Sounds and Light Signals

This sections covers light and sound signals that can be used to convey intent, and attract attention. This section also covers distress signals covered in Annex IV of COLREG’s.

Rule #32: Application

Whistle: any sound signalling appliance that can produce sounds that comply with the specifics set in Annex III of the COLREG’s.

A short blast lasts around 1 second, whereas a prolonged, or long blast can last from 4 to 6 seconds.

There is no Canadian modification for this rule.

One Long Blast: 

One Short Blast: 

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #33: Signal Device Depending on Vessel Length

International Rule:

Vessels that are over 12 meters must have a whistle, (this could be any sound making device that meets the requirements in Annex III) and a bell. However, a vessel that is over 100 meters must have a whistle, bell and a gong.

If a vessel is under 12 meters, they are not required to carry a whistle and a bell, but they must have some other means of making an efficient sound signal.

These may be swapped for a different device but they must mirror the same sound characteristics, and can be manually changed to output the right signals.

Canadian Modifications:

In inland Canadian waterways including roadsteads, rivers, lakes, and harbours if a must carry the sound signals prescribed to a vessel over 12 meters.

This only applies if the vessel is shorter then 12 meters or if it is ordinarily used for pushing or pulling any floating object and not employed solely in yarding or warping operations.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #34: Signals for Maneuvering

International Rule:

  • When vessel signals with one white flash, or issues one short blast it means they are altering course to starboard.
  • If they signal with two white flashes, or issue two short blasts they are altering course to port.
  • Three white flashes or three short blasts means a vessel is signalling that they are putting their engines into astern.
  • If you are ever unsure of a vessels actions, or they are unsure of yours they should issue five short blasts of their horn, and/or five white flashes.
  • If a vessel is planning to overtake you on your starboard side they will issue two long blasts, and one short blast.
  • If they plan on overtaking you on your port side then they will issue two long blasts and two short blasts.
  • Upon hearing this you must answer in agreement with three blasts in succession, one long blast, one short blast and one long blast.
  • A vessel will also issue a long blast if they are going around a blind corner, or upon hearing on from around a corner.

Canadian Modifications are in the next slide.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #34: Other Sound Signals

Canadian Modifications:

In the Great Lakes, when power-driven vessels are in sight of one another in a meeting or crossing situation within half a mile from each other must signal using these signals:

  • One short blast and/or one white flash: “I’m leaving you on my port side”.

  • Two short blasts and/or two white flashes: “I’m leaving you on my starboard side.”

  • Three short blasts and/or three white flashes:”My engines are going astern.”

Upon hearing this a vessel will sound their agreement by sound the same signal, and changing course in an obvious and positive manner, if needed, until they have passed each other. If there is any misunderstanding or confusion the vessel should signal five short blasts and/or five white flashes.

Vessels may also use bridge-to-bridge radiotelephone instead, but if there is no response or an agreement is not reached then whistle signals must be exchanged in an timely matter.This light used for signalling, if fitted, must be a yellow or white all-round light, visible for 2nm and synchronized with the whistle signal, and comply with section 12 of Annex I.

In Canadian waters of a roadstead, harbour, river, lake or any inland waterway, a power-driven vessel longer then 12 meters must signal one long blast when leaving the dock. The only exceptions to this section of the rule would be a ferry making a scheduled departure, when visibility is more then 3nm, and the master of the ferry has used all means appropriate to circumstances to determine if the signal is needed or not, and decided it is not needed.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #35: Sound Signals for In/Near Restricted Visibility

International Rule:

  • If a vessel is under 20 meters it should make a sufficient sound every two mins, or they could issue the other recognized sounds that differ depending on their vessel.
  • A power-driven vessel must issue one long blast every two minutes if they are underway and making way. If they are only underway and not making way then they must issue two long blasts with two seconds between each blast every two minutes.
  • When a vessel is not under command, restricted in their ability to maneuver, constrained by their draft, if they are towing, fishing or sailing they will issue one long blast followed by two short blasts every two minutes.
  • If a vessel is being towed or is the last vessel being towed it must issue one long blast, followed by three short blasts every two minutes, preferably right after the vessel towing them issues their signal.
  • Pilot Vessels will signal according to their vessel, but they may sound four short blasts additionally or instead of the signal declaring the type of their vessel.

Canadian Modifications:

In Canadian waters of a roadstead, harbour, river, lake or any other inland waterway a vessel must signal as if it were a vessel more then 12 meters in length if it is under 12 meters in length, used for pushing to pulling any floating object and not located within a recognized mooring, storage or booming area.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #35: Signals for A Vessel Not Underway In Restricted Visibility

  • A vessel that is under 100 meters and at anchor should issue a signal of rapid ringing of a bell for five seconds every minute, as well as issuing one short, one long and one short blast to signal approaching vessels of their location.
  • If a vessel is at anchor and over 100 meters long, they must ring a bell for 5 seconds in the forward part of their vessel, followed by five seconds of sounding a gong in the aft part of their vessel, this must be done every minute.
  • When a vessel is engaged in fishing, or restricted in their ability to maneuver, at anchor they will issue one long blast, followed by two short every two minutes.
  • If a vessel is aground they should signal 3 separate strokes/sounds before continuing with the signal of being at anchor. Over 100m and aground:
    Under 100m and aground

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #36: Signals To Attract Attention

If you need to attract the attention of another vessel, use a signal that cannot be mistaken for another signal. A great example of this would be shining your spotlight on the danger in question.

There is no Canadian modification for this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #37: Distress Signals

When a vessel or person is in distress and required assistance they will issue a signal described in Annex IV.

Those signals are:

  • Firing a gun or explosive signal fired every minute.
  • Continuous sound with any fog signalling apparatus.
  • A signal made by any method that consists of SOS in morse code.(…—…).
  • A MAYDAY call on the radio.
  • A square shape with anything resembling a ball above or below it.
  • Flames on a Vessel.
  • Orange Coloured Smoke from a smoke signal.
  • Rocket Flare or Shells throwing red stars fired one at a time at short intervals.
  • Rocket Parachute flare or a hand flare showing red light.
  • Slowly and Repeatedly raising and lowering arms outstretched on each side.
  • The International Code Signal of Distress indicated by N.C. (Two flags, one is a blue and white checkered flag, and below it will be a striped flag showing: blue, white, red, white, blue.)
  • Any colour of a dye marker.
  • A piece of orange coloured canvas with either a black square or circle, or some appropriate symbol easily identifiable from the air.
  • A distress alert via Digital Selective Calling(DSC):
    • Transmitted on VHF CH 70.
    • MF/HF frequencies:218.5kHZ, 8414.5 kHZ, 4207.5 kHZ, 6312 kHZ, 12577 kHZ or 16804.5 kHZ.
    • A ship to shore distress alert transmitted by the ship’s Inmarsat or other mobile satellite service provider ship-to-earth station.
    • Signals transmitted by Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons. (EPIRB’s.)
    • Any transmitted signal that is approved by radio communication systems, this includes survival craft radar transponders.

Even though an upside down flag is not part of the COLREG’s Distress Signals, it is still accepted as a signal as someone is in distress and need of assistance.

The Use of These Signals:

The use or exhibition of these signals is prohibited when you are not trying to indicate distress and need of assistance, or the use of signals that could be confused with these signals is also prohibited. This signals must only be used when you are in distress and in need of assistance.

Other signals of distress can be found in the International Code of Signals, the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue Manual, and Volume III.

There is no Canadian modification for this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Rule #38: Exemptions

Rule #38: Exemptions:

Vessels the comply with the 1960 Collision Regulations and were built or already under construction when the 1972 Collision Regulations were put in place are exempt from some requirements for light and sound signals for specified periods.

There is no Canadian modification to this rule.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Additional Canadian Provisions in the COLREG’s: Rule #39

Rule #39: Signals for Dangerous Goods:

In Canadian roadsteads, harbours, rivers, lakes, or any inland waterway a vessel that is taking in, carrying or discharging dangerous goods must display an all-round red light or the international code flag “B” when not underway. When that vessel is underway they must display the International Code Flag “B” but not the all-round red light.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Additional Canadian Provisions in the COLREG’s: Rule #40

Rule #40: Radar Reflectors:

A vessel less than 20 meters or a vessel that is constructed primarily of non-metallic materials must equipment their vessel with a radar reflector, or some other means that enables that vessels detection on radar. This does not apply if the vessel operates in limited traffic conditions, and only operates during the day and in fair weather. Vessels that are so small that it would not be practical to have a reflector, or the vessel operates in a situation where radar navigation is limited (like in smaller harbours, or in marinas), can choose not to display one.

 

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Additional Canadian Provisions in the COLREG’s: Rule #41

Rule #41: Transponders:

If a vessel is not in distress, they cannot use a transponder that can transmit radar responder signals or radar beacon signals in the 3- or 10- centimetre marine radar bands. An Exploration or Exploitation vessel may used a transponder if authorized to do so under this rule, and as long as the transponder is used in a way that does not compromise safety of navigation. The Minister can authorize the use of a transponder, as long as it does not interfere or degrade the use of radar in navigation.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Additional Canadian Provisions in the COLREG’s: Rule #42

Rule #42: Additional Requirements for Exploration or Exploitation Vessels:

These vessels must display identification panels with the name, identification letters or numbers of the vessel, and at least one panel must be visible in every direction. These identification letters or numerals must be black, more than 1 meter in height, displayed on a yellow background, and must be very visible sure the day, and must be reflective or illuminated at night.

When this vessel is stationary and engaged in drilling or production operations must exhibit an all-round white light or a series of all-round white lights at equal height above the water operating in unison displaying: The morse code for the letter “U” every 15 seconds. This vessel could also emit a series of corresponding blasts that can be heard for 2 nm, with a maximum intensity of 100-1,000 Hertz.

These lights or sound system must be installed 6 meters above water level, and cannot go higher then 30 meters, they must be visible for 15 nm, powered by a reliable power source, and equipped with an auxiliary  power source, and displayed 15 minutes before sunset until sunrise, or when visibility is below 2 miles in any direction. If visibility is low, the vessel must signal the morse letter “U” in lieu of signals described in Rule 35.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Additional Canadian Provisions in the COLREG’s: Rule #43

Rule #43: Safety Zones Around Exploration or Exploitation Vessels:

If a vessel is exploring or exploiting the non-living natural resources of the sea bed, the safety zone is 500 meters in all directs and 50 meters beyond the boundaries of their anchor pattern. Vessels cannot come within the safety zone, unless a vessel is in distress of attempting to provide assistance to a vessel in distress, or to save a life. Vessel may enter a safety zone if the operating on behalf of the state with jurisdiction over exploration or exploitaion operations, or they permission from the person in charge onboard the exploration or exploitation vessel.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Additional Canadian Provisions in the COLREG’s: Rule #44

Rule #44: Ocean Data Acquisition Systems (ODAS):

  • Every Canadian ODAS must clearly display its identification number, and if possible the name, and address of the owner on an exterior surface where is can been clearly seen.
  • Every ODAS must be fitted with a radar reflector, be yellow, have a topi-mark consisting of an “X”, equipped with something that can emit a sound signal every two minutes.
  • ODAS buoys cannot be mistaken for another navigational aid, and they cannot emit a signal that could be mistaken for navigational aid signal.
  • If an ODAS is designed to operate underwater it must be escorted by a surface vessel that warns other vessel according to Rule 27, or the ODAS must have a marked float, which reflects well on radar, and exhibits that same lights, markings and sound signals as an exploration or exploitation vessel tethered to it.
  • Every ODAS designed to operate on the bottom of a sea, lake or river with part of it extending above the water, must exhibit the same markings, lights, shapes and sound signals as a exploration or exploitation vessel.
  • If the Minister has determined that the ODAS does not constitute a potential danger to navigation because of it’s size, material, construction, area or method of operation, the nature and condition of the waters surrounding the ODAS, the underwater or seabed ODAS does not have to have a float or surface vessel. The Minister must give the owner written notice of their determination.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Additional Canadian Provisions in the COLREG’s: Rule #45

Rule #45: Blue Flashing Light

Any government vessel or any vessel owned or operated by a harbour, river, county, or municipal police force may exhibit the signal of a blue flashing light when the vessel is providing assistance to any vessel, craft or person that is in danger, or in need of immediate assistance, or the vessel is engaged in law enforcement duties in Canadian waters.

Additionally any vessel operated by the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary may exhibit and blue flashing light when the vessel participates in search and rescue operations at the request of the Canadian Coast Guard.When a vessel is exhibiting a blue flashing light they are no exempt from following the Rules of the Road (Rules #11-19), but other vessels should try their best not to impede their mission.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Additional Canadian Provisions in the COLREG’s: Rule #46

Rule #46: Alternate System of Navigation Lights:

This rules outlines the back-up system of lights that includes masthead lights, sidelights, a stern light, and other lights described in Rule #30 for vessels at anchor. This rule (#46) does not apply to vessels less then 15 meters in length, cable ferries, or pleasure crafts.

A Canadian vessel required to exhibit lights according to Sounds and Lights Section must also be fitted with an alternate system of Navigation Lights. These light systems must be supplied by the main source of electrical power and an emergency source of electric power.

Vessels built before January 1st, 1991, and weigh less the 500 tons, can display an alternate system of navigation lights that can consist of oil or electric lanterns, these must last well past the duration of the intended voyage.

If a vessel or object being towed cannot comply with Rule #24 must have spare lights ready and set up to comply as closely as they can.
Vessels cannot use lights that need a flame as an alternate system of navigation lights on any vessels carrying, towing or pushing cargo that is flammable, volatile or explosive.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

The Annexes

There are four Annexes in the COLREG’s, they are:

  • Annex I – Positioning and technical details of lights and shapes
  • Annex II – Additional signals for fishing vessels fishing in close proximity
  • Annex III – Technical details of sounds signal appliances
  • Annex IV – Distress signals, which lists the signals indicating distress and need of assistance.

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

All done this section!

To view the full document, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea from 1972 with Canadian Modifications. You should also check out COLREG's which is the abridged version of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

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