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REGULATIONS FOR PREVENTING COLLISIONS AT SEA

WEDNESDAY, MAY 9, 1951

SUBCOMMITTEE ON MARITIME AFFAIRS OF THE
COMMITTEE ON MERCHANT MARINE AND FISHERIES,

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,

Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to notice, in Room 219, Old House Office Building, the Honorable Edward J. Hart, chairman of the subcommittee and the full committee, presiding.

Present: Representatives Hart, Bonner, O'Toole, Boykin, Barrett, Bennett, Murphy, Shelley, Weichel, Tollefson, Allen, and Nelson.

The CHAIRMAN. The meeting will come to order, please.

This is a hearing on H. R. 3670, a bill suggested by the Treasury Department, the purpose of which is to authorize the President to proclaim regulations for preventing collisions at sea.

The proposed bill was accompanied by a statement of the Treasury Department, which will be placed in the record at this point.

(The communication from the Treasury Department under date of March 14, 1951, and the text of H. R. 3670 follow:)

TREASURY DEPARTMENT,

Washington, D. C., March 14, 1951. The SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

Sir: There is enclosed for your consideration a draft of a proposed bill to authorize the President to proclaim regulations for preventing collisions at sea.

The purpose of this proposed bill is to authorize the President to proclaim regulations for preventing collisions involving water-borne craft, whether aircraft or surface vessels, upon the high seas and in all waters connected therewith, except certain designated inland water areas and aircraft in territorial waters of the United States.

The International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea, 1948, meeting in London from April 23 to June 10, 1948, drafted the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1948, which was ratified by the United States Senate on April 20, 1949. This 1948 Conference also revised the present International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, but decided not to annex the revised regulations to the international convention. Instead, the Conference invited the Government of the United Kingdom to forward the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1948, to the other governments which have accepted the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea now in effect. The Conference also invited the Government of the United Kingdom, when substantial unanimity has been reached as to the acceptance of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1948, to fix the date on and after which they shall be applied by the governments which have agreed to accept them. The Government of the United Kingdom was requested to give not less than 1 year's notice of this effective date to the governments of all states (Final Act of the International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea, 1948; S. Doc., Executive B, 81st Cong., 1st sess., pp. 119-120).

Pursuant to the proposed bill, the President would be authorized to accept, on behalf of the United States, the revised International Regulations and to proclaim an effective date, as far as the United States is concerned, consistent with that adopted by other nations. Upon the recommendation of the Department of State,

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the proposed bill has been drafted in terms broad enough to enable the President to proclaim new regulations at any time in the future. It is understood that the recommendation was based upon the view that inclusion of aircraft may require more frequent changes in the rules than have been necessary in the past, since aviation is a rapidly developing industry.

While regulations proclaimed under the authority contained in the proposed bill could in general be made applicable to aircraft of United States registry as well as to public and private vessels of the United States, in the case of aircraft they could not be made applicable in the territorial waters of the United States. Furthermore, the proposed bill would not authorize any regulations applicable to harbors, rivers and inland waters of the United States, the Great Lakes of North America, or the Red River of the North and the rivers emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

Existing regulations for preventing collisions at sea governing public and private vessels of the United States were adopted by the Act of August 19, 1890, as amended (U. S. C., 1946 ed., title 33, secs. 61-142). The proposed bill would provide, in effect, for the repeal of this act upon the coming into effect of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1948, when proclaimed by the President under the proposed new authority, and for the repeal of any statute, regulation or rule in conflict with any subsequent regulation proclaimed by the President at the time it shall take effect.

Section 2 of the proposed bill would reenact the provisions of the Act of December 3, 1945, 59 Stat. 590 (U.S. C., 1946 ed., Supp. III, title 33, secs. 360 and 360a), inasmuch as there is some question as to whether that act, as worded, would carry over the necessary exemptions in two rules which may be proclaimed by the President pursuant to this proposed legislation. This section would also provide for publication of information relating to such exempted vessels in the Federal Register, as well as in Notice to Mariners as now provided in section 2 of the act of December 3, 1945, supra, which is believed to be a valuable additional requirement as to these vessels of special construction.

· Amendment of conflicting laws relative to aircraft would also be made by the proposed bill. Section 3 would amend section 7 (a) of the Air Commerce Act of 1926 (U. S. C., 1946 ed., title 49, sec. 177 (a)), to permit the application of the new regulations to aircraft on the seas, since that section now provides that the navigation and shipping laws of the United States shall not be construed to apply to seaplanes or other aircraft. In line with this change, section 4 of the proposed bill would amend section 610 (a) of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 (U. S. C., 1946 ed., title 49, sec. 560 (a)), to make it unlawful for any person to operate a seaplane or other aircraft of United States registry in contravention of the regulations proclaimed by the President for preventing collisions at sea. There is enclosed a comparative type, showing changes in existing law made by sections 3 and 4 of the proposed bill.

It should be noted that the revised International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 19-18, which it is expected the President would proclaim under the authority contained in the proposed bill, do not represent a great departure from the regulations now in effect. They are, in general, applicable to seaplanes on the water, however, and certain changes in form and wording have been made to provide greater clarity. Some rearrangement of the substance of the rules has been made, although the numbering has not been changed, rule 9 still being the fishing vessel article, and so on. Throughout the revised regulations reference is made to rules instead of articles, and to accord with present-day practices a reference to degrees has been added wherever the rules refer to points of the compass. A rule-by-rule analysis of those rules in which the 1948 Conference made other changes follows, and a parallel-column print of the present rules and the revised international regulations is attached.

Rule 1: Subsection (a) makes provision for those cases in which, due to the construction of seaplanes, it will be impossible for them to comply fully with the provisions requiring the carrying of lights and shapes. Subsection (b) is an expansion of part of existing article 1 and has been extended in its scope to include the prohibition of the carriage of any lights which might impair the visibility or distinctive character of the prescribed lights, or would interfere with the keeping of a proper lookout. Subsection (c) redefines "vessel" and defines the phrase “power-driven vessel,” which replaces the phrase "steam vessel” throughout the rules; it also adds a definition of "height above the hull” and clarifies the definition of “whistle" and "tons."

Rule 2: The existing article 2 has been redrafted so as to make the second masthead light mandatory for all vessels of 150 feet or more in length. Vessels

of less than 150 feet and vessels engaged in towing will not be required to carry a second masthead light but may do so. Rule 2 (a) makes more precise the positioning of the two masthead lights inasmuch as it specifies that they shall be placed in a line with and over the keel. The height of one light above the other (15 feet) remains the same, but the horizontal distance between the lights will have to be at least three times the vertical distance. In all circumstances the light or lights will have to be so placed as to be clear of and above all other lights and superstructures. Specific provisions for seaplane lights are set forth in subsection (b).

Rule 3: This rule is unchanged except that the towing vessel will have also to show either the stern light specified in rule 10 or in lieu of that light a small white light abaft the funnel or aftermast for the tow to steer by; such a light, however, must not be visible forward of the beam. The carriage of the second masthead light prescribed in rule 2 (a) (ii) will be optional.

Rule 4: No important changes have been introduced into this rule, but the provisions of rule 4 (c) should be noted, where the exhibition of working lights and signals for vessels engaged in certain types of surface or underwater work will under the revised regulations be extended to cover, in addition to the submarine cable of the existing article 4, “navigation marks and surveying and underwater operations."

Rule 5: This rule ha been rewritten to require stern lights on any vessels or seaplanes being towed, and a new provision concerning lights on vessels being pushed ahead has been added.

Rule 7: This rule has been changed slightly to increase the minimum range of visibility of the masthead light on power-driven vessels from 2 to 3 miles and to require that the side lights on rowboats or sailing vessels under 20 tons shall, where possible, be fixed.

Rule 8: This rule has been rewritten to require that the range of visibility of the masthead light of sailing pilot vessels be 3 miles, that the range of visibility of the red light for power-driven pilot vessels be increased from 2 to 3 miles, that the interval between the exhibition of flare-up lights on pilot vessels be reduced from 15 minutes to 10 minutes, that in the case of power-driven pilot vessels a bright intermittent all around white light may be used in place of a flare, and that anchor lights be exhibited by all pilot vessels when at anchor.

Rule 9: This rule has been condensed considerably and the following substantive changes have been made: The range of visibility for lights for fishing vessels, except where otherwise stated, shall be 2 miles, and the range of visibility for lights for fishing vessels at anchor is increased from 1 to 2 miles if under 150 feet in length, and to 3 miles if over 150 feet in length; vessels engaged in line fishing or drift net fishing whose nets or lines extend less than 500 feet into the seaway shall exhibit a basket by day and at night shall show one all around white light, and on the approach of another vessel a second white light in the direction of the fishing gear; vessels engaged in line fishing or drift net fishing whose lines or nets extend for more than 500 feet into the seaway shall exhibit three white lights in a vertical triangle and by day shall exhibit a basket in the forepart of the vessel and in addition a black conical shape apex upwards where it can best be seen; and when a fishing vessel becomes fast by her gear to a rock or other obstruction she shall be governed by the rule relating to a vessel at anchor.

Rule 10: This rule changes existing law by making mandatory the showing of a stern light for vessels and seaplanes, the range of visibility of which shall be 2 miles instead of 1 mile.

Rule 11: This rule changes the existing article by providing that the range of visibility of lights for vessels at anchor shall be, for vessels under 150 feet in length, 2 miles instead of 1 mile, and, for vessels over 150 feet in length, 3 miles instead of 1 mile. A provision prescribing a day time anchor signal has been added. Provision has been made for the carriage of “not under command" lights or shapes for vessels engaged in laying or picking up a submarine cable or navigation mark, or a vessel engaged in surveying or underwater operations when at anchor, and for vessels aground.

Rule 13: This rule changes existing law by giving to governments certain discretionary powers in regard to the number, position, range, or arc of visibility of lights or shapes insofar as naval or military vessels or water-borne seaplanes of special construction or purpose are concerned.

Rule 14: The existing article reads as follows: "A steam vessel proceeding under sail but having her funnel up, shall carry in daytime, forward, where it can best be seen, one black ball or shape two feet in diameter.” Under the proposed changes this rule would become obsolete so the following rule has been substituted

for it: "A vessel proceeding under sail when also being propelled by machinery, shall carry in the daytime forward, where it can best be seen, one black conical shape, point upwards, not less than 2 feet in diameter at its base."

Rule 15: This rule' has been changed to permit the sounding of signals by either whistle or foghorn. A new provision has been added which will authorize vessels when at anchor in fog to give, in addition to the usual bell signal, a sound signal of three blasts-one short, one prolonged, one short-so as to give an approaching vessel more definite warning of position and indicate the possibility of collision; this is to be regarded as a special instance of the application of the provisions of rule 12. A reduction in the interval between special fog signals for vessels engaged in picking up a cable, from 2 minutes to 1 minute has been made. A new provision has been added prescribing special fog signals for vessels towed and vessels aground (rule 15 (c) (vi) and (vii)). A new provision has been added permitting the sounding of several alternate blasts of higher and lower pitch for vessels engaged in fishing in fog, as well as the sounding of a blast followed by the ringing of a bell as now provided (rule 15 (c) (viii)).

Rule 25: The last paragraph of this rule is new and provides for a new signal to be given by a power-driven vessel nearing a bend in a channel where a powerdriven vessel approaching from the other direction cannot be seen. A vessel in these circumstances will be required to signal by one prolonged blast on her whistle when she arrives within half a mile of the bend, and this signal will have to be answered by any approaching power-driven vessel which, though out of sight, is within hearing round the bend.

Rule 26: The existing article provides that sailing vessels under way shall keep out of the way of sailing vessels or boats fishing with nets, lines, or trawls. The rule has been changed to provide that all vessels not engaged in fishing shall, when under way, keep out of the way of all vessels engaged in fishing.

Rule 28: The substance of existing article 28 has been retained, but an important new provision has been introduced as subparagraph (b). This provides for a signal consisting of at least five short and rapid blasts on the whistle or siren, which may be given by a power-driven vessel which is required under the rules to keep course and speed if, when she is in sight of another vessel, she is in doubt as to whether that other vessel is taking sufficient action to avert collision. This signal has been introduced to give the “stand-on” vessel the opportunity of calling the attention of the “give-way'' vessel to its obligations under the collision regulations; numerous casualties have been due to reliance by the “stand-on' vessel on correct avoiding action being taken by the “give-way' vessel, and subsequent failure by the “give-way” vessel to take the necessary action.

Rule 30: The exemption authorized under the existing rules in respect to rules made by local authorities relative to the navigation of any harbor, river or inland water has been extended to cover any rules applicable to a reserved seaplane area.

Rule 31: This rule has been amplified and prescribes the distress signals which a vessel or seaplane on the water requiring assistance from other vessels or the shore may make. The use of rocket parachute flares showing a red light has been authorized. Attention is drawn to the note in regard to the radio signal which actuates the autoalarms of the othe vessels.

Rule 32: This rule has been rewritten to follow the wording of article 41 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea which was signed in London on May 31, 1929, in view of the relevance of that article to the steering and sailing rules.

The proposed bill was reviewed and approved by representatives of the Departments of the Navy, Justice, State, Commerce and the Civil Aeronautics Board. Also, this Department has been advised by the Bureau of the Budget that there is no objection to the submission of this proposed legislation to the Congress.

It would be appreciated if you would lay the proposed bill before the House of Representatives. A similar proposed bill has been transmitted to the President of the Senate. Very truly yours,

E. H. FOLEY. Acting Secretary of the Treasury.

A BILL To authorize the President to proclaim regulations for preventing collisions at sea Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized to proclaim regulations for preventing collisions involving water-borne craft upon the high seas, and in all waters connected therewith. Every such proclamation, together with the regulations, shall be published in the Federal Register, and after the

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