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

Home - Table of Contents

Rule 33 -- Equipment for Sound Signals


INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(a) A vessel of 12 meters or more in length shall be provided with a whistle, a vessel of 20 meters or more in length shall be provided with a bell in addition to a whistle, and a vessel of 100 meters or more in length shall, in addition, be provided with a gong, the tone and sound of which cannot be confused with that of the bell. The whistle, bell and gong shall comply with the specifications in Annex III to these Regulations. The bell or gong or both may be replaced by other equipment having the same respective sound characteristics, provided that manual sounding of the prescribed signals shall always be possible.

(a) A vessel of 12 meters or more in length shall be provided with a whistle and a bell and a vessel of 100 meters or more in length shall, in addition, be provided with a gong, the tone and sound of which cannot be confused with that of the bell. The whistle, bell and gong shall comply with the specifications in Annex III to these Rules. The bell or gong or both may be replaced by other equipment having the same respective sound characteristics, provided that manual sounding of the prescribed signals shall always be possible.

 

From the mariner's perspective, the sound-signal equipment requirement is simple for vessels twelve meters or more in length. From the vessel's builder or marine supplier, the requirements become more technical and more complex. Annex III to the Rules contains the technical requirements, and although the International and Inland versions of Rule 33 are substantively identical (after proposed Inland Rule amendments have been adopted), the respective versions of Annex III are not. The Inland Annex III was developed from the International Annex III and corrected many of its shortcomings. The mariner should be familiar enough with the basic principles of Annex III to be able to distinguish between the sounds coming from different sizes of vessels.

Today's electronics can reproduce any sound to any level of amplification, and this, of course, includes the sounds of bells and gongs. These synthesized sounds, often more convenient than the real thing, are preferred by many vessel operators. Rule 33 permits the use of these electronic bells and gongs, but also imposes the requirement of manual sounding. If you hit a transistor with a hammer, you won't produce a very satisfying sound. Therefore, real bells and gongs must be installed for emergency use.

  

INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(b) A vessel of less than 12 meters in length shall not be obliged to carry the sound signalling appliances prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule but if she does not, she shall be provided with some other means of making an efficient sound signal.

(b) A vessel of less than 12 meters in length shall not be obliged to carry the sound signalling appliances prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule but if she does not, she shall be provided with some other means of making an efficient sound signal.

 

Boats less than twelve meters long do not have to carry a specific sound-signal appliance. The old Inland Rules (in force through 1981) contained a specific requirement for small boats, and some authorities may erroneously continue to press those repealed requirements. The current requirement is contained in paragraph (b) of Rule 33 and is for some "means of making an efficient sound signal." An efficient signal is one that can be heard and understood by other vessels in ample time for proper operation of the Steering and Sailing Rules. Clearly, the signal applicance needed for a twelve-meter boat in New York Harbor would not be needed on a three-meter outboard dinghy operated on a small inland lake or in a yacht club's moorings. Depending on the circumstances, the requirement could be met by a lung-powered horn, a portable compressed-gas "air horn," a police whistle, or the enthusiastic use of one's own vocal cords.

Home

Table of Contents

Rule 34