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International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGS) are published by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and set out the "rules of the road" to be followed by ships and other vessels at sea. COLREGS can also refer to the specific political line that divides inland waterways (subject to one set of navigation rules) and coastal waterways (subject to international navigation rules).

Although rules for navigating vessels inland may differ, the international rules specify that they should be as closely in line with the international rules as possible. In mainland Europe, "CEVNI" (European Code for Vessels Navigating Inland) apply. In the US, the rules for vessels navigating inland are published alongside the international rules.

The Racing Rules of Sailing, which govern the conduct of yacht and dinghy racing, are based on the Colregs, but differ in some important matters such as overtaking and right of way close to turning marks.

History

Until the beginning of the 19th century wooden sailing vessels were so slow that there was no need for much in the way of navigation rules. However with the coming of steamships collisions became more frequent and this led to the gradual introduction of regulations.

On July 7, 1838 the United States Congress passed a law to "provide better security of the lives of passengers on board of vessels propelled in whole or in part by steam" (5 Stat. L., 304). This included the requirement of steamboats running between sunset and sunrise to carry one or more signal lights. The colour, visibility and location were not addressed.

In 1846 the British passed a law that required steam vessels to pass port to port, that crossing vessels made course alterations to starboard and that sailing vessels on the port tack gave way to those on the starboard tack. In 1848 the British added the requirement for steam vessels to show red and green sidelights as well as a white masthead light.

In 1847 the United States Congress extended the light requirements to sailing vessels in United States waters.

In 1858 the British and U.S. introduced procedures for the use of whistle and fog signals.

In 1863 the British and French implemented new and more comprehensive regulations, known as the Articles. The U.S. and more than 30 other countries adopted these international rules, the U.S. in 1864. Some of the provisions of these rules were that the overtaking vessel keeps clear of the overtaken and that the stand on vessel maintains its course. The only whistle signal in these rules was for one every minute sounded in restricted visibility. In 1880 the Articles were supplemented by whistle signals to indicate actions to avoid collisions.

In 1884 a new set of international regulations was implemented. There were few changes to the sailing rules but these rules only applied to the high seas, there being a distinction made between these and inland rules.

In 1889 the first International Maritime Conference was held in Washington D.C. The resulting Washington Conference Rules became effective in 1897. These rules included a requirement for stand-on vessels to maintain speed as well as course, for steamships to carry a second masthead light, for the give way vessel not to cross ahead of the stand-on vessel and for the use of whistle signals to indicate course changes.

The 1910 Brussels Maritime Conference made some minor changes to the rules. In 1935 the recommendation that the direction of turn should be made with reference to the rudder, rather than the helm or tiller, was informally agreed by all maritime nations.

The 1948 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Conference recommended a second masthead light for power drive vessels of 150 feet or more in length, a sternlight for almost all vessels and the use of five or more rapid blasts on the whistle as a wake up signal. These rules became effective on 1st January 1954.

In 1960 the SOLAS Conference held in London included a section requiring early and substantial action to avoid a close quarters situation with a vessel detected forward of the beam in restricted visibility.

In 1972 a completely re-organized and substantially modified set of navigation rules was passed by The Convention on International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. This was adopted by the IMO member countries on 20 October 1972 and the regulations were brought into force on 15 July 1977. The regulations have subsequently been revised in 1981, 1987, 1989, 1993 and 2001.

The regulations are made of five parts A-E and four annexes I-IV.

Summary of the rules

The rules are specified in great detail in the regulations and the serious student is encouraged to seek the definitive document. Certain individuals are legally required to carry or possess a copy of the rules, such as the owners and/or operators of certain vessels. These legal requirements vary by jurisdiction. Consult the appropriate maritime authorities for each jurisdiction. Any individual subject to such requirements should obtain a complete, official copy from a government or official source. However, the rules are summarized below.

Part A - General

1. Application
(a) These Rules shall apply to all vessels upon the high seas and in all waters connected therewith navigable by seagoing vessels.
(b) Nothing in these Rules shall interfere with the operation of special rules made by an appropriate authority for roadsteads, harbours, rivers, lakes or inland waterways connected with the high seas and navigable by seagoing vessels. Such special rules shall conform as closely as possible to these Rules.
(c) Nothing in these Rules shall interfere with the operation of any special rules made by the Government of any State with respect to additional station or signal lights, shapes or whistle signals for ships of war and vessels proceeding under convoy, or with respect to additional station or signal lights or shapes for fishing vessels engaged in fishing as a fleet. These additional station or signal lights, shapes or whistle signals shall, so far as possible, be such that they cannot be mistaken for any light, shape or signal authorised elsewhere under these Rules.
(d) Traffic separation schemes may be adopted by the Organization for the purpose of these Rules.
(e) Whenever the Government concerned shall have determined that a vessel of any special construction or purpose cannot comply with the provisions of any of these Rules with respect to the number, position, range or arc of visibility of lights or shapes, as well as to the disposition and characteristics of sound-signalling appliances, such vessel shall comply with such other provisions in regard to the number, position, range or arc of visibility of lights or shapes, as well as to the disposition and characteristics of sound-signalling appliances, as her Government shall have determined to be the closest possible compliance with these Rules in respect of that vessel. 2. Responsibility
(a) Nothing in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case.
(b) In construing and complying with these Rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger. 3. General Definitions
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, WIG craft and seaplanes, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.
(b) The term “power-driven vessel” means any vessel propelled by machinery.
(c) The term “sailing vessel” means any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used.
(d) The term “vessel engaged in fishing” means any vessel fishing with nets, lines, trawls or other fishing apparatus which restrict manoeuvrability, but does not include a vessel fishing with trolling lines or other fishing apparatus which do not restrict manoeuvrability.
(e) The word “seaplane” includes any aircraft designed to manoeuvre on the water.
(f) The term “vessel not under command” means a vessel which through some exceptional circumstance is unable to manoeuvre as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel.
(g) The term “vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre” means a vessel which from the nature of her work is restricted in her ability to manoeuvre 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 manoeuvre” shall include but not be limited to:
*(i) a vessel engaged in laying, servicing or picking up a navigation mark, submarine cable or pipeline;
*(ii) a vessel engaged in dredging, surveying or underwater operations;
*(iii) a vessel engaged in replenishment or transferring persons, provisions or cargo while underway;
*(iv) a vessel engaged in the launching or recovery of aircraft;
*(v) a vessel engaged in mine clearance 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.
(h) The term “vessel constrained by her draught” means a power-driven vessel which, because of her draught in relation to the available depth and width of navigable water, is severely restricted in her ability to deviate from the course she is following.
(i) The word “underway” means that a vessel is not at anchor, or made fast to the shore, or aground.
(j) The words “length” and “breadth” of a vessel mean her length overall and greatest breadth.
(k) Vessels shall be deemed to be in sight of one another only when one can be observed visually from the other.
(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.
(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.

Part B - Steering and sailing

Section I (for any visibility)

4. Application
The rules apply in any visibility (e.g. in sight or in restricted visibility). 5. Look-out
Every vessel must at all times keep a proper look-out by sight (day shape or lights by eyes or visual aids), hearing (sound signal or Marine VHF radio) and all available means (e.g. Radar, ARPA, AIS, GMDSS...) in order to judge if risk of collision exists. 6. Safe speed
Any vessel must proceed at a safe speed, which she can to take action to avoid collision and able to stop within the distance for the prevailing conditions (including the visibility, weather, traffic condition, background lights, her maneovability and draft in relation with the available water).
When radar is in use, also consider if there is any limitions of the equipment, range scale in use, weather and other interference, weak targets, targets density and movement, and use radar to judge the visibility is much accurate for objects nearby. 7. Risk of Collision
Vessels must use all available means to determine the risk of a collision, including the use of radar (if available) to get early warning of the risk of collision by radar plotting or equivalent systematic observation of detected objects. (e.g. ARPA, AIS).
If the distance of any vessel is reduced and her compass bearing does not change much or a large vessel or towing vessel at close distance or if in doubt, risk of collision shall be deemed to exist. 8. Action to avoid collision
Actions taken to avoid collision should be:
* positive
* obvious
* made in good time 9. Narrow channels
* A vessel proceeding along a narrow channel must keep to starboard.
* Small vessels or sailing vessels must not impede (larger) vessels which can navigate only within a narrow channel.
* Ships must not cross a channel if to do so would impede another vessel which can navigate only within that channel.
10. Traffic separation schemes
Ships must cross traffic lanes steering a course "as nearly as practicable" at right angles to the direction of traffic. This reduces confusion and enables that vessel to cross the lane as quickly as possible.

Section II (for vessels in sight of one another)

11. Application
The following rules 11-18 applies to vessels in sight of one another. (Section II does not apply if in restricted visibility, see Section III) 12. Sailing vessels
Two sailing vessels approaching one another must give-way as follows:
* Port gives way to Starboard. When each has the wind on a different side, the vessel which has the wind to port must give way;
* Windward gives way to leeward. When both have the wind on the same side, the vessel which is windward must give way to the vessel which is leeward;
* Unsure port gives way. If a vessel, with the wind on the port side, sees a vessel to windward and cannot determine whether the other vessel has the wind on the port or the starboard side, they must give way. 13. Overtaking
Notwithstanding anything contained in part B, sections I and II, an overtaking vessel must keep well clear of the vessel being overtaken. 14. Head-on situations
When two power-driven vessels are meeting head-on both must alter course to starboard so that they pass on the port side of the other. 15. Crossing situations
When two power-driven vessels are crossing, the vessel which has the other on the starboard side must give way. 16. The give-way vessel
The give-way vessel must take early and substantial action to keep well clear. 17 The stand-on vessel
The stand-on vessel may take action to avoid collision if it becomes clear that the give-way vessel is not taking appropriate action. 18. Responsibilities Between Vessels
Except in narrow channels, traffic schemes, and when overtaking (i.e. rules 9, 10, and 13)
* A power-driven vessel must give way to:
** NUC a vessel not under command;
** CBD a vessel constrained by draft
** RAM a vessel restricted in ability to maneuver;
** Fish a vessel engaged in fishing;
** Sail a sailing vessel.
* A sailing vessel must give way to:
** NUC a vessel not under command;
** CBD a vessel constrained by draft
** RAM a vessel restricted in ability to maneuver;
** Fish a vessel engaged in fishing.
* A vessel engaged in fishing when underway shall, so far as possible, keep out of the way of:
** NUC a vessel not under command;
** CBD a vessel constrained by draft
** RAM a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver.
* Any vessel other than a vessel not under command or a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid impeding the safe passage of a vessel constrained by her draft, exhibiting the signals in Rule 28.
* A vessel constrained by her draft shall navigate with particular caution having full regard to her special condition.
* A seaplane on the water shall, in general, keep well clear of all vessels and avoid impeding their navigation. In circumstances, however, where risk of collision exists, she shall comply with the Rules of this Part.
f) i) A WIG craft when taking off, landing and in flight near the surface shall keep well clear of all other vessels and avoid impeding their navigation

ii) A WIG craft operating on the water surface shall comply with the rules of this part as a power driven vessel.

Section III (for restricted visibility)

19. Restricted visibility
(a) Rule 19 applies to vessels (not in sight of one another) in or near of restricted visibility waters.
(b) All ships shall procede at a safe speed for the condition of visibility (see Rule 6). A power-driven vessel shall put her engine(s) on stand-by for immediate use or stop (particularly for a large ocean going vessel may take long time to get her engine ready to use).
(c) All ships shall comply with the Section I of this Part (e.g. Rule 5.lookout, 6.safe speed, 7.risk of collision, 8.action to avoid collision, 9. Narrow Channel & 10. TSS) for the visibility condition.
(d) Take early and substantial action to avoid collision if detecting another vessel by use radar alone (not in sight), but:-
1. any change of course to port for a vessel forward of the beam should be avoided except for a vessel being overtaken (e.g. determined by radar plot),
2. any change of course toward a vessel abeam or abaft the beam should be avoided.
when hear any unknown fog signal of another vessel apparently forward should reduce the speed to minimum or make all way off (stop all water speed by astern engine) and navigate with extreme caution unless risk of collision not exist (e.g. determined by radar plot, but aware of small crafts may not able be detected or mis-identified in busy waters).

Part C - Lights and shapes

20. Application
Rules concerning lights apply from sunset to sunrise. 21. Definitions
Gives definitions for various types of light. 'Sidelights' means a green light on the starboard side and a red light on the port side. 22. Visibility of lights
Lights must be visible as follows;
* In vessels of or more in length:
** a masthead light, 6 nautical miles;
** a sidelight, 3 miles;
** a towing light, 3 miles;
** a white, red, green or yellow all-around light, 3 miles.
* In vessels between in length;
** a masthead light, for vessel longer than , 5 miles; for vessel shorter than , 3 miles ;
** a sidelight, 2 miles;
** a sternlight, 2 miles;
** a white, red, green or yellow all-round light, 2 miles.
* In vessels less than in length:
** a masthead light, 2 miles;
** a sidelight, 1 mile;
** a towing light, 2 miles;
** a white, red, green or yellow all-around light, 2 miles. 23. Lights displayed by power-driven vessels underway
* A power-driven vessel underway must display:
** a masthead light forward;
** If over length, then also a second masthead light aft and higher than the forward one;
** sidelights;
** a sternlight.
* A hovercraft must also display an all-round flashing yellow light.
* A wing-in-ground craft must also display a bright all-round flashing red light when taking off, landing, or flying near the surface.
* A power-driven vessel of less than may display only an all-round white light and sidelights.
* A power-driven vessel of less than whose maximum speed does not exceed may display only an all-round white light. 24. Lights for vessels towing and pushing
* A power driven vessel when towing must show
** two masthead lights on top of each other, instead of the masthead(s) prescribed in Rule 23;
** sidelights;
** a sternlight;
** a towing light vertically above the sternlight;
** a diamond shape if the tow is longer than .
* if a pushing vessel and the vessel it is pushing are rigidly connected, they count together as a power driven vessel and must show the light prescribed by Rule 23.
* If the pushing vessel and vessel being pushed are not rigidly connected, they must instead show:
** two masthead lights on top of each other, instead of the masthead(s) prescribed in Rule 23;
** sidelights;
** a sternlight.
* Power driven vessels larger than which are towing or pushing and are not part of a composite unit must also show:
** a second masthead abaft of and higher than the forward one (vessels smaller than 50 metres may also show this light).
* Vessels being towed that are not inconspicuous or partly submerged must show:
** sidelights;
** a sternlight;
** a diamond shape if the tow is longer than .
* Any number of vessels being towed or pushed together shall be lit as one vessel, and
** a vessel being pushed ahead must show sidelights at its forward end if it is not part of a composite unit;
** a vessel being towed alongside must show a sternlight and sidelights at its forward end.
* A vessel being towed that are inconspicuous or partly submerged must show:
** if it is narrower than , one all-round white light near the forward end (except if it is a dracone) and one near the after end;
** if it is wider than , then also two all round white lights at the extremities of its breadth;
** if it is longer than , then in a series of such all round white lights spaced no further than apart;
** a diamond shape near the end of the last vessel, and, if the tow is longer than , another diamond shape as far forward as possible.
** If for any reason it is not possible to light the vessel according to these rules, all possible measures must be taken to light the vessel and indicate its presence.
** If the towing vessel is not normally engaged in towing operations and it is impractical to light it correctly, it is not obliged to show these lights if it is towing a vessel in distress or in need of assistance. All possible measures must be taken to show that it is towing; in particular the towline should be illuminated. 25. Lights for sailing and rowing vessels
Sailing vessels underway and vessels under oars
(a) A sailing vessel underway shall exhibit:
1. sidelights;
2. a sternlight.
(b) In a sailing vessel of less than in length the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule may be combined in one lantern carried at or near the top of the mast where it can best be seen.
(c) A sailing vessel underway may, in addition to the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule, exhibit at or near the top of the mast, where they can best be seen, two all-round lights in a vertical line, the upper being red and the lower green, but these lights shall not be exhibited in conjunction with the combined lantern permitted by paragraph (b) of this Rule.
(d) 1. A sailing vessel of less than in length shall, if practicable, exhibit the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) or (b) of this Rule, but if she does not, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.
2. A vessel under oars may exhibit the lights prescribed in this Rule for sailing vessels, but if she does not, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.
(e) A vessel proceeding under sail when also being propelled by machinery shall exhibit forward where it can best be seen a conical shape, apex downwards. 26. Lights for fishing vessels
Fishing Vessels
(a) A vessel engaged in fishing, whether underway or at anchor, shall exhibit only the lights and shapes prescribed in this Rule.
(b) A vessel when engaged in trawling, by which is meant the dragging through the water of a dredge net or other apparatus used as a fishing appliance, shall exhibit:
1. two all-round lights in a vertical line, the upper being green and the lower white, or a shape consisting of two cones with their apexes together in a vertical line one above the other;
2. a masthead light abaft of and higher than the all-round green light; a vessel of less than in length shall not be obliged to exhibit such a light but may do so;
3. when making way through the water, in addition to the lights prescribed in this paragraph, sidelights and a sternlight.
(c) A vessel engaged in fishing, other than trawling, shall exhibit:
1. two all-round lights in a vertical line, the upper being red and the lower white, or a shape consisting of two cones with apexes together in a vertical line one above the other;
2. when there is outlying gear extending more than 150 metres horizontally from the vessel, an all-round white light or a cone apex upwards in the direction of the gear;
3. when making way through the water, in addition to the lights prescribed in this paragraph, sidelights and a sternlight.
(d) The additional signals described in Annex II to these Regulations apply to a vessel engaged in fishing in close proximity to other vessels engaged in fishing.
(e) A vessel when not engaged in fishing shall not exhibit the lights or shapes prescribed in this Rule, but only those prescribed for a vessel of her length. 27. Lights for vessels not under command or restricted in their ability to manoeuvre
Vessels not under command or restricted in their ability to manoeuvre
(a) A vessel not under command shall exhibit:
1. two all-round red lights in a vertical line where they can best be seen;
2. two balls or similar shapes in a vertical line where they can best be seen;
3. when making way through the water, in addition to the lights prescribed in this paragraph, sidelights and a sternlight.
(b) A vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre, except a vessel engaged in mine-clearance operations, shall exhibit:
1. three all-round lights in a vertical line where they can best be seen. The highest and lowest of these lights shall be red and the middle light shall be white;
2. three shapes in a vertical line where they can best be seen. The highest and lowest of these shapes shall be balls and the middle one a diamond;
3. when making way through the water, a masthead light or lights, sidelights and a sternlight, in addition to the lights prescribed in sub-paragraph (i);
4. when at anchor, in addition to the lights or shapes prescribed in sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii), the light, lights or shape prescribed in Rule 30.
(c) A power-driven vessel engaged in a towing operation such as severely restricts the towing vessel and her tow in their ability to deviate from their course shall, in addition to the lights or shapes prescribed in Rule 24(a), exhibit the lights or shapes prescribed in sub-paragraphs (b)(i) and (ii) of this Rule.
(d) A vessel engaged in dredging or underwater operations, when restricted in her ability to manoeuvre, shall exhibit the lights and shapes prescribed in sub-paragraphs (b)(i), (ii) and (iii) of this Rule and shall in addition, when an obstruction exists, exhibit:
1. two all-round red lights or two balls in a vertical line to indicate the side on which the obstruction exists;
2. two all-round green lights or two diamonds in a vertical line to indicate the side on which another vessel may pass;
3. when at anchor, the lights or shapes prescribed in this paragraph instead of the lights or shape prescribed in Rule 30.
(e) Whenever the size of a vessel engaged in diving operations makes it impracticable to exhibit all lights and shapes prescribed in paragraph (d) of this Rule, the following shall be exhibited:
1. three all-round lights in a vertical line where they can best be seen. The highest and lowest of these lights shall be red and the middle light shall be white;
2. a rigid replica of the International Code flag "A" not less than in height. Measures shall be taken to ensure its all-round visibility.
(f) A vessel engaged in mine clearance operations shall in addition to the lights prescribed for a power-driven vessel in Rule 23 or to the lights or shape prescribed for a vessel at anchor in Rule 30 as appropriate, exhibit three all-round green lights or three balls. One of these lights or shapes shall be exhibited near the foremast head and one at each end of the fore yard. These lights or shapes indicate that it is dangerous for another vessel to approach within of the mine clearance vessel.
(g) Vessels of less than in length, except those engaged in diving operations, shall not be required to exhibit the lights and shapes prescribed in this Rule.
(h) The signals prescribed in this Rule are not signals of vessels in distress and requiring assistance. Such signals are contained in Annex IV to these Regulations. 28. Lights for vessels constrained by their draught 29. Lights for pilot vessels 30. Lights for vessels anchored and aground
* A vessel at anchor must display an all-round white light or one ball and at the stern and at a lower level than the first light, an all-round white light 31. Lights for seaplanes

Part D - Sound and light signals

32. Definitions of whistle short blast (1 second) , and prolonged blast (4-6 seconds). 33. Equipment
Vessels or more in length should carry a whistle and a bell and vessels or more in length should carry in addition a gong. On many vessels, a horn serves the purpose of a whistle. 34. Manoeuvring and warning signals, using whistle or lights (COLREG sound & light signals.GIF)
The signals are used when vessels are in sight of one another 35. Sound signals to be used in restricted visibility (COLREG sound & light signals.GIF)
The signals are used when vessels are in restricted visibility. 36. Signals to be used to attract attention 37. Distress signals

Part E - Exemption

38. Exemption Any vessel (or class of vessel) provided that she complies with the requirements of the International Regulations for the Preventing of Collisions at Sea, 1960, the keel of which is laid or 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 4 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 4 years after the 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 9 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 9 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 9 years after the date of entry into force of these Regulations.
(g) The requirements for sound signal appliances prescribed in Annex II to these Regulations, until 9 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.

ANNEXES

ANNEX I - Positioning and technical details of lights and shapes ANNEX II - Additional signals for fishing vessels fishing in close proximity ANNEX III - Technical details of sound signal appliances ANNEX IV - Distress signals

1. The following signals, used or exhibited either together or separately, indicate distress and need of assistance:

(a) a gun or other explosive signal fired at intervals of about a minute;
(b) a continuous sounding with any fog-signalling apparatus;
(c) rockets or shells, throwing red stars fired one at a time at short intervals;
(d) a signal made by radiotelegraphy or by any other signalling method consisting of the group   ­­­­­. . .   — — —   . . .   (SOS) in the Morse Code;
(e) a signal sent by radiotelephony consisting of the spoken word “Mayday”;
(f) the International Code Signal of distress indicated by NC;
(g) a signal consisting of a square flag having above or below it a ball or anything resembling a ball;
(h) flames on the vessel (as from a burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc);
(i) a rocket parachute flare or a hand flare showing a red light;
(j) a smoke signal giving off orange-coloured smoke;
(k) slowly and repeatedly raising and lowering arms outstretched to each side;
(l) the radiotelegraph alarm signal;
(m) signals transmitted by emergency position-indicating radio beacons; (see GMDSS)
(n) approved signals transmitted by radiocommunication systems, including survival craft radar transponders. (see GMDSS)

2. The use or exhibition of any of the foregoing signals except for the purpose of indicating distress and need of assistance and the use of other signals which may be confused with any of the above signals is prohibited.

3. Attention is drawn to the relevant sections of the International Code of Signals, the Merchant Ship Search and Rescue Manual and the following signals;

(a) a piece of orange-coloured canvas with either a black square and circle or other appropriate symbol (for identification from the air);
(b) a dye marker.

See also

References

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