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Eye on the Navy Before designating someone as qualified to stand watch as Officer-of-theDeck (OOD), they should have a fundamental understanding of the COLREGS. When a new watchstander joins a ship, the commanding officer and navigator should satisfy themselves through a rigorous testing process that a new watch stander knows the COLREGS, and which rule applies in which situations. While the COLREGS must be readily available on every bridge, and every officer standing bridge watches must know how to use them, the regulations need to be committed to memory. "There is rarely time available to refer to COLREGS to determine which rule applies and what action should be taken," says Ramsey. "This is the reason that the U.S. Coast Guard requires a 90% passing grade on Rules examinations. Good OODs will constantly be students of COLREGS." Capt. James A. Barber, U.S. Navy (Ret.), author of the Naval Shiphandler's Guide, (Naval Institute Press, 2005), agrees. "Few things could be worse than the OOD frantically flipping pages of the COLREGS as a potential collision situation develops. He or she may not need to be able to recite the COLREGS verbatim, but he or she must know what they say without having to look it up." There are many electronic aids and computer programs available to help watchstanders determine the best course of action in meeting, passing or overtaking situations. Some allow various maneuvers to be simulated before taking action to see which course of action is best, says Ramsey. But mariners must know how to do this without the assistance of a computer. The Coast Guard radar certification qualification requires licensed watchstanders to manually determine alternative courses to avoid collisions. "The same regulatory requirement exists when a licensed deck officer seeks certification to use automated radar plotting aids, now placed on almost all commercial ships. The use of such electronic aids, however, means you must know how to use them. This usage does not relieve the OOD of knowing and properly employing the rules of the road," Ramsey says. If a risk exists, then watchstanders on both ships must determine who is the "stand on" vessel, and who is the "give way" vessel and required to make an early and obvious course change to avoid a collision. Says Barber, "When maneuvering to avoid a developing situation it is important to "signal with your bow" to make clear your intentions to the other vessel. In a meeting situation a course change of two or three degrees may be sufficient for safe clearance, but it is much better to make a ten or fifteen degree change that is clearly visible to the other vessel, then return to your course when the situation has clarified." Communicating with the other ship's bridge is perhaps the most important element in avoiding collisions, Barber says. "There are multiple ways to do this. "'Signaling with your bow' is one way. Whistle signals, as laid out in the COLREGS, are another. The most prevalent means is by VHF bridge to bridge. The person handling the communications must be familiar with the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) "Standard Marine Communication Phrases." (See Naval Shiphandler's Guide pp.122-126.) The rules provide for various situations, such as vessels limited in the ability to maneuver, or a meeting situation in a narrow, busy shipping channel. Other situations exist involving naval vessels are also covered by COLREGS, including underway replenishment, or launching and recovering aircraft or Maritime Reporter & Engineering News 14