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Old 01-04-2020, 19:51   #1
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Rules of the road question

I have a pretty academic question. Imagine a narrow channel. Two ships on opposite direction courses. The both ships draw approximately the same amount and are constrained by depth. Neither is fishing. Neither is towing. It is not clear that the two vessels can easily pass at the narrowest point. How is it determined which is the stand on vessel? Is there a legally mandated protocol?

I suppose in reality, both skippers would be watching their AIS and would be on the radio sorting things out.
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Old 01-04-2020, 19:55   #2
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Re: Rules of the road question

Boats of a size where this is relevant wound have pilots on board in a channel like that, and would more than likely be under port instructions if that were the case. Or they would be contacting each other way before such a known choke point.
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Old 01-04-2020, 20:22   #3
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Re: Rules of the road question

Neither is the stand on vessel.



See Rule 14
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Old 01-04-2020, 22:01   #4
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Re: Rules of the road question

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Originally Posted by davefromoregon View Post
I have a pretty academic question. Imagine a narrow channel. Two ships on opposite direction courses. The both ships draw approximately the same amount and are constrained by depth. Neither is fishing. Neither is towing. It is not clear that the two vessels can easily pass at the narrowest point. How is it determined which is the stand on vessel? Is there a legally mandated protocol?

I suppose in reality, both skippers would be watching their AIS and would be on the radio sorting things out.
This happens a lot on places like the Columbia River with commercial vessels west of Astoria where the narrow channel bends almost 90 degrees a logging ship takes up the entire channel making the turn. It also happens in in places like Dodds Narrows.

In both cases, the pilot or captain calls Sécurité on the VHF to inform other ships and boats of their position and their direction.

On the Columbia visibility is good. At places like Dodds Narrows you can't see the 'other side' so when someone calls Sécurité you stop wait for them to pass, then make your call to go through.
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Old 01-04-2020, 22:14   #5
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Re: Rules of the road question

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This happens a lot on places like the Columbia River with commercial vessels west of Astoria where the narrow channel bends almost 90 degrees a logging ship takes up the entire channel making the turn. It also happens in in places like Dodds Narrows.

In both cases, the pilot or captain calls Sécurité on the VHF to inform other ships and boats of their position and their direction.

On the Columbia visibility is good. At places like Dodds Narrows you can't see the 'other side' so when someone calls Sécurité you stop wait for them to pass, then make your call to go through.

But US Inland Rules on rivers is a different situation. There your status is based on whether you are going upstream or downtream.
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Old 01-04-2020, 22:23   #6
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Re: Rules of the road question

in such a case there would be pilots on both vessels and / or they would be under a traffic management scheme

it simply would not happen, but if due to some weird hypothetical reason it did, then early communication would sort out who should not be there

as an ultimate back stop, colregs basically would require both vessels to stop.

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Old 01-04-2020, 22:26   #7
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Re: Rules of the road question

I do have experience with the Dodd’s Narrows and that is what I saw. I was curious if there was a more formal approach.

It sounds like I need to reread rule 14.
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Old 01-04-2020, 22:42   #8
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Re: Rules of the road question

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But US Inland Rules on rivers is a different situation. There your status is based on whether you are going upstream or downtream.
Your correct. Perhaps Columbia was not the best example.

COLREGs rules would apply to places like Dodd Narrows or Active Pass and other passes in the PNW which are not rivers, but have tidal flows stronger than a lot of rivers.

The channel leading into Ko Olina marina in Hawaii is narrow and it shares the channel with a ship yard. The ships or pilots will call Sécurité and post a pilot boat at the outer mark to prevent boats from entering the channel when a commercial vessel departs. The marina also requests all boats request departure/arrival clearance prior to leaving the marina or entering the channel to make sure commercial and charter vessels are clear.

(These are just some examples of how the OP's scenario plays out.)
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Old 01-04-2020, 22:48   #9
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Re: Rules of the road question

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I do have experience with the Dodd’s Narrows and that is what I saw. I was curious if there was a more formal approach.

It sounds like I need to reread rule 14.
Well, if you're familiar with Dodds Narrows...you'll know Rule 14's guidance is impractical. It's a 1 boat blind channel. If 2 40' boats meet in Dodds Narrows....it's highly likely someone's gettin' scratched.
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Old 01-04-2020, 22:55   #10
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Re: Rules of the road question

This doesn't address the original question, But...

On the Columbia River and other controlled channels the passage is scheduled. Once loaded, grain ships often anchor for 6-12 hours before preceding down the Columbia. There's usually several ships anchored off Astoria waiting to come upriver. If you go to the pilots site, there's a schedule of ship movements.
Same setup in all the ports I've been in.
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Old 02-04-2020, 08:22   #11
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Re: Rules of the road question

The vessel running with the tide or current is stand-on. This kind of meeting happens often on the New River in FLL. There are securite calls made when entering choke points.

Would take 2 really foolish masters not to have a conversation before the issue becomes critical. Add that most larger recreational and all commercial have AIS one should see the issue about to occur well in advance.
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Old 02-04-2020, 10:27   #12
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Re: Rules of the road question

Rule 14


Programmed movement for large ships.


In a river of tidal river the boat with the going with the current...


Whoever gives one really long blast first...
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Old 02-04-2020, 11:10   #13
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Re: Rules of the road question

In BC we have lots of narrows and passes, including Dodd's Narrows where even smaller recreational boats, without pilots or Vessel Traffic Control systems, can run into these problems. Everyone is pretty good about calling Securite, then LISTENING. Then practical matters often take precedence over COLREGS. A tug with a log boom in a narrow channel ALWAYS gets the right of way. Nobody wants to hit a tug or a log boom (or a barge for that matter). Even a tug alone gets a wide berth. Banging into one of them could destroy a plastic boat and wouldn't even scratch their paint. And some tug skippers utilize that fact. They generally have a low opinion of recreational boaters.

Malibu Rapids at the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet is another case in point. 90% of skippers are good about making Securite calls and listening but the other 10% can cause havoc. I've seen some VERY near misses in there and there have been accidents - including fatalities. At high water slack it would be great if all those coming out came out on the last of the flood and all those outside waiting to come in waited until after the slack and came in on the first of the ebb (and vice versa at low water slack) but we're just not well enough organized or disciplined to pull that off.

And everybody STOP doesn't work around here. You'd be on the rocks in a heartbeat.

You've gotta work with the other skippers and hope everybody is patient and co-operates. If not, everybody loses.
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:12   #14
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Re: Rules of the road question

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Originally Posted by davefromoregon View Post
I have a pretty academic question. Imagine a narrow channel. Two ships on opposite direction courses. The both ships draw approximately the same amount and are constrained by depth. Neither is fishing. Neither is towing. It is not clear that the two vessels can easily pass at the narrowest point. How is it determined which is the stand on vessel? Is there a legally mandated protocol?

I suppose in reality, both skippers would be watching their AIS and would be on the radio sorting things out.
A pretty easy one to Google if you want to bury yourself in maritime lawyers' opinions! But actually you got the answer...they must communicate.

Ultimately, as with all COLREG, context and the interplay of all the rules, including where local rules overlay are part of the challenge.

Firstly you need to decide if you mean 'Constrained by Draught' in accordance with COLREG 3 where the vessel(s) can't deviate, or just the broader fact that we all stick to channels.

Second remember that the CBD rule only applies to power driven vessels, so sailing vessels not operating machinery are a separate issue.

Third apply COLREG 9 to narrow channels and local variations (see this to touch on what others are referring to about specific US cases https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/33/83.09).

Also consider as some have whether they are 'in sight of one another'.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that lawyers, like naval architects, don't necessarily go to sea much and are very good at the after action attribution of blame or engineering a solution, but not so much help on the spot. So in your scenario a risk of collision does exist, the rules don't cover it enough and therefore they need to act to avoid collision, in this case best enabled by direct communication. To be clear however, calling securite doesn't give you any rights, it is a warning message and the two pilots or masters still need to negotiate. Even with local rules about upstream/downstream, the right answer might be for the one most safely able to slow or stop and maintain steerage gives way.
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:44   #15
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Re: Rules of the road question

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Neither is the stand on vessel.



See Rule 14
I think I would have referred to Rule 9. Narrow Channels

either way, communication, and both vessels must communicate. The rules are fairly clear.
Rule 14 applies to vessels that are not in a narrow channel.
In the event of rounding a bend and encountering an opposing vessel, go to outer edges and work off their chine.
The coast pilots and other local knowledge tend to describe the various choke points and local customs everywhere in the world.
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