The 13th Coast Guard District wants to remind vessel operators to maintain a proper lookout while transiting Washington and Oregon waters. This reminder is based on fact that some vessel operators, including commercial fishermen, engage in the practice of working all day, then drifting at night in open water while the entire crew sleeps.
"This practice is dangerous and a violation of basic seamanship law," said Mr. Dan Hardin, 13th District commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator. Hardin told KAST News "The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has been increasing the number of federal fisheries that require the carrying of
contracted fisheries observers. So more and more commercial fishing vessels have been required to carry a fisheries observer. The observers have been reporting this problem of no one awake on the vessel at night while the vessel drifts.
In March of 2012 the Lady Cecelia sank at night that included 3 crew members and an NMFS Observer on board. All four were lost. Hardin says "We don't have any evidence that this was the case on the Lady Cecelia and we may never know, but we are aware that this is the practice on some
commercial fishing vessels and we wanted to remind mariners of the rule." The investigation on the Lady Cecelia is not yet complete.
Commonly referred to as the "Look Out Rule" or "Wheel Watch Rule," its proper name is "Rule 5" of the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLREGS). All vessels operating in ocean waters and the coastal waters of Oregon and Washington are required to comply with the COLREGS.
Rule 5 states, "Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision." The sole reliance upon an automatic radar alarm is not a substitute for a proper look-out, although if the vessel is equipped with radar, it must be used as well.
The Coast Guard reminds mariners that the vessel captain has the responsibility for maintaining adequate watch-keeping and manning. The Coast Guard may issue violations for failing to follow Rule 5, with a maximum fine of $6500 per violation.