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Marine Navigation & Collision Regulations

Collisions in the high sea a quite common every year a lot of ships and vessels collide in the ocean and lead to loss of life and money. We cannot avoid these collisions absolutely that too when the traffic in sea is so high. More and more ships are being added to the sea every year. These ships are used for everything from cargo to luxury cruises.

Many people are opting for sea cruise as a vacation. We will now discuss about how sea is becoming a potential area for accidents and how these can be avoided. The topic is not discussed much but sea collision is a very important aspect in marine navigation and avoiding these is a surmounting challenge that almost all nations of the world face. There are many steps that have been taken by IMO and the seafarers to make the ocean a more safe and regulated place. Some of the revolutionary changes in marine navigation and collision regulations will be touched in this article.
In the past a lot of accidents used to happen in the sea. Sometimes due to weather the ships would sink and hit the shores. We cannot control the weather and its fury. Which is the maximum in the deep seas and is so strong that no technology can fight it? What do you when you see a seventy feet height wave coming towards your ship? Perhaps the only thing you can do is pray. Apart from these there are many accidents that happened due to two ships colliding. A small yacht coming in front of a huge ship, we can definitely control these. As we know that we have road rules. There are signals and traffic rules that everyone who is driving needs to follow so that there is uniformity and that there is no confusion and chaos.

In marine world there were incidents where every nation had their own set of rules that the ships that belonged to these nations had to abide by. That is ok but sea is huge once you are out of the coastal lines and inland waters of your country you are entering a region where there are many vessels that belong to different nations. Each nation was following their own set of signals and standards. Even the basic lights that were used in navigation in the dark were different. How can you control this? This difference in standards and training increased the potential danger of collisions in marine navigation.

Well the problem seemed huge at that time but there was a simple solution. The solution was to get a standard that all vessels in the sea will follow. So that there is a standard sign and a standard system like it is on the roads. It was IMO in the year 1974 that it started formulating a standard guideline that all mariners will follow in marine navigation. The set of rules was officially accepted in 1977. It was called COLREGs or International regulations for preventing collision at sea.

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These set of about four dozen rules took the marine navigation by storm. The rules became thumb rules for all the member nations of the IMO. These rules are flexible and are upgraded from time to time as per the requirement of the situation. These are basically done to keep the rules up to the mark and ensure that the inputs only make these rules more effective. These rules are also termed as the rules of the road at the sea. Nevertheless, apart from this the ships are encouraged to be completely on the lookout of any minor danger that is possible by bad weather, darkness and also due to a bad visibility. The rules clearly state how ships should overtake. The speed limit that they should follow, the safe distance that they must maintain and also how they should approach another vessel. They are rules that give a detailed guide to the ships. The rule also states that no one should assume that the other ship will follow the navigation rules.

All boats and ships should be on the right side of the channel. If the boats feel that an impending collision might happen they can alter their direction and give way. They are given this flexibility to ensure that the sea is a safer place. Crossing of two boats must be avoided at any cost to prevent collision. It is considered to be a very dangerous situation to be in. While overtaking a safe distance must be maintained no matter what the size of the overtaking vessel is. If there is a power boat and sail boat then both should apply common sense before they get on the way of each other. This is a very rare occurrence but not an impossible one.

Some signals that two ships use to communicate are whistle and horns. These can be used when the distances are as close a twelve meters. Some other indicators are shorts. One short may mean alteration of course. Two shorts mean altering to go to the port. Three shorts indicate that the boat is stopping or reversing. Five shorts is an alarm of uncertainty. These are commonly used signals. They are accepted and used when the boats are quite far off so that they can take the action accordingly. In restricted visibility the boats should slow down, the lights should be on and signals should be given out to boats and ships that may around.
This clarifies how sea is a dangerous place to be in and a small mistake can become very fatal and dangerous. The rules that were made by IMO (international maritime organization) are popularly called the COLREGs. These have played a pivotal role in making the sea a better place to be in. Even the member countries of the IMO have ensured that they follow these rules proposed with utmost diligence and commitment. This makes marine navigation a much safer activity today and has also considerably reduced sea collisions.

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