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Friday, June 07, 2019

Back to "Bumper Drills" - Russian Destroyer Violates Nautical Rules of Road to Harass U.S. Navy Cruiser

Let's begin with the U.S. Navy official statement 7th Fleet Statement on Unsafe Maneuver by Russian Destroyer /a>
At approximately 11:45 am on June 7, 2019 while operating in the Philippine Sea, a Russian Destroyer (UDALOY I DD 572) made an unsafe maneuver against guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), closing to approximately 50-100 feet putting the safety of her crew and ship at risk.

While USS Chancellorsville was recovering its helicopter on a steady course and speed when the Russian ship DD572 maneuvered from behind and to the right of Chancellorsville accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance of approximately 50-100 feet. This unsafe action forced USS Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision.
The videos are below. More damning, however, is this photo, obviously taken from the U.S. Navy helicopter:
Russian ship is on the left, as you face the photo. Note that its wake shows it maneuvering to intercept the course of Chancellorville, whose wake show it maintaining a steady course.

Under the International Rules of the Nautical Road, a vessel overtaking another ship has the obligation -the burden -to avoid the vessel being overtaken, see here for the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs). Rule 13 governs in this instance, but background Rules are provided:
Rule 1
(a). These Rules shall apply to all vessels upon the high seas and in all waters connected therewith navigable by
seagoing vessels.
Rule 2
(a). Nothing in these Rules shall exonerate any vessel, or the owner, master or crew thereof, from the consequences of
any neglect to comply with these Rules or of the neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary
practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case.
(b). In construing and complying with these Rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision and
to any special circumstances, including the limitations of the vessels involved, which may make a departure from these
Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger.
Rule 3
General definitions
. For the purpose of these Rules, except where the context otherwise requires:
(a). The word “vessel” includes every description of water craft, including non-displacement craft, WIG craft and
seaplanes, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.
(b). The term “power-driven vessel” means any vessel propelled by machinery.
(c). The term “sailing vessel” means any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being
(d). The term “vessel engaged in fishing” means any vessel fishing with nets, lines, trawls or other fishing apparatus
which restrict manoeuvrability, but does not include a vessel fishing with trolling lines or other fishing apparatus which
do not restrict manoeuvrability.
(e). The word “seaplane” includes any aircraft designed to manoeuvre on the water.
(f). The term “vessel not under command” means a vessel which through some exceptional circumstance is unable to
manoeuvre as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of another vessel.
(g). The term “vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre” means a vessel which from the nature of her work is
restricted in her ability to manoeuvre as required by these Rules and is therefore unable to keep out of the way of
another vessel. The term “vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuvre” shall include but not be limited to:
(i). a vessel engaged in laying, servicing or picking up a navigation mark, submarine cable or pipeline;
(ii). a vessel engaged in dredging, surveying or underwater operations;
(iii). a vessel engaged in replenishment or transferring persons, provisions or cargo while underway;
(iv). a vessel engaged in the launching or recovery of aircraft;
Rule 8
Action to avoid collision
(a). Any action to avoid collision shall be taken in accordance with the Rules of this Part and shall, if the circumstances
of the case admit, be positive, made in ample time and with due regard to the observance of good seamanship.
(b). Any alteration of course and/or speed to avoid collision shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, be large
enough to be readily apparent to another vessel observing visually or by radar; a succession of small alterations of
course and/or speed should be avoided.
(c). If there is sufficient sea-room, alteration of course alone may be the most effective action to avoid a close-quarters
situation provided that it is made in good time, is substantial and does not result in another close-quarters situation.
(d). Action taken to avoid collision with another vessel shall be such as to result in passing at a safe distance. The
effectiveness of the action shall be carefully checked until the other vessel is finally past and clear.
(e). If necessary to avoid collision or allow more time to assess the situation, a vessel shall slacken her speed or take
all way off by stopping or reversing her means of propulsion.
(i). A vessel which, by any of these Rules, is required not to impede the passage or safe passage of another vessel
shall, when required by the circumstances of the case, take early action to allow sufficient sea-room for the safe
passage of the other vessel.
(ii). A vessel required not to impede the passage or safe passage of another vessel is not relieved of this obligation if
approaching the other vessel so as to involve risk of collision and shall, when taking action, have full regard to the
action which may be required by the Rules of this part.
(iii). A vessel the passage of which is not to be impeded remains fully obliged to comply with the Rules of this part when
the two vessels are approaching one another so as to involve risk of collision.
Rule 13
(a). Notwithstanding anything contained in the Rules of part B, sections I and II, any vessel overtaking any other shall
keep out of the way of the vessel being overtaken.
(b). A vessel shall be deemed to be overtaking when coming up with another vessel from a direction more than 22.5
degrees abaft her beam, that is, in such a position with reference to the vessel she is overtaking, that at night she
would be able to see only the sternlight of that vessel but neither of her sidelights.
(c). When a vessel is in any doubt as to whether she is overtaking another, she shall assume that this is the case and
act accordingly.
(d). Any subsequent alteration of the bearing between the two vessels shall not make the overtaking vessel a crossing
vessel within the meaning of these Rules or relieve her of the duty of keeping clear of the overtaken vessel until she is
finally past and clear.
Rule 16
Action by give-way vessel
. Every vessel which is directed to keep out of the way of another vessel shall, so far as possible, take early and
substantial action to keep well clear.
Rule 17
Action by stand-on vessel
(i). Where one of two vessels is to keep out of the way the other shall keep her course and speed.
(ii). The latter vessel may however take action to avoid collision by her manoeuvre alone, as soon as it becomes
apparent to her that the vessel required to keep out of the way is not taking appropriate action in compliance with these
(b). When, from any cause, the vessel required to keep her course and speed finds herself so close that collision
cannot be avoided by the action of the give-way vessel alone, she shall take such action as will best aid to avoid
(c). A power-driven vessel which takes action in a crossing situation in accordance with subparagraph (a)(ii) of this Rule
to avoid collision with another power-driven vessel shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, not alter course to port
for a vessel on her own port side.
(d). This Rule does not relieve the give-way vessel of her obligation to keep out of the way
Now, look at these videos, not much doubt that the Russian destroyer is overtaking, as defined above the U.S. cruiser. In addition, the U.S. ship was conducting flight operations, thus adding to the Russian's breached obligation to stand clear of the U.S. ship.

This sort of behavior was not uncommon during the Cold War, and it appears that Cold War mentality is creeping back into the Russian psyche. Or at least that of its leadership.

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