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View Full Version : Does A Submarine Have the Right Of Way?



Soundbounder
11-20-2009, 09:14 AM
Some photos of a sub that crossed my bow last month outside of New London

http://soundbounder.blogspot.com/2009/10/das-boot.html

They always seem to sneak up on me.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
11-20-2009, 09:42 AM
Nope. Regular "power driven vessel".

They tend however to be more than usually hot on the Colregs, owing to their tendency to sink if one compartment is breached...

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
11-20-2009, 09:52 AM
Heard a tale of a submarine surfacing inside Plymouth sound - and thus collecting a girlie windsurfer as a hood ornament.

Canoez
11-20-2009, 09:54 AM
C'mon. Anybody carrying torpedoes must have the right of way. ;)

Phillip Allen
11-20-2009, 09:57 AM
subs are SUPPOSED to be quiet, hard to see and fast...looks like they're working right...

rbgarr
11-20-2009, 10:28 AM
I'm not about to challenge one. They do move deceptively and incredibly fast, too, and can create huge wakes on the surface. I got too close to one in our motor boat as it was leaving Charleston harbor, and they were not happy campers. Nor was I when that wake and churning propellor went by. It could have been very bad.

paladin
11-20-2009, 10:31 AM
It would depend on the area where they are surfacing...comes under the heading of restricted maneuverability....can they turn, is the channel deep enough or wide enough? etc.....use common sense....if his displacement is greater than yours I wouldn't argue.

Tobago
11-20-2009, 10:33 AM
In a channel they'd be a vessel constrained by draft.

As ever the good navigator applies the general prudential rule and that general legal tenet of comparative negligence. Plus the law of gross tonnage which applies everywhere from the supermarket aisle to the highway to the navigable waterways.

Ted

Soundbounder
11-20-2009, 11:02 AM
In a channel they'd be a vessel constrained by draft.

As ever the good navigator applies the general prudential rule and that general legal tenet of comparative negligence. Plus the law of gross tonnage which applies everywhere from the supermarket aisle to the highway to the navigable waterways.

TedI wasn't about to challenge them.;)

Off subject: Berkshires of NY?
Rte 22 Millerton area; is that where you are from?
Sometimes when I go to VT, I skip the Taconic and travel through there.

David W Pratt
11-20-2009, 11:09 AM
IIRC, they do not respond to VHF hails.

Paul Girouard
11-20-2009, 11:11 AM
I've heard that IF you tangle with a USN vessel the war ship will "pay" for the incident, so USN vessels / war ships at the end of the day have No legal right of way at sea.

Of course your boat is sunk and you may be killed in the process BUT the Govt. will take care of the $ to "make it right". If you are dead, well thats maybe a issue to you, but your widow or beneficiary will be "paid off". :D

Rob Stokes, N. Vancouver
11-20-2009, 11:20 AM
I've never liked the term "right of way". It insinuates that in an adverse condition that could lead to a collision, the vessel in that position should hold their position, regardless.

I teach "stand-on vessel" and "give-way vessel"...seems to be a little less confrontational.

That said...I've been known to move out of the way of a sub, even when I'm the stand-on vessel :)

I watched a sub catch a gillnet once...that broke up an otherwise boring afternoon. The sub was the give way vessel, but the gilnetter wasn't in much of a mood to argue as it was being dragged backwards up the Straight of Juan de Fuca while the sub throttled down and stopped...

(US sub, CDN waters...wonder how the above post would apply in that situation???)

Andrew Craig-Bennett
11-20-2009, 11:34 AM
In the days of my youth, I followed the law, and dealt with collisions at sea.

There was a period when "my ship was hit by an unknown submerged object travelling at speed" was a very popular basis for a claim for total loss in circumstances where a third party might have suspected a scuttling for the insurance money, until a New York attorney (I think it might have been Joe Smith of Burlinghams, but I am probably wrong) turned up with a lump of very high tensile steel that had been embedded in the bottom of his clients' Greek bulk carrier, which had limped into dry dock...

Then of course there was the US carrier which did have right of way over a Greek bulker near the Panama Canal...except that there was no-one on the bridge of the Greek...that was very, very expensive...

paladin
11-20-2009, 11:49 AM
Andrew...what was the end result of the U.S. carrier and the Greek boat...who got burned and how...?

Andrew Craig-Bennett
11-20-2009, 11:54 AM
The US taxpayer lost, Chuck - the carrier had the right of way, or was the stand on vessel, for those who prefer that term, and was upheld at trial - in fact, I am not sure if that issue was even contested, but the bulker limited liability, and the limitation fund came nowhere near the cost of a couple of F4s in the sea, etc. This would have been around 1978 or so.

I recall discussion as to whether the carrier should have been in part to blame owing to her failure to take action once it became apparent that collision could not be avoided by the manouevre of the give way or burdened vessel alone, but owing to the limitation point this was not pursued.

goodbasil
11-20-2009, 11:56 AM
No one ever has "Right of way." You yield "Right of way." Theres a lot of differance.
(Any lawyers out there.)

Andrew Craig-Bennett
11-20-2009, 11:58 AM
No one ever has "Right of way." You yield "Right of way." Theres a lot of differance.
(Any lawyers out there.)

Yes, see foregoing posts. ;)

peter radclyffe
11-20-2009, 12:00 PM
Heard a tale of a submarine surfacing inside Plymouth sound - and thus collecting a girlie windsurfer as a hood ornament.
the ultimate pickup line, girls love those strong silent types

Soundbounder
11-20-2009, 12:53 PM
the ultimate pickup line, girls love those strong silent typesThose strong silent types full of seamen. :p

Bob Cleek
11-20-2009, 01:59 PM
As a practical matter, anywhere in the navigable waters of the US, they do. As of September 14, 2001, there has been imposed a "naval vessel protection zone" applicable to all vessels of any defense or securty agency or employed for any defense or security purpose. All other vessels are required to stand off at least 100 yards. Thus, if everybody else has to stay 100 yards away, that gives subs the right to go wherever they damn well please and everybody else has to give way when they do.

http://www.gicaonline.com/media/tools/navalzone.pdf

George Roberts
11-20-2009, 02:23 PM
Since subs tend to be beneath the surface, it is impossible to stay 100 yards away.

Whenever a sub comes up it would seem that it has the obligation to give way.

blacksmith
11-20-2009, 02:50 PM
No.1 Son related an occasion where he was piloting a high speed ferry on Long Island Sound and was about to enter the Thames River when he found the channel blocked by a stationary sub. The ensuing dialog was: No.1 politely asking the sub if he intended to move; the sub responded by asking if M'boy knew who he was talking to, and the Son reminding sub that he was blocking a navigation channel. Sub promptly moved a half mile-no torpedos fired.

Soundbounder
11-20-2009, 02:53 PM
I was only kidding about the question of a sub having the right of way. I guess I didn't make that clear enough, because this thread has taken on a life of it's own :confused:

LeeG
11-20-2009, 02:53 PM
No.1 Son related an occasion where he was piloting a high speed ferry on Long Island Sound and was about to enter the Thames River when he found the channel blocked by a stationary sub. The ensuing dialog was: No.1 politely asking the sub if he intended to move; the sub responded by asking if M'boy knew who he was talking to, and the Son reminding sub that he was blocking a navigation channel. Sub promptly moved a half mile-no torpedos fired.

good story

Bob Triggs
11-20-2009, 04:36 PM
Insofar as there are now enforced strict restricted zones for anyone operating a vessel around any military vessels, and that a distance must be maintained by the non military vessel, I would say that all military vessels have the right of way.

"Constrained by ability to maneuver" would apply here as well I believe.

Tom Robb
11-20-2009, 05:08 PM
As a practical matter, anyone who contests "right of way" with anybody's armed naval vessel is an idiot.

Only story I have 2nd hand is the late lamented aircraft carrier Coral Sea CV43 launching and retrieving planes in the South China Sea during the recent unpleasantness. Sampans in the way got run down according to my little brother who was working as a brownshirt on deck at the time. Restricted in manouverability and there's a war on don'cha know.

jclays
11-20-2009, 05:23 PM
When Im using my sonar to locate structure to fish. Can they hear me pinging?? Kinda like in Red October. You would think that would create a lot of noise in the water with all the recreational fishing boats. As far as right of way goes I wouldnt dispute it. Id move PDQ.

johnw
11-20-2009, 05:24 PM
Anybody who can sink your vessel without noticing has the right of way.

Bruce Hooke
11-20-2009, 05:54 PM
While it is probably not that relevant on a small non-commercial boat, it seems to me that if one were on, say, a 50' schooner (or other boat that turns fairly slowly) and assumed the submarine had the right of way even though they apparently do not according to the rules of the road, you could end up turning to go behind the submarine as they are turning to go behind you, and if there were not enough time for both vessels to stop once they realize the confusion, there could be a collision.

I was taught that having the "right of way" entails the obligation to stand on and follow the course that would be expected of a boat that has the right of way.

Realistically, when I am out in a 23' sailboat, if I see a significantly larger commercial vessel in the area I am going to do my best to not get close enough for right of way to even come into play!

purri
11-20-2009, 06:17 PM
Insofar as there are now enforced strict restricted zones for anyone operating a vessel around any military vessels, and that a distance must be maintained by the non military vessel, I would say that all military vessels have the right of way.

"Constrained by ability to maneuver" would apply here as well I believe.

So does a sub hoist the appropriate signal device while underwater??:D

perldog007
11-20-2009, 06:23 PM
Did the O.P. have their "Seirra November" flags displayed? :D

Soundbounder
11-20-2009, 08:36 PM
Anybody who can sink your vessel without noticing has the right of way.
BINGO!!!!!

:cool:

Nicholas Carey
11-20-2009, 08:50 PM
I've never liked the term "right of way". It insinuates that in an adverse condition that could lead to a collision, the vessel in that position should hold their position, regardless.

I teach "stand-on vessel" and "give-way vessel"...seems to be a little less confrontational.You might note that their is not a single use, not once, of "right of way" in COLREGS. The point is to make it absolutely clear that there is no such concept. Each vessel has obligations which end when it becomes apparent that a collision is in the offing if evasive action is not taken.


I watched a sub catch a gillnet once...that broke up an otherwise boring afternoon. The sub was the give way vessel, but the gilnetter wasn't in much of a mood to argue as it was being dragged backwards up the Straight of Juan de Fuca while the sub throttled down and stopped...Axes and bolt cutters are useful tools :eek:

Michael Beckman
11-20-2009, 09:02 PM
Around here you don't see a sub without a small convoy of CG vessels and small cargo ships flanking the sub. Pretty good idea to give right of way. I actually saw them performing drills a few years ago, with a small powerboat trying to breach the security and ram the sub.

At least, I assume it was a drill.

BrianW
11-20-2009, 09:17 PM
I actually saw them performing drills a few years ago, with a small powerboat trying to breach the security and ram the sub.

At least, I assume it was a drill.

I tried that around here, back in 2000... didn't get very close either, before the gunboats started headed my direction.

I "gave way". ;)

paladin
11-20-2009, 09:56 PM
Several years ago I was anchored on the South end of Poplar Island in the Chesapeake, anchor light on, and a couple of small cabin lights....and I noticed lights coming straigt for me...I watched for 10 minuts and they got closer.....I was anchored in 14 feet of water and the isaland was to my back...the lights kept coming...so I took out the Night vision and took a look....I could see no one at the helm...another 5 minutes and I took out the flare gun and put one over his bow.....two heads popped up and as they got closer it was a male and female...so what were they doing on the floor, they turned away and yelled sorry as they turned......

MiddleAgesMan
11-20-2009, 10:01 PM
When Im using my sonar to locate structure to fish. Can they hear me pinging?? Kinda like in Red October. You would think that would create a lot of noise in the water with all the recreational fishing boats. As far as right of way goes I wouldnt dispute it. Id move PDQ.

The Hunt for Red October misrepresented how the SOSUS system worked. SOSUS operators didn't wear headphones and listen for sound, they watched a printout on thermo paper that gave a visual representation of sound. This allowed identification of the source based on the frequency of the sound.

The stylus moved across the paper (10-12 inches wide IIRC) in about a half-second. The paper moved up the display table about 1/64th inch for each stroke of the stylus. A brief sound such as your ping would be lost in the background noise.

So, no.

bobbys
11-20-2009, 10:33 PM
As i remember from my power squadron class, A sub under sail has the right of way.

Even if one sees no Sails it still has the right of way..

A sub surfaced here last month and a Coast Guard copter air lifted a sick sailor off..

Phillip Allen
11-20-2009, 11:33 PM
Several years ago I was anchored on the South end of Poplar Island in the Chesapeake, anchor light on, and a couple of small cabin lights....and I noticed lights coming straigt for me...I watched for 10 minuts and they got closer.....I was anchored in 14 feet of water and the isaland was to my back...the lights kept coming...so I took out the Night vision and took a look....I could see no one at the helm...another 5 minutes and I took out the flare gun and put one over his bow.....two heads popped up and as they got closer it was a male and female...so what were they doing on the floor, they turned away and yelled sorry as they turned......

darn, sorry I missed that. I always wanted to put a shot over someone's bow

BrianW
11-21-2009, 12:53 AM
A sub surfaced here last month and a Coast Guard copter air lifted a sick sailor off..

Always wanted to do one of those hoists.

The big clue that a sub hoist was the mission was the not knowing the exact mission when launching, just a lat/long.

PatCox
11-21-2009, 01:35 AM
My favorite of all the rules of the road, is the one that says that even if you have taken the wrong course, you are obliged to stick to it, in circumstances where the other vessel has taken action on that assumption.

PatCox
11-21-2009, 01:36 AM
Speaking of subs hearing sounds, anyone know anything about the "bloop?"

Nicholas Carey
11-21-2009, 03:49 AM
As i remember from my power squadron class, A sub under sail has the right of way.

Even if one sees no Sails it still has the right of way..

A sub surfaced here last month and a Coast Guard copter air lifted a sick sailor off..Submarines don't have sails. they are power-driven.

COLREGS 72 makes no mention of submarines, outside of a lighting opions: Rule 1 (c) footnote 1: "Submarines may display, as a distinctive means of identification, an intermittent flashing amber (yellow) beacon with a sequence of one flash per second for three (3) seconds followed by a three (3) second off-period."

Hence, unless they are dead in the water, are "not under command" (e.g., steering failure) or are part of a Traffic Separation Scheme, etc. (perhaps a nuclear missile submarine could be "a vessel engaged in fishing"?)., they are power-driven vessels and the ordinar provisions of Rule 18 apply. Rule 19 ("Conduct of Vessels in Restricted Visibility") could be construed to apply should the submarine be operating submerged.

Sanity would, of course, require that when operating submerged, a submarine give way to any other vessel, since that vessel almost certainly lacks the means to even discover the presence of the submarine.

Soundbounder
11-21-2009, 12:14 PM
This was in yesterday's New London Day.

http://theday.com/article/20091120/NWS09/311209908/1070/NWS


Collision between sub USS Hartford and a Navy ship.
It discusses some of the other accidents that have occured with subs.