Coast Guard continues Operation Make Way

13th Coast Guard District NewsASTORIA, Ore. — The Coast Guard continues to actively enforce boating safety laws as part of Operation Make Way on the Columbia River this fall fishing season.

Operation Make Way is a joint recreational boater education and enforcement campaign designed to help boaters understand the need to give way and stay clear of commercial deep draft vessels on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

Recreational fishermen, often caught up in the excitement of a day on the water, frequently neglect to give way to larger vessels in a timely manner. Waiting until the last second to move from the path of these larger vessels is illegal and highly dangerous.

The Coast Guard has ship riders on deep draft vessels as well as on Columbia County Sherriff boats patrolling the Columbia River to observe fishing boats that blatantly disregard the vessels’ attempts to warn them to move.

Rule 9 in the Navigational Rules of the Road states, “a vessel of less than 20 meters in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway, and a vessel engaged in fishing shall not impede the passage of any other vessel navigating within a narrow channel or fairway.”

In 2011, 14 notices of violation have been issued to boaters who have failed to comply. Violators of Rule 9 can be subject to civil penalties of up to $5000, but may also be found guilty of additional civil and criminal violations meaning fines can far exceed this amount. In addition to these fines, a boater may be held accountable for costs for cleanup or reimbursement should it be found their actions led to a spill, damages, injuries or loss of life.

“Our biggest concern is preventing collisions, groundings or other incidents that could result in massive damage to the environment, injuries or death,” said Capt. Len Tumbarello, Deputy Commander of Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “Due to the tight navigation channel of the river, it is imperative these deep draft vessels be given the space they need to maneuver if we’re to avoid such disasters.”

On numerous occasions, river pilots have had to take evasive action to avoid fishermen anchored in the channel. Though river pilots are highly skilled mariners, maneuvering around smaller boats greatly compromises safe navigation.

Any deviation pilots make during transit requiring them to exit the ship channel to avoid colliding with fishing boats poses high risk of grounding. Grounding often results in damage to the vessel, possible pollution to the environment or substantial shutdown of commerce within adjoining ports.

Fishing vessels are permitted to fish in the ship channel, but they must weigh anchor and move out of the channel well before an incoming or outbound vessel is upon them.

The Coast Guard will continue to protect mariners, property and the environment by working with river pilots to address this issue and enforce boating laws.


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