Autonomous and remotely operated vessels need to comply with COLREGs*, which are the “rules of the road” aimed at preventing collisions at sea. It can be hard to work out how COLREGs apply to autonomous and remotely operated vessels, because the rules assume a vessel will have people on board who can perceive their environment and make decisions.
TAS and Frazer-Nash Consultancy (a KBR company) have collaborated to create the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework, which helps operators and other stakeholders to understand how COLREGs applies to specific vessels and operations, the capabilities required to comply with applicable rules, and the evidence type that should be used to demonstrate compliance.
The COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework is available for standalone use, or as an Annex to the Australian Code of Practice for the Design, Survey, Construction and Operation of Autonomous and Remotely Operated Vessels.
*Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs)
Understand what the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework is and its use cases.
Find out how to use the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework to understand the rules that apply to you, the capabilities required, and how to demonstrate compliance.
Exlore the COLREGs rules, including what they mean for the autonomous vessels and the sort of capabilities they require.
Use this excel-based tool to generate a COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework tailored to your vessel and proposed operation.
The COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework translates the stated and unstated capabilities described, and the terminology used, in COLREGs into a vocabulary and format that makes sense for autonomous and remotely operated vessels. It is intended to be an enabling framework to:
Help vessel designers understand what capabilities COLREGs requires vessels to have;
Help operators understand what capabilities COLREGs requires and how mission planning can mitigate or remove the need for solving some of the more complex elements of COLREGs; and
Help regulators apply a consistent methodology for assessing the capability of a vessel with regards to COLREGs.
The COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework (‘COLREGs Framework’) helps operators and other stakeholders to understand how COLREGs applies to specific vessels and operations, the capabilities required to comply with applicable rules, and the evidence type that should be used to demonstrate compliance.
COLREGs is a collection of rules, many of which will either apply or not apply based on three key factors: core function of the vessel (i.e. hydrographic survey, surveillance etc), vessel features (length, beam, engine power etc), and where the vessel is operating (i.e. open sea, traffic lanes, narrow channels). The combination of vessel function, vessel features, and where the vessel is operating will determine the rules that apply.
The vessel core function, such as hydrographic survey, reef monitoring, surveillance, mine detection, mine clearance fishing boats and pipe-laying ships
Physical feature such as: length, beam, draught, rudder side and engine power
Where the vessel is operating, such as open sea, traffic lanes or narrow channels
The COLREGs Framework sets out the individual rules, interprets their ‘essence’, being what they mean for autonomous and remotely operated vessels, identifies the applicability, the context, the capabilities required on the vessel and/or control centre to comply with the rule, and then identifies the evidence recommended to be provided to demonstrate compliance with that rule.
Rule - States the rule number and name
Essence - Provides an interpretation of the rule in the context of an autonomous or remotely operated vessel
Applicability - Explains when the specific rule will be applicable
Context - States the context of when the rule is applicable
Capabilities - States the capabilities required to comply with the rule
Mission Constraints - The rule does not apply if you fall within this vessel type and mission constraint
Evidence - Proposes the evidence required to demonstrate compliance with a specific rule
The COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework is recommended for use when you have a specific vessel and proposed operation already in mind. It can either be used manually, or you can use the COLREGs Operator Guidance Tool to generate a personalised version. The information below is written with manual use in mind, but will still be helpful for a person using the Tool. The process to follow is:
1. Download and print out the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework in A3 colour
2. Download and fill out the Design Record Template, to ensure you have documented the capabilities of your vessel
3. With your vessel particulars and the details of your proposed operation in mind, review the framework document, reading from left to right, and identify:
a. When each rule in COLREGs applies (i.e. some only apply in specific contexts like when in Narrow Channels)
b. The capabilities required to comply with each specific rule, broken down into the categories of Sense and Perceive, Decide, and Act (noting that these could be in the vessel, the control centre, or a combination)
c. Mission constraints that could be implemented if you don’t have the capabilities to comply with a specific rule, to remain in compliance (for example, if you don’t have the capabilities needed to comply with Rule 9 – Narrow Channels, you may plan to avoid narrow channels, and therefore remain in compliance with COLREGs)
d. The suitable method of compliance for each rule (for example, for Rule 5 – Lookout, the proposed evidence of compliance is Design Checklist and Simulation)
4. Review your analysis, and prepare for own records a list of applicable rules for your vessel and proposed operation, corresponding required capabilities, any operational limitations that need to be imposed, and the recommended evidence type. You may then wish to provide your filled out Design Record and your analysis against the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework to AMSA to support your application for exemption and/or certification. You can also review it when conducting operational planning to ensure you remain COLREGs compliant.
Further guidance materials, examples, and an instructional video will be released to support the use of the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework in the coming months.
RAS Gateway contains two separate features to help you understand COLREGs, how the rules apply to autonomous and remotely operated vessels, and how to use operational planning to steer which COLREGs apply.
The COLREGs Explorer Page lets you explore the COLREGs rules including what they mean for the autonomous and remotely operated vessels and the sort of capabilities they require. This is particularly useful to get a feel for COLREGs, and for when you may not have a specific vessel and proposed operation already in mind.
The COLREGs Operator Guidance Tool enables you to input details of your vessel and proposed operation and then generate a tailored version of the COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework. This is particularly useful for operators with a specific vessel and proposed operation in mind, and will inform your regulatory approach and operational planning. It is also useful for third parties seeking to confirm applicable rules, capability requirements and evidence types.We welcome feedback on these tools, and encourage you to let us know when you have used them and how you found the experience. You can contact us as email@example.com.
Explore the COLREGs rules, including what they mean for the autonomous vessels and the sort of capabilities they require.
Generate a tailored COLREGs Operator Guidance Framework for your vessel and proposed operation.