Nautical Rules of the Road Collision Regulations - Rules of priority

Collision Regulations

The Collision Regulations stipulate that in all pleasure craft and vessels, someone must maintain a proper lookout, at all times, for other vessels or pleasure crafts in order to reduce the chance of a collision between two or more pleasure crafts. At all times the pleasure craft’s operator must have a clear view of the waterways that he/she is navigating on. It is up to the operator of a pleasure craft to know and apply the International Regulations for preventing collisions at sea, and the Canadian modifications upon the high seas, and in all waterways connected therein, which are navigable by vessels.


Following a collision between two boats, make certain everyone is accounted for and check for injuries. Ensure that passengers and crew members are wearing a PFD. The Small Vessel Regulations require that certain vessels carry an emergency kit. Keep the proper equipment and supplies onboard to stop hull leaks and make minor on-water repairs.

If you are involved in an accident:

  • You are required to stop and give assistance to other persons involved. You must give aid to the extent you can do so without endangering yourself or your passengers.
  • You are also required to give your name and address and the number of your vessel, in writing, to the owner of any property damaged in the accident.

Overtaking another vessel

A vessel overtaking an other vessel shall keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken. When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether she is overtaking another, she shall assume that this is the case and act accordingly.

Any alteration of course and/or speed to avoid collision must be important (noticable) enough to be easily seen by another vessel observing by sight or radar; a succession of small changes of course and/or speed, should be avoided.

Action taken to avoid collision with another vessel shall be to result in passing at a safe distance. This action will be taken in such a manner to be effective and safe, until the time that the other vessel is finally past and clear.

If necessary, a vessel shall reduce her speed to avoid collision with an other vessel.

Overtaking another vessel

Power-driven vessels crossing situation

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 such are the circumstances, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.

The operator of a powerboat should maintain his course when being approached on his port side by another powerboat.

Power-driven vessel crossing

Power-driven vessels head-on situation

Meeting head-on

In a meeting situation neither vessel is the stand-on vessel. It is generally accepted that you should alter course to starboard and pass port-to-port.

What should a give-way vessel do?

Every give-way vessel should keep out of the way of a stand-on vessel, so far as is possible, take early and substantial action to keep well clear.

Stand-on vessel - Give-way vessel

What should a stand-on vessel do?

The Stand-on vessel should maintain its course and speed. The give-away vessel, may however take action to avoid collision if it is clear that the vessel which should be keeping out of the way is not taking appropriate action.

Which vessels has priority over the others?
Rules of priority


A power-driven vessel underway shall keep out of the way of:

  • a vessel not under command;
  • a vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre;
  • a fishing boat hauling its nets;
  • a sailboat.

A sailboat underway shall keep out of the way of:

  • a vessel not under command;
  • a vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre;
  • a fishing boat hauling its nets

A fishing boat when underway shall, so far as possible, keep out of the way of:

  • a vessel not under command;
  • a vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre.