USCG Publishes Final Rule Amending Inland Navigation Rules

by | Tuesday, July 29, 2014 |

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 the following:

1. Adding Wing-in-Ground (WIG) Craft to the Vessel List – Provides WIG craft navigation and lighting guidance.

2. New 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 flexibility.

3. Sound 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.

4. High-Speed Craft – Changes the lighting formula, which makes lighting requirements less stringent by accommodating new vessels with novel design.

5. Radiotelegraph 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flexibility by updating the list of approved distress signal equipment to include the latest technologies and eliminate outdated ones.

6. Partially Sunken Vessels and Objects Towed in Combination – Towing multiple vessels or combinations of vessels must follow the same lighting and shape requirements.

7. NAVSAC Changes – This rule includes benefits from incorporating NAVSAC and NBSAC-recommended regulations, listed below:

  • 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.

Background Information

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.

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