The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has just published a new
Final Rule, finalizing changes to the inland navigation rules and annexes in 33
Code of Federal Regulations (parts 83-88).
The recent action aligns the Inland Navigation Rules in the Code
of Federal Regulations with amendments to the Convention made by the
International Maritime Organization (IMO) on the International Regulations for
Preventing Collisions at Sea, and it also incorporates recommendations made by
the Navigation Safety Advisory Council.
Reasons for the changes
The changes will lessen regulatory burdens by increasing options
for vessel lighting, explaining whistle equipment options, alleviating bell
requirements, and adding options for navigational equipment. The changes also address advances in
technology for wing-in-ground craft, as well as streamline the format and
information, making it more accessible.
Benefits to the Changes to The International Regulations
for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGS)
Specific benefits for the more significant COLREGS changes include
Wing-in-Ground (WIG) Craft to the Vessel List – Provides WIG craft navigation and lighting guidance.
Vessels of 12 Meters or more; Less than 20 Meters in Length – Vessels that fit into these length
restrictions no longer need a bell, which will provide greater regulatory
Requirements Based on Length – Expands the acceptable range for fundamental frequencies,
thereby providing more relaxed standards and allowing for more options of
whistles for new vessels.
Craft – Changes the lighting
formula, which makes lighting requirements less stringent by accommodating new
vessels with novel design.
and Radiotelephone Alarms; Updates to Approved Emergency Distress Call
Equipment – Provides regulatory
flexibility by updating the list of approved distress signal equipment to include
the latest technologies and eliminate outdated ones.
Sunken Vessels and Objects Towed in Combination – Towing multiple vessels or combinations of
vessels must follow the same lighting and shape requirements.
Changes – This rule includes
benefits from incorporating NAVSAC and NBSAC-recommended regulations, listed
- Optional use of an
all-round white light – Owners may install an all-round white light to a vessel
that is less than seven meters in length, or a vessel under oars, providing
greater visibility and reducing the risk of collision.
- Changes to Navigation
Requirements – Requiring vessels to use navigation technology for collision
avoidance if the equipment is already installed, reducing risk of collision.
- Fixes a
contradictory/erroneous provision – Removing the contradictory paragraph,
providing a clear standard to be followed by vessel owners.
The IMO formalized COLREGS in 1972, and the United States ratified
the treaty and adopted COLREGS in the International Navigation Rules Act of
1977, making all U.S. vessels subject to the COLREGS when operating on
international waters. The rules for
inland waters corresponding to COLREGS (inland navigation rules) went into
effect when Congress enacted the Inland Navigational Rules Act of 1980.Both sets of regulations are similar in
format and content.
IMO Amendments to COLREGS were most recently made and adopted by
the U.S. in 2001 and 2007.In 2004,
Congress passed the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004,
amending Section 3 of the Inland Navigational Rules Act of 1980.This also gave the Secretary of Homeland
Security authority to issue inland navigation regulations.
Effective Date and Full Documentation
The final rule goes into effect on August 1, 2014.All recommendations provide increased
regulatory flexibility as a means of lowering the risk of collision.The full final rule can be found here.