UK: Application of the Crossing Rules When in Proximity to a Narrow Channel or Fairway, and the "Alexandra 1"

In March this year the Admiralty Court in London handed down its judgment in respect of a collision between "Alexandra 1" ("A1") and "Ever Smart" ("ES") (see: Nautical Challenge Ltd v Evergreen Marine (UK) Ltd [2017] EWHC 453 (Admlty)). This blog takes a look at the judgment, which serves to clarify the positon on the obligations on vessels arising under certain rules provided in the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (the 'Collision Regulations').

Ordinarily, when two vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessels, barring the contrary application of any local special rules, are required to navigate in accordance with the Collision Regulations, and in particular, when in sight of one another, Rule 15 (crossing situations), Rule 16 (action by give-way vessel) and Rule 17 (action by stand-on vessel).

  • Rule 15 provides that: "When two power-driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel."
  • Rule 16 provides that: "Every vessel which is directed to keep out of the way of another vessel shall, so far as possible, take early and substantial action to keep well clear."
  • Rule 17 provides that:


(i). Where one of two vessels is to keep out of the way the other shall keep her course and speed.

(ii). The latter vessel may however take action to avoid collision by her manoeuvre alone, as soon as it becomes apparent to her that the vessel required to keep out of the way is not taking appropriate action in compliance with these Rules.

(b). When, from any cause, the vessel required to keep her course and speed finds herself so close that collision cannot be avoided by the action of the give-way vessel alone, she shall take such action as will best aid to avoid collision.

(c). A power-driven vessel which takes action in a crossing situation in accordance with subparagraph (a)(ii) of this Rule to avoid collision with another power-driven vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, not alter course to port for a vessel on her own port side.

(d). This Rule does not relieve the give-way vessel of her obligation to keep out of the way."

Where one or both vessels fail to navigate in accordance with these Rules the give-way vessel will usually bear the preponderance of blame for the collision for failing to give-way.

Reported cases suggest that in most straightforward crossing situations, the stand-on vessel which has failed to navigate in accordance with these rules, will usually bear in the region of 20% to 30% of the blame: see for example: The Topaz [2003] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 18; The Lok Vivek and Common Venture [1995] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 230; The Angelic Spirit [1994] 2 Lloyd's Rep. 595.

However, there are circumstances where Rule 15 is found not to apply, notwithstanding that the vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision.  The Court's judgment in respect of the collision between A1 and ES is authority for one such circumstance.

A1 and ES collided outside the port of Jebel Ali in the UAE.  Essentially, ES was proceeding in a NW'ly direction outbound along the dredged entrance/exit channel. A1 was proceeding in an ESE'ly direction towards the entrance of the same dredged channel.

The dredged channel was agreed to be narrow for the purposes of Rule 9 of the Collision Regulations.

Rule 9 (narrow channels) provides (inter alia) that:

"(a) A vessel proceeding along the course of a narrow channel or fairway shall keep as near to the outer limit of the channel or fairway which lies on her starboard side as is safe and practicable."

ES interests submitted that the two vessels were crossing so as to involve risk of collision and that A1 was under a duty to keep out of the way of ES, pursuant to Rule 15.  A1 interests contended that Rule 15 had very limited, if any, application to questions of navigation in and around a narrow channel (within the ambit of Rule 9) and in particular did not apply to a vessel navigating in a narrow channel and a vessel navigating towards that channel in preparation for entering it.

In apportioning liability 80:20 against ES (the stand-on vessel had Rule 15 applied), the Court determined that both vessels were at fault but concluded that "rule 15 of the Collision Regulations, the crossing rule, did not bind ALEXANDRA 1 when she approached the dredged channel... and so she was not under a duty to keep out of the way of EVER SMART.  Her duty, as a matter of good seamanship... was to navigate in such a manner that, when she reached the channel, she would be on the starboard side of the channel in accordance with rule 9."

The rationale for finding that A1, in the circumstances, was not bound by Rule 15 was also provided.  The Court found that "To have two sets of rules with different requirements applying at the same time is of course unsafe and cannot have been intended by those who drafted the Collision Regulations. Similarly, where one vessel is within a narrow channel and has a vessel on her port bow on a crossing course outside the channel but proceeding towards it in preparation for entering it, the vessel in the narrow channel cannot be under a duty (pursuant to the crossing rules) to maintain her course and speed and at the same time under a duty (pursuant to the narrow channel rule) to keep to the starboard side of the channel since the two duties may, depending upon the circumstances, require different action."

This judgment provides clear authority on the relationship between the obligations on vessels arising under Rules 9 and 15 of the Collision Regulations and also on other factors relevant to collision actions before the Court.  There are three factors, in particular, worth bearing in mind.

  1. The alternative submission by A1 interests that, even if the obligations upon the vessels pursuant to Rule 9 did not take precedence in these circumstances, Rule 15 was nonetheless inapplicable to A1 as, whilst she was crossing so as to involve risk of collision, she was not on a sufficiently steady course to enable ES to determine that A1 was crossing. In support of this submission, the Court found that the heading of A1 varied by nearly 30° whilst she was picking up her pilot, which Teare J. found "difficult to describe... as a course [but rather] as maintaining a broadly east or east south easterly heading as she waited for the pilot to approach."  This serves as a reminder, therefore, of earlier established principles that, for the crossing rule (now Rule 15) to apply, the vessels must also be on suitably well-defined courses (see: The Alcoa Rambler [1949] A.C. 236).
  2. The confirmation of the much tested obligation of keeping a good lookout pursuant to Rule 5 of the Collision Regulations.  This Rule requires all vessels at all times to maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions.  That it was found by the Court that the Master on A1 misheard a VHF radio communication, which was held to be causative on the basis that A1 would, but for this fault, have taken successful avoiding action, is authority for the importance of aural lookout.
  3. The criticism the parties faced by failing to agree, prior to commencement of the trial, a transcript of the audio recorded by the Voyage Data Recorders ("VDRs") on the vessels. In this regard, Teare J said: "The trial was, however, disrupted by the need for the parties to agree a transcript and, where necessary, a translation of the audio record of what was said or heard on the bridge of each vessel. This ought to have been agreed long before the start of the trial. It is important for parties to inform the court at the case management conference of what electronic records there are so that appropriate orders can be made so as to ensure that there is an agreed interpretation of all relevant records before the commencement of the trial. Audio records from the bridge of a vessel are obviously relevant and important records."

In connection to the evidence, criticism was also made of the state of the witness statements before the Court.  For example, ES interests failed to produce a witness statement signed by their Master.  On this, and referring to an unsigned witness summary of the Master, Teare J. said "Although it was unsigned I was invited to read it and so it was put in evidence. But of course it cannot have the weight of a signed statement."  Criticism, such as this, indicates that, whilst data recorded by VDRs carry a high degree of evidential value, witness evidence can still be vitally important in explaining why certain events have occurred as well as recording facts such as the state of visibility; and thus the need for such evidence cannot be ruled out merely by confirmation that the VDRs data has been preserved.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions