S.I. No. 317/1983 - Merchant Shipping (Automatic Pilot and Testing of Steering Gear) Rules, 1983.

S.I. No. 317 of 1983.


I, JAMES MITCHELL, Minister for Transport, in exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 19 (1A) of the Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention) Act, 1952 (No. 29 of 1952) (inserted by section 11 (b) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1981 (No. 33 of 1981)), the Transport, Fuel and Power (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order, 1959 ( S.I. No. 125 of 1959 ), and the Tourism and Transport (Alteration of Name of Department and Title of Minister) Order, 1980 ( S.I. No. 11 of 1980 ), hereby make the following rules:—

1. These Rules may be cited as the Merchant Shipping (Automatic Pilot and Testing of Steering Gear) Rules, 1983 and shall come into operation on the 1st day of December, 1983.

2. In these Rules—

"appropriate authority", in relation to special rules, means any person empowered by law to make those special rules;

"automatic pilot" means a device for automatically operating the steering gear to steer the ship; it does not include any wind-operated self-steering equipment connected to the tiller or rudder of sailing craft;

"officer of the watch" means the person in charge of the navigational watch;

"proper officer" means an Irish consul, a superintendent of the Mercantile Marine Office or any officer in a port in the State exercising the functions of such a superintendent;

"qualified helmsman" means a person trained or sufficiently experienced to steer that type of ship;

"restricted visibility" means any condition in which visibility is restricted by fog, mist, falling snow, heavy rainstorms, sandstorms or other similar cause;

"steering gear control system" means the equipment by which orders are transmitted from the navigating bridge to the steering gear power units, and comprises transmitters, receivers, hydraulic control pumps and their associated motors, motor controllers, pipes and cables;

"steering gear power unit" means:

( a ) in the case of electric steering gear, an electric motor and its associated electrical equipment; or

( b ) in the case of electro-hydraulic steering gear, an electric motor, its associated electrical equipment and connected pump; or

( c ) in the case of other hydraulic steering gear, a driving engine and connected pump.

3. These Rules apply in relation to:

( a ) sea-going ships registered in the State; and

( b ) other sea-going ships while they are within the State or the territorial waters thereof, except in respect of the requirement of Rule 6 (6) (b) of these Rules:

Provided that nothing in these Rules relating to the use of an automatic pilot shall override special rules made by an appropriate authority for roadsteads, harbours, rivers, lakes or inland waterways connected with the high seas and navigable by sea-going ships.

4. (1) The master shall ensure that an automatic pilot, where fitted, shall not be used in areas of high traffic density, in conditions of restricted visibility nor in any other hazardous navigational situation unless it is possible to establish manual control of the ship's steering within 30 seconds.

(2) Before entering any area of high traffic density, and whenever visibility is likely to become restricted or some other hazardous navigational situation is likely to arise, the master shall arrange, where practicable, for the officer of the watch to have available without delay the services of a qualified helmsman who shall be ready at all times to take over the manual steering.

(3) The change-over from automatic to manual steering and vice versa shall be made by, or under the supervision of, the officer of the watch, or, if there is no such officer, the master.

(4) The master shall ensure that the manual steering gear is tested (a) after continous use of the automatic pilot for 24 hours and (b) before entering any areas where navigation demands special caution.

5. In areas where navigation demands special caution, the master shall ensure that the ship shall have more than one steering gear power unit in operation when such units are available and capable of simultaneous operation.

6. (1) The master shall, within 12 hours before departure of the ship, cause the steering gear to be checked and tested so as to ensure that it is working satisfactorily:

Provided that in the case of ships regularly making more than one voyage a week to or from the same port a check and test of the steering gear need only be made once in that week unless a part of the steering gear or its control system has been dismantled or changed since the last test.

The test procedure shall include, where applicable, the operation of the following:

( a ) the main steering gear;

( b ) the auxiliary steering gear;

( c ) the remote steering gear control systems;

( d ) the steering positions located on the navigating bridge;

( e ) the emergency power supply;

( f ) the rudder angle indicators in relation to the actual position of the rudder;

( g ) the remote steering gear control system power failure alarms;

( h ) the steering gear power unit failure alarms; and

( i ) the automatic isolating arrangements and other automatic equipment required for steering gear.

(2) The checks and tests shall include:

( a ) the full movement of the rudder according to the required capabilities of the steering gear;

( b ) a visual inspection of the steering gear and its connecting linkage; and

( c ) the operation of the means of communication between the navigating bridge and the steering gear compartment.

(3) The owner shall provide simple operating instructions, with a block diagram showing the changeover procedures, for the remote steering gear control systems and steering gear power units, and the master shall ensure that they are permanently displayed on the navigating bridge and in the steering gear compartment.

(4) A person shall not supervise the operation or maintenance of the steering gear unless that person is familiar with the operation of the steering systems fitted on the ship, and, where applicable, with the procedures for changing from one system to the other.

(5) In addition to the routine checks and tests prescribed in paragraph (1) and (2) of this Rule, the master shall ensure that emergency steering gear drills, which practise emergency steering gear procedures, take place at least once every three months. These drills shall include, where applicable, use of direct control from within the steering gear compartment, the communications procedure with the navigating bridge and the operation of alternative power supplies.

(6) ( a ) The date, time and place that the said routine checks and tests are carried out and the date and details of emergency steering drills carried out shall be recorded by the master in the official logbook.

( b ) In ships not required to keep an official logbook, a record of each check, test and drill shall be made by the master and be retained on board for a period of six months and be available for inspection on demand by a superintendent, proper officer or surveyor of ships.

GIVEN under my Official Seal, this 18th day of December, 1983.


Minister for Transport.


These Rules implement the provisions of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, and the Protocol of 1978 thereto, relating to the use of an automatic pilot and the operation and testing of steering gear.