Boat collisions and accidents can cause major damages to your vessel and lead to serious injuries or death. Collisions occur when a boat or personal watercraft collides with another vessel or objects like docks, rocks and logs.
It is the responsibility of all pleasure craft operators to avoid collisions or they could face severe penalties and even imprisonment. In this article, we give an overview of Canada’s rules and regulations to follow in order to avoid boat collisions.
As with roads, waterways are also governed by rules. These are known as the Canadian Collision Regulations. These rules regulate any and all crafts on all bodies of water in Canada.
Regulations state that a pleasure craft operator must take immediate and substantial action to prevent a collision with another vessel. Otherwise, if the course is clear, the operator simply maintains speed and course.
Collision Regulations govern the nautical Rules of the Road, which identify the stand-on vessel and the give-way vessel in each situation.
The graphic below shows the actions to take when crossing, meeting and overtaking a vessel that approaches within the port, starboard or stern sectors. Following these actions will significantly reduce the likelihood of boat collision.
When one of two vessels must keep out of the way, the other may keep her course and speed. If the vessel required to stay out of the way does not take appropriate action in compliance with these rules, the latter vessel can take action to avoid collision.
A give-way vessel is one that is required by these Regulations to keep out of the way of another vessel. As far as possible, vessels that are directed to remain out of the way of another vessel should take early and substantial action to stay in the clear.
In addition to following the rules of the road outlined in the Collision Regulations, the following tips will help you avoid damage, injury or worse resulting from a boat collision.
Pleasure craft operators must navigate safely and share the waterways to avoid creating situations that are risky or potentially dangerous to other boaters, swimmers, wildlife and the environment.
A boat that navigates in a narrow channel or driveway must stay as close to the outer edge of the channel or fairway as possible so long as it is safe and convenient.
An operator must always keep an eye out for hazards or distress signals from other boaters. The Criminal Code of Canada also contains this provision.
Commercial vessels travel along predetermined shipping lanes. These vessels always have the right of way. Their course is hard to change, and they need a long distance to come to a complete halt.
When passing larger vessels or crossing shipping lanes, some boaters fail to appreciate the risk that they take. It is very difficult for the crews of these vessels to see small boats on the water since they are standing high above the water line.
Boaters must therefore never interfere with the passage of large vessels in a shipping lane.
Here are some tips to remember:
Tugboats often tow boats behind them with long tow lines. Tow lines can sometimes be so long that they hang below the surface of the water and are almost invisible. Therefore, do not get between a tugboat and its tow line.
In the event your boat hits a submerged tow line, the collision may cause it to capsize or cause serious damage to your vessel, putting everyone on board at risk.
Since a safe speed depends on the craft and prevailing conditions, the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations do not specify speed limits.
Always take the following factors into account when determining a safe speed:
If you are not within sight of other vessels and in or near restricted visibility areas, you must navigate at a safe speed at all times, adapting to the circumstances and conditions to avoid collisions.
A small boat is difficult to detect, especially from a large ship, in poor weather conditions or at night. In light of this, you can minimize the risks of collision if you display the correct navigation lights at night and during periods of restricted visibility.
Just as with driving a car, don’t operate a boat when you’re tired or sleepy as fatigue can result in poor reaction time and decision-making abilities. Also be aware that boating under the influence (BIU) is just as dangerous as driving under the influence.
If your boat has been involved in a collision, you should immediately take the following steps:
Canada’s waterway users and the organizations that govern them share responsibility for safety. It is imperative that boaters operate their vessels safely to avoid collisions with other vessels or objects.
We hope this article has shed some light on how to avoid collisions while boating. If you have not yet obtained your official boat license, this article can serve as a good reference before taking the Canadian boat license exam.