Might is Right


The above notice is prominently displayed on the Greater Wellington Regional Council web site and has previously been published in Wellington newspapers. The wording in the above is not the same as in WRC by-law 6.3.1 nor the relevant collision prevention rules  and gives a completely false interpretation of the present international collision rules. The by-law and the rules use the term “must not impede” and not “must give way”. There appears to be a culture which has developed in New Zealand where large ships think that they are the stand on vessels and all small vessels must keep out of their way at all times with no rights what so ever.

This culture probably comes from Maritime New Zealand and its advisors and is demonstrated in the findings of investigations into collisions.

Two collisions come to mind. Both occurred at night with little wind and both vessels in each case could see each other well before the collision. The larger ship in each case only saw sidelights of the other vessel so should have assumed that each smaller vessel was a sailing vessel with limited manoeuvrerability because of the lack of wind. In both cases the larger ships carried on at full speed until just before the collision.

In one case the  non compliance with the “narrow channel”  (Rule 9) was stated as the main contributing cause and in the other case the non compliance with a harbour by-law based on the unique New Zealand 500 ton rule.  The operative words in both rules  are “not to impede” which are accepted internationally as not the same as “keep out of the way”.  In fact both  rules state a vessel that is not to be impeded remains fully obliged to comply with the Steering and Sailing Rules when the two vessels are approaching one another so as to involve a risk of collision and in these two cases the overriding rule would be that a power driven vessel must keep out of the way of a sailing vessel.

This is certainly not the message that the above poster gives –  MIGHT IS RIGHT –  It is a sad day that we have reached this state of affairs in New Zealand

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