Changes to Inland Navigation Rules

Vessels affected by this proposed rule would be vessels traveling on inland waters of the United States. At this time, we anticipate a small additional cost for future WIG craft to install a light. We estimate that there would not be additional costs or burden from the other harmonizing or discretionary provisions. A benefit of the harmonizing provisions is complying with COLREGS and the Presidential memo,. Both harmonizing and discretionary provisions would also provide regulatory flexibility to certain vessels. Some of the discretionary changes may help to reduce risk of collision.

Basis and Purpose

The purpose of this rulemaking is to harmonize existing domestic law with current international law because Coast Guard regulations relating to inland navigation rules are inconsistent with the international standards found in the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), to which the United States is a signatory. In addition to the alignment with international standards, the Navigation Safety Advisory Council (NAVSAC) recommended several changes to the regulations that would implify the inland navigation rules and change equipment requirements for certain vessels. The Coast Guard has initiated this rulemaking under the authority of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2004 (Pub. L. 108-293) and the Department of Homeland Security Delegation 0170.1, Delegation to the Commandant of the Coast Guard.

  • The IMO modified COLREGS sound signal equipment requirements for vessels based on size. One amendment removes the requirement for a bell on a vessel of 12 meters or more in length but less than 20 meters in length. The other amendment reduces the regulatory restrictions placed on the characteristics of whistles allowed for vessels of specific lengths. The Coast Guard would add the same language to Sec. Sec.  3.33(a) and 83.35(i). We would also amend the existing language in part 86, subpart A. This language consists of amendments that IMO believes cater to smaller vessels since these amendments provide regulatory flexibility for sound signal requirements. We concur--by following IMO's example, we also would be decreasing the regulatory burden for small vessels by allowing sound options without negatively impacting navigation safety.
  • The IMO amended existing sections of COLREGS to incorporate new formulas and new standards. Sections 84.13(a), 84.13(b), 86.01(a), 86.01(c), 86.02(b) and the Table in 86.01 would be partially amended to align with the new COLREGS language. Sections 84.13(a) and 84.13(b) would be amended to account for the vertical separation of masthead lights on high-speed craft. These amendments incorporate new formulas to accommodate novel designs in the trim and resulting masthead placement of these specific types of crafts. By changing these formulas, the masthead light would be more visible, thereby increasing the safety of these vessels. In section 86.01 and 86.02, we would amend the frequency and range of audibility standards to relax the requirements for sound pressure levels and octave bands. We believe that the safety of vessels is not measurably impacted by the differing standards and that aligning domestic regulations with the international standard eases compliance. 
  • The IMO amended COLREGS Rule 8, paragraph (a), which corresponds to Sec.  83.08(a), and which generally governs actions taken to avoid collision, by adding the requirement that such actions ``be taken in accordance with the Rules of this part.'' The IMO added this language to make clear that any action to avoid collision should be taken in accordance with the relevant rules in the COLREGS, and to link Rule 8 with the other navigation rules. We propose to amend Sec.  83.08(a) to include this revised language.
  • The IMO modified COLREGS distress signal requirements to update technologies in its list of acceptable equipment. Section 84.01(d), (l), and (m) would be amended to eliminate radiotelegraph or radiotelephones alarms as approved distress calls, with the exception of SOS, which may be transmitted via any means. Radiotelephones can still be used, but not the radiotelephone alarm function. There are no costs associated with removing the alarms as approved distress calls because this change does not require the replacement of such equipment. Radiotelegraphs are obsolete and are no longer used by the industry.\1\ This change was made to the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Chapter V in 1999. It was also instituted domestically by the Federal Communications Commission in the 1990s and has been in effect since then. This change also expands the list of approved equipment for emergency calls to include Digital Selective Calling (DSC), Inmarsat, and other mobile satellite service provider ship earth stations but does not require carriage of such equipment.
  • The search and rescue manual reference in paragraph 3 has also been updated. There is no cost to the change in reference because there is no requirement to purchase the manual.
  • Rule 24 of the COLREGS provides lighting and shape requirements for partially submerged vessels or objects being towed, or a combination thereof. In review of our regulations, the lighting and shape requirements for towed combinations were omitted. We propose to add this language to match the COLREGS.
  • There would be no additional requirements on mariners imposed by the additions and amendments in 1 through 6 above. Instead, these sections would conform to the international standards and provide more options for vessel equipment compliance and increase the clarity of these requirements.
  • NAVSAC Recommended Change      NAVSAC recommended a change to the existing inland navigation rules in which Sec.  83.07(b) would be amended to add the words ``and other electronic'' following the word ``radar.'' The Coast Guard agrees. In 2003, we published a final rule mandating the use of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) on a large number of seagoing vessels. The use of AIS is also a SOLAS requirement. Therefore, adding the words ``and other electronic'' equipment to this section would be consistent with the AIS final rule by requiring vessels that are otherwise required to have an AIS to use the system for collision avoidance in accordance with inland navigation rules. No additional equipment is required by vessels as a result of this change. Those vessels required by 33 CFR 164.46, or those electing to carry, an AIS are instructed to utilize this tool for collision avoidance purposes. This description would also allow for future development and use of technology that would meet Coast Guard requirements.
  • ``Exhibit an All-round White Light'' Would Be Added to 33 CFR 83.25 
  • The National Boating Safety Advisory Committee (NBSAC) proposed several options to the Coast Guard to reduce the risk of vessel collisions. One of the options that NBSAC proposed was to enhance the visibility of smaller vessels and sailing vessels. NAVSAC agreed with the NBSAC proposal and recommended that the Coast Guard add the option of using an all-round white light as a means for vessels of less than 7 meters or vessels under oars to advertise their position and help prevent collisions. Therefore, in Sec.  83.25(d)(1) and (2), we propose to add the following phrase as an option for lighting: ``exhibit an all-round white light or.''
  • Proposed Removal of the Contradictory Paragraph (c) in 33 CFR 83.26  In current 33 CFR 83.26, which concerns lights on vessels engaged in fishing other than trawling, there are two contradictory paragraphs, both of which are labeled as paragraph (c). The second paragraph (c) is the correct version and would remain in this section. We propose to remove the contradictory paragraph (c), currently appearing first in the regulations, to avoid confusion or inability to choose the correct lighting and shapes.
  • Clarifying Language Added To 33 CFR 83.01 To Enumerate Appropriate Authorities
  • In Rule 1, section 83.01, paragraph (b)(i), we propose to add the following after Regulations: ``for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, including annexes currently in force for the United States (``International Regulations'').'' This language would clarify what international regulations we are referring to throughout the regulation.
  • The requirement that vessels greater than 16 feet must carry the inland navigation rules booklet. This provision would expand the population of vessels that must carry a copy of the inland navigation rules from vessels 12 meters (approximately 39.37 feet) or more in length to vessels more than 16 feet long. The Coast Guard rejects this recommendation due to a lack of quantifiable benefits to justify a high regulatory burden on recreational vessels at this time.

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