Boating Navigation Rules In Arizona
Navigation Rules – What's That?!
July 1, 2023
Not surprising that if you "know" the navigation rules on the waterway upon which you're boating, it's easy to spot those that don't. In fact, many boaters don't even know they exist, let alone what they are and that we are all legally responsible to know and understand them. Part of the reason there's confusion is that unless you've completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved boating safety education course or you've "heard" about the NAV Rules somewhere along the line in your boating you've never actually "seen" them!
A Tad Bit Fuzzier
And there's a good reason you may be confused based on where you live and where you boat; they only apply on Federal waterways, such as the Mississippi River and its tributaries, the Colorado River from Utah, Nevada, California and Arizona, the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes. And it gets even a tad bit fuzzier than that! While much of this article may read like a legal thesis, the background of the NAV Rules is important to know and understand it the Rules themselves are to be understood and appropriately used.
Basically, the NAV Rules are divided by "International" and "Inland" Rules – so what's the difference?If you boat on a waterway such as the Colorado River or one of its lake im poundments along the flow, then as a boat operator you must comply "The" Inland Navigation Rules – the United States' version of an international treaty titled Collision Regulations. The U.S. is one of some 156 or so countries that have signed the treaty.
According to the foreword in the Coast Guard's Navigation Rules – International and Inland the Rules were formalized in the Convention on the international Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, and became effective on July 15, 1977. The Rules (commonly called 72 COLREGS) are part of the Convention, and vessels flying the flags of states ratifying the treaty are bound to the Rules. The United States ratified this treaty and all United States flag vessels must adhere to these Rules where applicable. President Gerald R. Ford proclaimed 72 COLREGS and Congress adopted them as the International Navigational Rules Act of 1977.
Further, the 72 COLREGS were developed by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) which in May 1982 was renamed the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In November 1981, IMO's Assembly adopted 55 amendments to the 72 COLREGS that became effective on June 1, 1983. The IMO also adopted 9 more amendments that became effective on November 19, 1989. These Rules are applicable on waters outside of established navigational lines of demarcation. The lines are called COLREGS Demarcation Lines and delineate those waters upon which mariners shall comply with the Inland and International Rules. COLREGS Demarcation Lines are contained in the Coast Guard's edition of the Navigation Rules.
Attempts To Revise
According to the Coast Guard, the newer edition of the NAV Rules replaced the old Inland Rules, Western Rivers, Rules, Great Lakes Rules, their respective pilot rules and interpretive rules, and parts of the Motorboat Act of 1940. Many of the old navigation rules were originally enacted in the 1800s and earlier! Occasionally, provisions were added to cope with the increasing complexities of water transportation. Eventually, the navigation rules for United States inland waterways became such a confusing patchwork of requirements that in the 1960s several attempts were made to revise and simplify them. These attempts were not successful.
Following the signing of the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, a new effort was made to unify and update the various inland navigation rules. This effort culminated in the enactment of the Inland Navigational Rules Act of 1980. This legislation sets out Rules 1 through 38- the main body of the Rules. The five Annexes were published as regulations. It is important to note that with the exception of Annex V to the Inland Rules, the International and Inland Rules andAnnexes are very similar in both content and format.
Not Really Complicated
Sounds like the topic is very complicated? Not really . . . the Rules are actually quite elegant in their simplicity. Problems begin when we start trying to interpret the rules to explain or understand them. Its best to just read and learn the rule and apply their intent verbatim – don't start trying to be creative in their meaning – take them and apply them as they are written.
While the International Collision Regulations (treaty) have their legal basis in public law, US Code and the Federal Code of Regulations, the states have applied what is necessary to their individual needs in order to comply with the intend and obligations of the treaty to non-Federal waterways, also known as Sole-State waterways such as Lake Pleasant near Phoenix in Arizona, Elephant Butte Lake near Truth or Consequences in New Mexico, Strawberry Reservoir in Utah, Pyramid Lake in Nevada or Clear Lake in California.
'Sole State Waters'
Again, and according to Law Insider's dictionary, Sole state waters means those waters entirely within the confines of the state which have not been listed as Navigable Waters by the U.S. Coast Guard applicable to boat MSD (Marine Sanitation Device) requirements.(This because of the jurisdiction and legal issues associated with the Clean Water Act).
According to Code 33 of Federal Regulations Part 339.4, General Definitions, "Navigable waters of the United States are those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. A determination of navigability, once made, applies laterally over the entire surface of the water body, and is not extinguished by later actions or events which impede or destroy navigable capacity." A quick check with your local Coast Guard District Headquarters Waterway's office can verify if there has been a "Navigation Determination" made for any specific body of water within the District.
But wait! Do these rules apply in my state when I'm boating on my local lake that doesn't cross a state or international border? Well, yes and no – certainly a version of them does and your state has equivalent "rules" in their state statutes; Arizona Revised Statute Title 5, California Harbors and Navigation Code, Nevada Revised Statute Chapter 488 and Utah Revised Statute Title 73. And the primary enforcement agency in each state is generally the state's resources agency such as Game and Fish Department, Utah State Parks, Department of Boating and Waterways and others.
Basically, any state, county or municipal law enforcement agency has the authority to cite a recreational boater for any navigation rule violation.
And if you're boating within the territorial limits of a coastal state, depending on the vessels involved, their home port and the activity, California for example could have jurisdiction up to 200 miles off-shore, and certainly within 12 miles of their shoreline. After that things really get specific depending on the issues. But basically, the US Coast Guard has the authority to enforce US law (e.g., the NAV Rules) on any Federal waterway – and the Coast Guard can board your boat anytime for any reason. Unlike state, county or municipal authorities that must have probable cause.
Know, Understand, Apply
If you're not sure what rules apply where you boat, contact your local state resources agency or law enforcement on the waterway you use and they'll be happy to share or provide information where you can obtain a small handbook detailing the rules and other regulations that apply where you're recreating.
Take a NASBLA certified boating education course, stay safe and practice prudent seamanship by knowing, understanding and applying the navigation rules for the areas where you boat.