The International Maritime Organization has supported the International Sailing Federation's position on the prevention of collisions at sea.
The Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, or COLREGs, was subject to lively debate at the recent 54th meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations agency specializing in marine safety. At the meetings of the Safety of Navigation (NAV) Sub-Committee of IMO it was decided not to accept proposals from Italy for fundamental changes to COLREGS, a position supported by ISAF.
The proposals were contested in written and oral submissions by the delegations of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), IAIN (International Association of Institutes of Navigation) and New Zealand. Thirty more delegations spoke at the meeting attended by 95 delegations.
Alan GREEN (GBR), Chairman of the ISAF International Regulations Commission who represent ISAF at IMO, said, "ISAF is always ready to support practical initiatives to improve safety at sea but we were certain that the proposals made would not have achieved the desired result. All parties received a very fair hearing at IMO and ISAF welcomes the outcome."
The initiative from Italy, initially tabled in 2006, aimed to improve safety at sea by defining a new class of vessel to be called "pleasure craft" to be required to keep clear of shipping in many circumstances not envisaged in the present COLREGS. But it was argued that the proposed rules would cause confusion and the proposed new light and sound signals would impose considerable and unwarranted expense on owners.
Whilst the number of reported collisions between small craft and large ships was small it was accepted that the lack of a common format made it difficult to analyse relevant statistics. The development of a recognized format is likely to follow.
Attention was drawn by ISAF and others to the accommodation under existing COLREGs of local schemes for traffic control and the separation of small and large craft, as effectively practiced in the port areas of, for example, the Solent, Harwich, Rotterdam and Sydney.
The IMO meeting welcomed the success of New Zealand's national education programme involving 400,000 leisure craft. A number of ISAF Member National Authorities (MNAs) organize similar schemes. The promotion of voluntary training on a wider basis, with the co-operation of ISAF, is expected to follow.
The use of AIS-B by small craft was noted as another means by which small craft and large ships could become better aware of each other's presence, helping them to assess the possible risk of collision and to take appropriate early avoiding action.
It was part of ISAF's case that when possible a small craft should avoid putting herself in such a position that under COLREGS a large ship will be required to alter course or speed to avoid a collision.
The ISAF International Regulations Commission, representing ISAF at IMO, works on behalf of all leisure sailors on a wide range of safety, environmental and other issues at an international level.
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