Convention on International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREG) (2023)

Assumption: October 20, 1972; Entry into force: July 15, 1977

The 1972 Convention was designed to update and replace the 1960 conflict of laws regulations, which were adopted at the same time as the 1960 SOLAS Convention.

One of the major innovations of the 1972 COLREGs was the recognition of traffic separation schemes: Rule 10 provides guidance for determining the safe speed, risk of collision and behavior of ships operating in systems of separation from or near traffic.

The first traffic separation system was introduced in 1967 on the Straits of Dover. At first it was operated on a voluntary basis, but in 1971 the IMO Assembly passed a resolution declaring that compliance with all traffic separation schemes would be mandatory. , and the COLREGs make this commitment clear.

technical regulations
The KOLREG comprises 41 rules divided into six sections: Part A - General; Part B - Driving and Navigation; Part C - Lights and Shapes; Part D - Sound and Light Signals; Part E - Exceptions; and Part F - Verification of compliance with the provisions of the Agreement. There are also four annexes with technical requirements related to spans and shapes and their location; sound signaling devices; additional signals for fishing vessels when operating in close proximity and international distress signals.

Part A – General (Rules 1-3)
Rule 1 states that the rules apply to all vessels on the high seas and all waters connected to the high seas and navigable by seagoing vessels.

Rule 2 covers the responsibility of the captain, owner and crew to comply with the rules.

Rule 3 contains definitions.

Part B - Driving and Navigating (Rules 4-19)
Section 1 - Behavior of Ships in Any Visibility (Rules 4-10)

Rule 4 states that the section applies in all visibility conditions.

Regulation 5 requires that "every ship shall at all times maintain an adequate visual and audio watch and all available means, reasonable to the prevailing circumstances and conditions, to enable a full assessment of the situation and the risk of collision. ".

Rule 6 deals with safe speed. It demands: "Every ship must always proceed at a safe speed...". The rule outlines the factors to consider when determining safe speed. Some of them relate specifically to ships equipped with radar. The importance of using "all available means" is further emphasized

Rule 7 on the risk of collision, which warns that "assumptions should not be made on the basis of sparse information, especially sparse radar information".

(Video) COLREGs - Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972.

Rule 8 deals with the action to be taken to avoid a collision.

In rule 9, a ship navigating along a narrow canal or waterway must "keep as close to the outer limit of the canal or waterway as is safe and practicable". The same rule obliges a ship less than 20 meters in length or a sailing boat not to obstruct the passage of a ship "which can only navigate safely within a narrow fairway or waterway".

The rule also prohibits ships from crossing a narrow canal or waterway "when such crossing would prevent the passage of a ship which can navigate safely only within that canal or waterway". The meaning of "do not interfere" was classified by a 1987 amendment to Rule 8. A new paragraph (f) has been added which emphasizes that a ship which has been asked not to obstruct the passage of another ship must take action to enable the passage of another ship. enough space in the sea for the safe passage of the other ship. This ship was obliged to comply with this obligation and also to take preventive measures in accordance with the official and shipping law regulations in the event of a risk of collision.

Rule 10 of the Collision Rules deals with the conduct of ships within or near the traffic separation schemes adopted by the Organization. SOLAS Chapter V (Safety of Shipping) Regulation 8 recognizes the IMO as the sole competent organization dealing with international measures related to ship management.

The effectiveness of traffic separation systems can be estimated from a study conducted in 1981 by the International Association of Institutes of Navigation (IAIN). It showed that there were 60 collisions in the Dover Strait between 1956 and 1960; Twenty years later, after the introduction of traffic separation devices, that number dropped to just 16.

In other areas where such systems did not exist, the number of collisions increased significantly. New traffic separation systems are introduced regularly and existing ones are modified as necessary to respond to changing traffic conditions. In order to make this possible as soon as possible, the MSC has been authorized to adopt and change traffic separation plans on behalf of the organization.

Rule 10 states that vehicles crossing lanes must do so "as far as practicable at right angles to the general direction of traffic flow". This reduces the confusion of other ships as to the cruising ship's intentions and course, while allowing that ship to cross the route as quickly as possible.

Fishing vessels "shall not impede the passage of vessels following a lane" but are not prohibited from fishing. This is in line with Regulation 9 which states that "a fishing vessel shall not impede the passage of another vessel navigating a narrow canal or waterway". In 1981 the regulations were changed. Two new paragraphs have been added to regulation 10 to exempt ships with reduced maneuverability "when operating for the safety of navigation in a traffic separation system" or when laying cables.

In 1987 the regulations were changed again. It was emphasized that regulation 10 applies to traffic separation plans adopted by the Organization (IMO) and does not relieve a ship of its obligations under any other regulation. It should also be clarified that when a ship is required to cross lanes, it should do so as closely as possible at right angles to the general direction of traffic. In 1989 rule 10 was amended to clarify which ships may use the "coastal traffic zone".

Section II - Conduct of Vessels in Sight (Rule 11-18)

Rule 11 states that the section applies to ships that are within visual range of each other.

Rule 12 specifies what to do when two sailboats approach each other.

Rule 13 concerns overtaking: the overtaking ship must stay out of the overtaking ship's lane.


Rule 14 deals with head-to-head situations. Crossing situations are covered by Rule 15 and the action to be taken by the passing vehicle is set out in Rule 16.

Rule 17 deals with the action of the stationary ship, including the provision that the stationary ship "may take action to avoid collision solely by its maneuver once it becomes aware that the ship must stay out of the way." take appropriate action.

Rule 18 deals with ship-to-ship responsibilities and contains requirements for ships to keep clear of each other.

Section III – Conduct of Ships with Obscured Visibility (Rule 19)

Rule 19 states that every ship must proceed at a safe speed appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and limited visibility. A ship detecting another ship by radar will determine if there is a risk of collision and take preventive action if necessary. A ship that hears another ship's fog signal must reduce speed to a minimum.

Part C Lights and Shapes (Rules 20-31)

Rule 20 states that the rules for lights apply from sunset to sunrise. Rule 21 contains definitions.

Rule 22 deals with the visibility of the lights and states that the lights must be visible at minimum distances (in nautical miles) determined according to the type of ship.

Regulation 23 concerns the lights to be carried on motor vessels in motion.

Rule 24 deals with lights for towing and pushing boats.

Rule 25 deals with lighting requirements for sailing and rowing vessels in motion.

Rule 26 addresses lighting requirements for fishing vessels.

(Video) COLREGs full | International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea | UASUPPLY

Rule 27 addresses lighting requirements for boats without controls or with reduced maneuverability.

Rule 28 covers the light requirements for ships with restricted draft.

Rule 29 deals with light requirements for pilot boats.

Rule 30 deals with light requirements for moored and stranded ships. Rule 31 addresses lighting requirements for seaplanes

Part D – Sound and Light Signals (Rules 32-37)

Rule 32 gives definitions of beep, short beep and long beep.

Rule 33 states that boats 12 meters and over must carry a whistle and bell and boats 100 meters and over a gong.

Rule 34 deals with maneuvers and warning signals using whistles or lights.

Rule 35 deals with sound signals to be used in restricted visibility conditions.

Rule 36 addresses signals used to attract attention.

Rule 37 deals with distress signals.

Part E – Exceptions (Rule 38)

Rule 38 provides that ships complying with the 1960 Collisions Rules and which were under construction or under construction when the 1972 Rules came into force may be exempted from certain sound and light signaling requirements for certain periods of time.

(Video) COLREGS | International Regulations For The Prevention Of Collisions At Sea

Part F - Verification of compliance with the provisions of the Convention

The rules, adopted in 2013, set out the requirements for mandatory auditing of the parties to the Convention.

Rule 39 contains definitions.

Rule 40 states that the Contracting Parties must apply the provisions of the Implementing Code in the performance of their duties and responsibilities under this Convention.

Compliance Verification Rule 41 states that all contracting parties are subject to periodic audits by the IMO.

Attached documents
KOLREGs contain four attachments:

Appendix I - Positioning and Technical Details of Lights and Shapes

Appendix II – Additional signs for fishing vessels operating nearby

Appendix III - Technical specifications of sound signaling devices

Appendix IV - Distress Signals, which lists the distress signals and the need for assistance.


1. COLREG 72 .Introduction and guidelines.
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2. Rules of Road( ROR), COLREGs, International regulation for preventing collisions at sea-1972
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3. COLREGS Rules of the Road Audio Book
4. International Regulations for Preventing Collision at Sea (1972)
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5. International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREG)
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6. Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs)
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