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

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Rule 38 -- Exemptions


INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

Any vessel (or class of vessels) provided that she complies with the requirements of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1960, the keel of which is laid or which is at a corresponding stage of construction before the entry into force of these Regulations may be exempted from compliance therewith as follows:

(a) The installation of lights with ranges prescribed in Rule 22, until four years after the date of entry into force of these Regulations.

(b) The installation of lights with color specifications as prescribed in Section 7 of Annex I to these Regulations, until four years after the date of entry into force of these Regulations.

(c) The repositioning of lights as a result of conversion from Imperial to metric units and rounding off measurement figures, permanent exemption.

(d)(i) The repositioning of masthead lights on vessels of less than 150 meters in length, resulting from the prescriptions of Section 3(a) of Annex I to these Regulations, permanent exemption.

(ii) The repositioning of masthead lights on vessels of 150 meters or more in length, resulting from the prescriptions of Section 3(a) of Annex I to these Regulations, until nine years after the date of entry into force of these Regulations.

(e) The repositioning of masthead lights resulting from the prescriptions of Section 2(b) of Annex I to these Regulations, until nine years after the date of entry into force of these Regulations.

(f) The repositioning of sidelights resulting from the prescriptions of Section 2(g) and 3(b) of Annex I to these Regulations, until nine years after the date of entry into force of these Regulations.

(g) The requirements for sound signal appliances prescribed in Annex III to these Regulations, until nine years after the date of entry into force of these Regulations.

(h) The repositioning of all-round lights resulting from the prescription of Section 9(b) of Annex I to these Regulations, permanent exemption.

Any vessel or class of vessels, the keel of which is laid or which is at a corresponding stage of construction before the date of enactment of this Act, provided that she complies with the requirements of--

(a) The Act of June 7, 1897 (30 Stat. 96), as amended (33 U.S.C. 154-232) for vessels navigating the waters subject to that statute;

(b) Section 4233 of the Revised Statutes (33 U.S.C. 301-356) for vessels navigating the waters subject to that statute;

(c) The Act of February 8, 1895 (28 Stat. 645), as amended (33 U.S.C. 241-295) for vessels navigating the waters subject to that statute; or

(d) Sections 3, 4, and 5 of the Act of April 25, 1940 (54 Stat. 163), as amended (46 U.S.C. 526 b, c, and d) for motorboats navigating the waters subject to that statute;

shall be exempted from compliance with the technical Annexes to these Rules as follows:

(i) the installation of lights with ranges prescribed in Rule 22, until 4 years after the effective date of these Rules, except that vessels of less than 20 meters in length are permanently exempt;

(ii) the installation of lights with color specifications as prescribed in Annex I to these Rules, until 4 years after the effective date of these Rules, except that vessels of less than 20 meters in length are permanently exempt;

(iii) the repositioning of lights as a result of conversion to metric units and rounding off measurement figures, are permanently exempt; and

(iv) the horizontal repositioning of masthead lights prescribed by Annex I to these Rules:

(1) on vessels of less than 150 meters in length, permanent exemption.

(2) on vessels of 150 meters or more in length, until 9 years after the effective date of these Rules.

(v) the restructuring or repositioning of all lights to meet the prescriptions of Annex I to these Rules, until 9 years after the effective date of these Rules;

(vi) power-driven vessels of 12 meters or more but less than 20 meters in length are permanently exempt from the provisions of Rule 23(a)(i) and 23(a)(iv) provided that, in place of these lights, the vessel exhibits a white light aft visible all round the horizon; and

(vii) the requirements for sound signal appliances prescribed in Annex III to these Rules, until 9 years after the effective date of these Rules.

 

The International and Inland Rules now in effect are relative new, historically speaking. The International Rules (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972) became effective on 15 July 1977, and the Inland Rules went into effect (except on the Great Lakes) on 24 December 1981. Each set contains specifications for the performance and positioning of navigation lights and sound signal appliances, technical details that were not in the previous rules. Because it would have been unreasonable to require vessel owners to replace navigation lights, sound signal appliances, and perhaps even supporting structures as soon as the new rules came into effect, Rule 38 allowed mariners to make changes over time and excused them from some changes entirely.

Rule 38 begins by explaining which vessels are eligible for exemptions. For a vessel to be exempt, its construction must have been started before 15 July 1977 (International) or 24 December 1980 (the date of enactment of the Inland Rules was one year before the effective date). In addition, the vessel must have been in compliance with the 1960 International Regulations or with the old Inland, Western Rivers, or Great Lakes rules, or the Motorboat Act of 1940. Vessels built since 15 July 1977 (International) and 24 December 1980 (Inland) are not eligible for any exemptions.

The numbering of paragraphs in Inland Rule 38 is somewhat confusing. The paragraphs labeled (i), (ii), (iii), and so forth are not subsections of the paragraph labeled (d), but rather follow from and are on equal footing with the unnumbered introductory paragraph that contains (a), (b), (c), and (d). For clarity, in the above presentation of the rule, I have detached the final sentence of the introductory paragraph from its official place embedded in subparagraph (d).

The final sentence of the introductory paragraph (that is, the sentence in (d)), which ends with "shall be exempted from compliance with the technical Annexes to these Rules as follows," is also misleading because it mentions only exemptions from the "technical Annexes." Paragraph (i) of Rule 38 gives exemptions to provisions of Rule 22, and paragraph (vi) gives exemptions to provisions of Rule 23.

The permanent exemption for conversion to metric units refers to old requirements that were retained but were converted to the metric system of measurement. For example, an old requirement might have called for six feet of spacing between lights. The new requirement would round off the measurement to two meters, a little more than six feet. If your lights were separated by six feet, you would be exempt from having to adjust them to meet the exact metric requirement.

There are other differences between the International and Inland versions of Rule 38 besides the date from which the clock begins to run. The Inland exemptions are broader in scope, for example, and small vessels with Inland Rule lighting are permanently exempt from virtually all changes.

Note that the Inland Rule date of eligibility for exemption is keel laid before the date of "enactment" (when the Inland Rules were signed into law) rather than the date the Rules became effective. This is probably another quirk in the drafting of those rules rather than the intent. Relaxed enforcement may be used to ease the burden on affected vessels (built between the two dates), since the technical annexes were not published before the effective date.

Rule 38 is addressed more to the vessel owner than the crew, as it is the owner who exercises control over vessel modifications and equipment. Rule 38 also implies a warning for the mariner, though. Not everything on the water will conform exactly to the new requirements, and the mariner should be alert for the unusual.

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