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Coast Guard reminds vessel operators in Alaska to maintain proper lookouts (Possible $6.5k fine if you drift and nap)

Date: April 08, 2013
Coast Guard 17th District

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Coast Guard reminds all mariners to maintain a proper lookout at all times while on the open water in Alaska to prevent collisions, groundings and other marine casualties.

“Nearly every collision investigated by the Coast Guard has found a failure on the part of one or both involved parties to maintain a proper lookout,” said Ken Lawrenson, the Coast Guard 17th District fishing vessel safety coordinator.  “This is not a new requirement. There is admiralty case law going back nearly 200 years that addresses the absolute need to keep an effective lookout while at sea, drifting, or anchored, day and night.”

The Coast Guard is aware that some vessel operators, including commercial fishermen, engage in the practice of working all day, and then in the evening, allowing their vessels to either drift or anchor in open water while the entire crew sleeps.

This practice is dangerous, as well as being a violation of basic seamanship law. Commonly referred to as the Look Out Rule or the Wheel Watch Rule, its proper name is Rule 5 of the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea.  All vessels in Alaskan waters are required to comply with the COLREGS.

Rule 5 states, “Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout 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 lookout, 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 ultimate responsibility for maintaining adequate watch-keeping and manning. The Coast Guard may issue violations for failing to follow Rule 5, and the maximum fine is $6,500 per violation.