Waterways are not as clearly marked as roadways, so it is important for those guiding their vessels to know exactly who has the right-of-way when two vessels occupy the same space. Any minor mistakes made in this situation can lead to collisions and potentially catastrophic injuries to the crew — not to mention the serious damage to the vessels themselves.
Two of the most basic classifications for boats involve determining which one is the Give-Way Vessel and which one is the Stand-On Vessel.
The Stand-On Vessel is the one that does not have to change its speed or course. However, this does not mean there are no obligations. It is important to maintain both accurately so as to be predictable and safe. It is also necessary to acknowledge the other vessel and confirm that you understand its intended actions. When everyone is on the same page, accidents are less likely.
The Give-Way Vessel is the one that needs to alter its course and/or speed to allow the Stand-On vessel to continue. While doing so, you have to signal to the other vessel so that the crew is aware of your intentions. You then have to take appropriate action to maneuver so that the two can pass without incident. Some people refer to this vessel as the "burdened" vessel because its captain bears the burden of making course alterations to avoid an accident.
Understanding these roles is important so that each vessel takes appropriate action at the right time. When accidents occur, workers and crew members who suffer injuries need to know what options they have.