Coast Guard reminds recreational boaters to keep navigation channels clear

9th Coast Guard District News
CLEVELAND — As part of continuing National Safe Boating Week outreach, the 9th Coast Guard District is reminding recreational boaters Wednesday of the need to give way and stay clear of vessels navigating within the boundaries of navigable channels.

National Safe Boating Week, a nationwide, multi-agency public safety campaign to increase boater awareness of important safety practices, runs May 18-24 this year.

“Our primary concern is preventing potentially fatal collisions between recreational vessels and larger commercial,” said Lt. Chris Mercurio, Prevention Department, Coast Guard Sector Buffalo, N.Y. “Many of the channels in the Great Lakes system are narrow, and larger cargo vessels generally can’t operate safely outside of them, which hinders their ability to maneuver to avoid collisions. That is why the navigation rules put the burden on smaller vessels with more maneuvering options to stay out of the way.”

The inland navigational rules that apply to all craft plying the navigable waters of the United States are published in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations Parts 81 to 95. Rule 9 of the inland navigation rules 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.”

For a more detailed description of Rule 9, in plain English, click here.

Violators of Rule 9 can be subject to civil penalties of up to $5,000, but may also face additional civil and criminal penalties. A boater may be held accountable for cleanup costs and reimbursement if their actions or inactions are found to have contributed to an oil spill, vessel damages, injuries or loss of life.

Any situation in which a cargo ship is forced to exit the shipping channel, like if the cargo ship is trying to avoid a collision, puts the ship at risk of grounding. Grounding can cause catastrophic damage to the ship’s hull and release harmful pollutants.

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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