International navigation rules – When to give way to other boats?

Interntaional navigation rules - safety

Summer and warm weather create quite a stir of boats on the waters. Do you know who has to give way when two boats meet?

Here’s a quick take on the International Navigation Rules to freshen up your memory, and guarantee safe boating for all!

Navigation rules on waters apply to all

International navigation rules that apply on the waters are for all vessels to follow. This means motorboats, sailing boats, ships, and all kinds of other floating ways of transportation.

You should also know the regional inland rules, depending on where you are sailing. The most important role of the navigation rules is telling you what to do if you encounter another boat on your way.

Who gives way to who?

In the international navigation rules there’s always a give-way-vessel, and a stand-on vessel. Depending on the situation, you could be either one of them.

The give-way-vessel is the one who has to safely move their boat around the other. If you are a stand-on-vessel, you must maintain your course and let the other vessel to pass.

Different navigation situations – This is how to pass safely

Another boat can approach you from different directions. Here’s what the international navigation rules guide you to do in the following situations:

  • Crossing situation. If the boats meet in a crossing, the one coming from the left side has to give way. If possible you should wait, slow down and pass the boat from the stern side, not from the front.
  • Meeting head-on. If two boats meet head-on, both of them have to give way and pass each other by navigating to the right. You should always sail on the right side of the passage, so passing other boats is easy and safe.
  • Overtaking another boat. If you need to pass and overtake another boat, you are always the one who has to give-way and ensure it’s safe. You can pass the boat from the right or the left. You should also take into account the surge of waves and how they affect the boat you are passing.

More information on International Navigation rules

Don’t forget that there is no right-of-way on the waters, there is only a duty to yield. Stay safe out there and we’ll meet you on the waters!

You can check out more boating rules and important info in Finnish from Venealan Keskusliitto Finnboat ry.

More information on navigation rules in English can be found from the Boat U.S. Foundation.