15(b), and 24(i). Supplemental regulations contained in Part 89 of Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations clarify the boundary for Western Rivers water in the New Orleans area.

The reference to the "navigational demarcation lines dividing the high seas from harbors, rivers, and other inland waters" is a misnomer. The navigational demarcation lines have no geopolitical significance and do not separate high seas waters from inland waters. "Inland waters" is a term unique to the navigation rules; "internal waters" would be the closest corresponding geopolitical term. The "territorial sea," twelve miles wide, is adjacent to the internal waters, and then outside of the territorial sea are "high seas." The navigational demarcation lines only serve to divide the waters where the International and the Inland navigation rules apply.

 

INLAND

(m) "Great Lakes" means the Great Lakes and their connecting and tributary waters including the Calumet River as far as the Thomas J. O'Brien Lock and Controlling Works (between mile 326 and 327), the Chicago River as far as the east side of the Ashland Avenue Bridge (between mile 321 and 322), and the Saint Lawrence River as far east as the lower exit of Saint Lambert Lock;

 

Similarly, the Rules contain some special provisions applicable to vessels operating on the Great Lakes. References to the Great Lakes are made in Rules 9(a)(ii), 14(d), 15(b), and 23(d).

 

INLAND

(n) "Secretary" means the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating;

 

For a long time the Coast Guard was under the Department of Transportation. In times of war the Coast Guard may be under the Department of Defense. Now the Coast Guard is under the Department of Homeland Security.

 

INLAND

(o) "Inland Waters" means the navigable waters of the United States shoreward of the navigational demarcation lines dividing the high seas from harbors, rivers, and other inland waters of the United States and the waters of the Great Lakes on the United States sides of the International Boundary;

 

Non-navigable waters under sole-state jurisdiction are not included. The demarcation lines are set out in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 80. These lines are used only to indicate whether the International Rules or the Inland Rules apply. They do not mark the boundary between U.S. territorial waters and the high seas (international waters). For a more complete discussion of this subject, see Rule 1(a).

 

INLAND

(p) "Inland Rules" or "Rules" mean the Inland Navigational Rules and the annexes thereto, which govern the conduct of vessels and specify the lights, shapes, and sound signals that apply on inland waters; and

 

There are five annexes to the Inland Rules. They are published as regulations and appear in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 84 through 88.

 

INLAND

(q) "International Regulations" means the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, including annexes currently in force for the United States.

 

These are also known commonly as the International Navigation Rules, International Rules, 72 COLREGS, and COLREGS. The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, is the name of the treaty containing the Rules and is the responsibility of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The treaty became binding on the United States on 15 July 1977. The first set of 56 amendments to the International Rules went into effect on 1 June 1983, and the second set of nine on 19 November 1991.

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