As summer gets closer and the recreational boating season ramps up, here are some reminders to help boaters make safety on the water a priority.

Across North America, there’s a strong focus around Safe Boating Awareness Week (May 19-25), including reminders from safe boating advocates across Canada, including British Columbia.

BC’s South Coast waters, including Burrard Inlet and the Strait of Georgia, are a popular destination for many pleasure craft operators, kayakers, sailboarders and others. These waters are also used as the primary travel route for container ships, tankers, barges and other commercial vessels that call on Port Metro Vancouver.

Small boaters and large deep-sea ships use different parts of the common waterway; however, it’s always possible that one type may encounter the other on a typical day. To avoid harm, boaters must be aware of their safe navigation responsibilities under Canadian regulations when travelling in the vicinity of large vessels. Large commercial vessels are subject to many international, national and port authority requirements and have to operate under certain restrictions designed to ensure the safety of all marine waterway users.

It’s worth noting that a large ship is unable to come to an immediate stop or change course if a pleasure craft impedes its path. Small boat operators must take this into account — if they must cross the path of a large ship, it’s preferable to pass astern of it. Exercise caution — from close to the water’s surface, it can be difficult for a small boat operator to judge the distance to an approaching ship.

Last year, in cooperation with the Pacific Pilotage Authority (PPA), the Trans Mountain Expansion Project created a handout titled Safety in BC Waters and helped circulate the PPA’s new brochure titled Safe Boating in Deep Sea Shipping Navigation Areas. Together, these publications provide a number of safety tips boaters can use to avoid hazards when sharing the waterways with large commercial vessels. For example, be aware of large ships in the shipping lanes and keep as near to the outer edge as possible; cross shipping lanes at a 90-degree angle and, as mentioned above, avoid crossing close ahead of large ships.

Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide, which is an informative brochure covering many safety aspects for recreational boaters can be found here. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, which monitors Port of Vancouver vessel traffic 24 hours a day, year-round, has a Port Information Guide as well as its own publication for boaters within the Port of Vancouver.

Recreational boaters will notice a few changes to navigation requiring some extra precautions at the eastern end of Burrard Inlet as a result of construction at Westridge Marine Terminal as part of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. Trans Mountain, which has been loading oil tankers at Westridge since 1956, is constructing new berths in the area. The navigation changes were introduced in 2017 to ensure safe delineation of the active construction area from general vessel traffic. As part of the National Energy Board’s conditions for approval of the Expansion Project (Condition 48), Trans Mountain developed a Navigation and Navigation Safety Plan to manage and mitigate the marine impacts of construction.

Although non-essential work on the Project has ceased, Westridge construction is expected to continue through late 2019. Recreational, tourism, Aboriginal and other waterway users are encouraged to exercise extra caution when nearing the Westridge construction area and to familiarize themselves with safety protocols while on the water.

The siting of the dock does not impede recreational boaters or commercial traffic from accessing the waters surrounding the vicinity of Westridge and steps are being taken to ensure the construction work does not impede marine traffic. The following is a list of actions to ensure the safety of all vessels and to make boaters aware that construction is underway.

  • A construction safety zone has been established to reflect the temporary construction area water lot lease in a portion of eastern Burrard Inlet and Notices to Shipping have been issued by the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). Additional notices have been distributed to First Nations, local area residents, marinas, port users, pilots, industry stakeholders and others.
  • A floating construction safety boom around the immediate construction site helps ensure the safety of boaters in the area; it is demarcated by navigation buoys carrying appropriate day and night markers. Please do not anchor your vessel near the buoys to avoid conflict with the buoy anchor systems. Please do not tie your boat to the buoys or the panels of the construction boom.
  • Reflectors and navigation lighting are installed around the perimeter of the construction safety boom so boaters and other vessels can navigate safely past the work area day and night.
  • Large commercial vessels navigating the area have continued to follow the well-established vessel movement practices under pilotage.
  • On-water safety vessels provide guidance and assistance as required and they can be contacted via VHF radio Channels 09 and 16.
  • Trans Mountain continues to regularly communicate and update all marine waterway users, including boaters, commercial fishers and Aboriginal groups on construction activities in the construction area. Communication includes meetings or workshops with key user groups, mail-outs, local advertising and on-water and onshore signage.
  • All inquiries should be directed to [email protected] or 1-866-514-6700. Trans Mountain actively supports the Pacific Pilotage Authority as well as Transport Canada’s Boating Safety Office to raise awareness about small vessel safety in the marine community including the Authority’s Safe Boating campaign. This outreach campaign informs boat operators — everyone from kayakers and windsurfers to sport fishing guides and commercial fishermen — about their responsibilities for safe navigation in and around shipping routes and the need for safety when large ships are moving through. Download our boating safety information sheet or read more about this joint campaign here.