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Sharing the Water – Recreational and Commercial Vessels

Sharing the Water – Recreational and Commercial Vessels

Do you know the ‘rules of the road’ for Canada’s waterways? Spending a day out on the water is the perfect way to enjoy a hot summer day, but if you are planning a marine outing, it is your responsibility to know and follow these rules to keep our waters safe for everyone to enjoy.

Ports in B.C. become extremely busy during the summer months, not only with fun-seeking recreational boaters, but with commercial traffic as well. As commercial vessels are becoming larger and ports are becoming increasingly congested, the BC Coast Pilots (BCCP) are working hard to ensure that our coastal waters remain safe.

The BCCP has maintained a 99.8 per cent success rate since our inception, however safety on our waters requires that everyone do their part. If you are planning a trip out on the water in one of our port areas this summer, please consider:

  • visibility;
  • the state of the wind and currents;
  • the level of sea traffic in the area.

More information about safety and regulations can be found by reviewing Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide.

Steer Clear of Shipping Lanes

Some of the most common risks our Pilots see is when recreational boaters pass in front of a vessel and cannot be observed from the ship’s bridge. Some boaters do not realize the risks they take when crossing shipping lanes or passing in front of larger vessels. It is harder for Pilots to see you, difficult to change route to avoid you, and large vessels take longer to stop.  These vessels are often confined to a narrow navigation corridor due to their size and cannot always alter course to avoid you. In addition, they may be travelling faster than you think. Outside of port boundaries, some vessels can make over 20 knots through the water. Always make sure to watch for others on the water and be ready to yield to large vessels.

Watch for Tugs and avoid Tow Lines

You may often see Tugs towing vessels in port waters, though you may not be able to see the tow line. The tow line that extends behind the tug is often so long that it hangs below the surface of the water, making it nearly invisible. It is important to remember never to pass between a tug and its tow, as impact with the hidden lines could cause smaller vessels to capsize and be run down by the object in tow. Always make sure to give the tug and its tow plenty of space in every direction. If boating at night, be alert for lights displayed by tugs, as they are often more visible than the object/vessel in tow.

Familiarize yourself with local regulations

Before heading out, make sure you are brushed up on local speed restrictions and other rules in the areas you are planning to visit. Here are the links to some of the larger ports along the B.C. coast.

B.C.’s coast has a lot to offer for boating enthusiasts this summer. Just remember, you will be sharing the waterways with commercial vessels. Knowing the rules before you head out will help you stay safe and have fun!