The legal terms "risk of collision" and "all available means"

In the law, it is common for language to be intentionally vague in order to provide guidance before and during an incident without being too specific. This is because the law needs to be applicable in a variety of situations. For example, in the COLREGS (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea), the phrases “all available means” and “risk of collision” are used. However, while these phrases may not be specific enough to be useful in preventing an incident, they are still useful in determining responsibility after an incident has occurred. The vagueness of these phrases allows them to be applied to a wide range of situations.

However, it is important to note that in practice, more specific language may be needed before an incident in order to effectively prevent it. These phrases may not be particularly useful in an accident report, which is intended to identify the causes of an incident and prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future. This is because these phrases are too broad and vague to provide specific information about what actions were taken or what factors contributed to the incident. In order to effectively prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future, it is important to have a clear understanding of the specific actions and circumstances that led to the incident. Using more specific language in an accident report can help to provide this understanding and facilitate the development of effective prevention measures.

Some of the denser legal focused books on the Rules (e.g. Farwell’s) do this, they include cites to and discussion of Court cases where these terms were used and evaluated. It seems a good accident report would explain why a rule was violated, not just state that it was. Better still would be citing supporting authorities as is done in legal documents.

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I prompted ChatGPT to write the OP. Seemed a little confusing but I was too lazy to fix it.

I think accident reports do usually cite specifically what should have been done. For example the freighter and the fishing vessel collision report they said that shutting off AIS transmissions is common but would have likely have prevented that incident.

I wouldn’t use either phrase if I was training a new mate, too vague. Each time I got called to the bridge I’d explain which tool would be the most useful in that particular instance and time allowing the features and shortcomings of each and so forth more generally.

Of course after a collision it’s hard to argue there was no risk of collision.

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I wouldn’t avid or use just those phrases, but since they are in the Rules I would try to explain what the mean and give examples so the new Mate can relate actual scenarios to the vague rules.

I would agree, but you have to first make sure the mate has enough understanding to know when they need to call you to the bridge and to minimize barriers to their calling you.

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Another phrase “ in the ordinary practice of seamen.” Comes to mind. When I was sitting for my ticket each rule was taught along with the case law involving each rule.

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Seems analogous to the phrase “a reasonable person”. It’s intended to be used as an objective standard but more specific to the profession.

Safe speed.