Coast Guard Sector New York Launches Operation Clear Channel
Recreational Boats, Watercraft Unsafely Crowd Narrow Shipping Channels
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. ? The U.S. Coast Guard has initiated a local
maritime outreach effort designed to increase safety on the congested
waters in and around New York Harbor. The program, dubbed "Operation
Clear Channel", is aimed at educating the maritime public of the
dangers associated with the operation of small vessels and personal
watercraft in the confines of the narrow navigational channels used by
larger commercial ships entering and departing the port.
Every day an average of 1,400 commercial vessel movements occur within
the waters of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Many of these
vessels such as tankers, container ships, cruise ships, and tug-barge
combinations are constrained by their draft and can not maneuver to
avoid smaller vessels.
The federal navigation rules, also known as "Rules of the Road,"
address this safety concern by giving these vessels priority, or
right-of-way, over smaller vessels when navigating in narrow channels.
In addition to being confined when operating within the channel, it can
take thousands of yards for a large ship to stop. To illustrate this
point, if a water skier falls a thousand feet in front of a moving tug
and barge, the skier has less than one minute to get out of the way
before being run over.
Thus, for obvious safety reasons, recreational boating activities,
including fishing, waterskiing, diving, etc., should always be
conducted at a safe distance outside the navigation channels. When
transiting within or in close proximity to a channel, boaters should
keep a sharp lookout for other vessels and always be prepared to "give
way" to ships that are constrained in their ability to maneuver.
Captain Glenn Wiltshire, Captain of the Port of New York and New
Jersey, and Commander of Coast Guard Sector New York said, ?While I
want all boaters to enjoy the waterways in our area, recent increases
in reports of commercial vessels having to take evasive actions to
avoid small boats in the channel are of great concern to me. I ask
that all boaters be aware of their position and remain outside the main
channels to ensure the continued safety of all waterway users. We
don?t want to wait for a tragedy to occur.?
In carrying out "Operation Clear Channel", Coast Guard units in the New
York and New Jersey area will promote boater awareness on this issue
through vessel enforcement patrols and visits to local marinas. The
Coast Guard will specifically target the approaches to New York Harbor,
including the Ambrose Channel, Sandy Hook Channel, and the Raritan Bay
The local boating public should be aware of the penalty provisions
within U.S. Code, Title 33, Section 2072, that specify ?Whoever
operates a vessel in violation of the navigation rules is liable to a
civil penalty of not more than $5,000 for each violation, for which
penalty the vessel may be seized and the case shall be brought before
the district court of the United States of any district within which
the vessel may be found."
Mariners interested in increasing their knowledge of boating safety,
including the Rules of the Road, should consider a Coast Guard
Auxiliary boating safety course. Course information is available
online at http://cgaux.org/cgauxweb/public/pubframe.htm
or by calling
Further information concerning Operation Clear Channel can be found at
under the New York port
directory page or by contacting Lieutenant Scott White at (718)
Editors Note: Still photos from a merchant vessel of pleasure boats
crowding a shipping channel are available through Jack Olthius of the
Sandy Hook Pilots Association at (718) 448-3900.