Collisions: How to Avoid Them (eBook)

Published Date

August 2019

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Collisions: How to Avoid Them (eBook)

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This publication from the North of England P&I Association highlights sections of the COLREGs that are often misinterpreted, focusing on 12 rules covering a range of hazardous situations. It identifies the key elements of each rule and provides guidance on correct application.

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The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGs) are fundamental to safe navigation and proper conduct of vessels, but are often found to have been breached in collision investigation.


This loss prevention guide has been designed for use on ships’ bridges and provides practical advice to watchkeepers on the key collision avoidance rules, as well as the influence of electronic aids to navigation. It may be used as a focus for discussion in bridge team meetings or onboard training sessions.


The guide also provides collision case studies and simple plotting sheets that may be used to illustrate developing situations while on watch.


Rule 2: Responsibility

Rule 5: Look-out

Rule 6: Safe speed

Rule 7: Risk of collision

Rule 8: Action to avoid collision

Rule 10: Traffic separation schemes

Rule 13: Overtaking

Rule 14: Head-on situation

Rule 15: Crossing situation

Rule 16: Action by give-way vessel

Rule 17: Action by stand-on vessel

Rule 19: Conduct of vessels in restricted visibility




Case Study 1. Who started this?

Case Study 2. Is it good to talk?

Case Study 3. What were they thinking?

Case Study 4. Watch out astern

Case Study 5. To cross or not to cross?

Case Study 6. Fishing?



Plotting Sheet 1. Open sea

Plotting Sheet 2. Traffic separation scheme

Plotting Sheet 3. Coastal waters

Collisions are among the most high profile of all maritime accidents. The number of collisions and their cost, in personal and financial terms, has increased in recent years and ‘human error’ seems to be the only common factor.




Collisions should not happen but they do; sometimes with disastrous consequences. Proper application of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGs) by every watchkeeper on every vessel is the only way to reduce the risk of collision. Indeed, if the regulations are followed to the letter, then a collision should never occur.


Today’s watchkeeper is required to gather, understand and appraise information from a range of sources; from sophisticated radar, automatic radar plotting aids (ARPA), electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS), automatic identification systems (AIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) to compass bearings, visual sightings and sound signals. This information is the starting point of a decision making process and the watchkeeper must then apply the COLREGs to the factual situation in order to identify the correct steps leading to the correct outcome.




The concept of the ‘risk of collision’ is a key feature of the COLREGs. The risk of collision must be identified, assessed and avoided at all times and this is the responsibility of every watchkeeping officer on every vessel.


The best lesson you can learn from this guide is to acknowledge the watchkeeper’s responsibility to identify a ‘risk of collision’ and to take all necessary steps to avoid or minimise that risk.


The aim of this guide is to deliver that message by encouraging discussion between all watchkeepers, from cadets to masters and inspecting officers. We learn best from our experience and from the experience of the people around us, and there is no better way of understanding COLREGs than through discussion, whether in bridge team meetings, at onboard training sessions, during a quiet watch or in the mess room.




This is not a textbook on the COLREGs. Rather, it is a focus for discussion of those regulations that we at North believe are the key to collision avoidance and which we see breached time and again when collisions occur. We think the rules that are discussed in this guide are the ones that are most often misinterpreted and misapplied. We hope that this guide will demonstrate how these rules fit together and how the interpretation and application of each of them can be influenced, sometimes wrongly, by the vast mass of information now available from electronic aids to navigation.


At the end of the guide are collision case studies and simple plotting sheets that you can use to illustrate developing situations. We hope that the case studies and the questions they ask will be the starting point for wide ranging discussions on all aspects of collision avoidance.


North of England P&I Association

North is a leading global marine insurer with over 160 years of history in the industry. Our purpose today remains as it was on our inception in 1860; to enable our Members to trade with confidence.

Over the years our service offering and our global office network has grown but our business has remained grounded where it all began; the North East of England.

With a global service built around you and your business, expect a warm and friendly welcome whenever or wherever you deal with us, from people who genuinely care about your business.

Title: Collisions: How to Avoid Them (eBook)
Number of Pages: 44
Product Code: WS1707EA
Published Date: August 2019
Author: The North of England P&I Association Ltd

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