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Title 33Chapter ISubchapter D

Title 33: Navigation and Navigable Waters

Special Note—Application of the 72 COLREGS to territories and possessions.

a. Article III of the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisons at Sea, 1972 (72 COLREGS), done at London, October 20, 1972, as rectified by Proces-Verbal of December 1, 1973, provides that a party may notify the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO, formerly Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization or IMCO) that it extends the application of the Convention to territory for which it is responsible for international relations. Since it is the intention of the United States that the 72 COLREGS apply to all U.S. territories and possessions to the same extent that the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1960 (60 COLREGS) (16 USC 794, TIAS 5813) previously applied, the United States has given notice to the Secretary-General that the provisions of the 1972 COLREGS are applicable on July 15, 1977, to the following territories and possessions for which the United States is responsible for international relations:

Puerto Rico


The Canal Zone

The Virgin Islands of the United States

American Samoa

Midway Island

Wake Island

Johnston Island

Palmyra Island

Kingman Reef

Howland Island

Baker Island

Jarvis Island

Navassa Island

b. In accordance with Article III, other parties to the Convention have notified the Secretary-General that application of 72 COLREGS is extended. These parties with their territorial extensions are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Territorial Extensions of Other Parties to 72 COLREGS

Party to conventionTerritories to which 72 COLREGS are extended
United KingdomHong Kong.

Because earlier formulations of the COLREGS were not elaborated as treaties, they came into force by the almost simultaneous enactment of domestic legislation by the majority of maritime nations. The COLREGS were judicially considered as being customary international law, that is to say international law based upon the consensus of maritime nations rather than upon an express instrument. Because 72 COLREGS was elaborated as a treaty, and under usual treaty practice only parties are bound, there may be a period of time after the 72 COLREGS come into force during which the ships of a nation not party to 72 COLREGS might not be considered as being bound to comply with the convention. While it is most likely that the 72 COLREGS will rapidly achieve the status of customary international law, thereby obviating any concern on the part of the mariner as to whether a particular nation is a party, it does not necessarily follow that the courts in all nations will apply 72 COLREGS to the vessels of a non-party nation. In the absence of changes in their domestic law there may be certain nations that will feel compelled to continue 60 COLREGS in force, despite the coming into force of 72 COLREGS.

The following nations are Contracting Parties for which 72 COLREGS will apply upon the Convention's entry into force:

Algeria   Monaco
Bahamas   Netherlands
Belgium   New Zealand
Brazil   Nigeria
Bulgaria   Norway
Canada   Papua New Guinea
Denmark   Poland
Finland   Romania
France   South Africa
German Democratic Republic   Spain
Germany, Federal Republic   Sweden
Ghana   Switzerland
Greece   Syrian Arab Republic
Hungary   USSR
Iceland   United Kingdom
India   United States
Liberia   Yugloslavia
Mexico   Zaire

The following nations have accepted the 60 COLREGS but are not Contracting Parties to 72 COLREGS:

Argentina   Lebanon
Australia   Libyan Arab Republic
Austria   Madagascar
Barbados   Maldives
Burma   Morocco
China   Oman
Cuba   Pakistan
Cyprus   Paraguay
Czechoslovakia   Peru
Ecuador   Philippines
Egypt   Portugal
Fiji   Republic of Korea
Gambia   Singapore
Indonesia   Surinam
Ireland   Tonga
Israel   Trinidad
Italy   Tobago
Ivory Coast   Tunisia
Jamaica   Turkey
Japan   United Republic of
Kuwait   Cameroon

[CGD 77-075, 42 FR 26976, May 26, 1977. Redesignated by CGD 81-017, 46 FR 28153, May 26, 1981; CGD 95-053, 61 FR 9, Jan. 2, 1996]

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