Evidence

The practical importance of the Regulations is evidential in that they assist the court in determining negligence and in apportioning culpability for any given collision. If it can be shown that one party has breached the Regulations, that will raise a prima facie (at first sight) case of negligence. The defendant may, of course, rebut this evidence by producing evidence to show that he was not negligent. It is sufficient that the student is aware, therefore, that the Regulations provide requirements as to care, skill, responsibility, navigation, with which a ship must comply. It should be noted that Rule 2 paragraph (b) (as the regulations are known in English law) in effect provides that the Regulations can neither foresee nor cover all possible situations which may arise at sea and that departure from strict observance of the Regulations is permissible in order to avoid immediate danger. The 1983 Regulations were slightly amended in 1991, implementing IMO Resolution A678 (16). The current collision regulations applicable in the U.K. and to ships registered in the U.K. are the Merchant Shipping (Distress Signals and Prevention of Collisions) Regulations 1996. The 1996 regulations revoked and replaced the 1991 Regulations. It should be noted that not only is breach of the Regulations of paramount importance in determining blame for a collision, contravention may also lead to criminal liability. The Secretary of State may, under s. 85 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, by safety regulations, ‘make such provision as he considers appropriate’. The requirement not to ‘neglect to keep a proper look-out’ is enlarged to the obligation to use sight and hearing and ‘all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and risk of collision’.