Message to the Congress Transmitting Amendments to the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea


July 26, 1988


To the Congress of the United States:


Consistent with the International Navigational Rules Act of 1977 (Public Law 95 - 75; 33 U.S.C. 1602), I transmit herewith amendments to the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, adopted at London, November 19, 1987. The Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (72 COLREGS), done at London, October 29, 1972, was signed by over 50 contracting parties to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The 72 COLREGS entered into force on July 15, 1977, and replaced the 1960 Collision Regulations. The 72 COLREGS were previously amended in November 1981 to clarify technical language of the existing regulations. The nine amendments adopted in 1987 are technical in nature and, with the exception of amendment one, are also designed to clarify existing rules.


Amendment one makes a minor modification to the language in rule 1(e). The existing provisions of rule 1(e) allow for alternative compliance with the provisions of the rules with respect to the number, position, range, or arc of visibility of lights or shapes and with respect to the disposition or characteristics of sound-signalling appliances. Under the existing provisions of rule 1, it must be shown that the vessel cannot achieve full compliance ``without interfering with the special function of the vessel.'' Amendment one deletes that requirement from the rule and thus allows for alternative compliance without showing interference with the special function of the vessel. However, such alternative compliance must still be approved by the Government concerned, and such a vessel must still be in ``closest possible compliance'' with the rules. Amendment one will allow the Government concerned more flexibility in approving alternative compliance in cases where safety needs are met but full compliance would be economically unreasonable.


The other eight amendments amend language contained in the general definitions and in the section treating actions to avoid collisions as well as modify the text of the existing rules on matters such as traffic separation schemes and lanes and positioning and technical details relating to lights and distress signals.


Consistent with section 5 of the Inland Navigational Rules Act of 1980 (section 5 of Public Law 96 - 591; 33 U.S.C. 2073), each of these proposed amendments at various times has been considered by the Rules of the Road Advisory Council, which has concurred with them.


In the absence of a duly enacted law to the contrary, I will proclaim that the amendments will enter into force for the United States on November 19, 1989.


Ronald Reagan


The White House,


July 26, 1988.