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Naval Protection Zones

One of ABA's core missions is to promote boating safety. Since September 11th, 2001, our idea of "safety" has changed. Not only do we as boaters need to follow procedures to keep our own boats and crew members safe, we also need to obey rules set forth by government agencies that help keep our country safe from terrorist attacks.

It has been many years since the September 11th terrorist attacks, and there is a danger that we are becoming complacent. So as a refresher, the ABA is providing the guidelines established by the U.S. Coast Guard to provide for the safety and security of U.S. naval vessels in the navigable waters of the United States. We suggest that you print out these guidelines and keep them onboard for future reference. For more information on boating safety, Click Here.

The basic guidelines are as follows:

  • Vessels within 500 yards of a U.S. naval vessel must operate at the minimum speed necessary to maintain a safe course and proceed as directed by the official patrol.

  • Recreational and commercial vessels are not allowed within 100 yards of a U.S. naval vessel, unless authorized by the official patrol.

  • Vessels requesting to pass within 100 yards of a U.S. naval vessel must contact the official patrol on VHF-FM channel 16. The official patrol may permit vessels that can operate safely only in a navigable channel to pass within 100 yards of a U.S. naval vessel in order to ensure a safe passage in accordance with the Navigation Rules.

  • Commercial vessels anchored in a designated anchorage area may be permitted to remain at anchor within 100 yards of passing naval vessels.

Mariners who violate a Naval Vessel Protection Zone will be perceived as a threat, and will face a quick, determined, and severe response. Violators are subject to arrest, prosecution, and, if convicted, imprisonment for up to six years and a fine of up to $250,000.

In addition to respecting the Naval Vessel Protection Zone, recreational boaters are advised to stay away from sensitive areas, including:

  • commercial port operation areas, especially those that involve military, cruise line, or petroleum facilities

  • nuclear power plants

  • military installations

  • bridge towers

  • refinery docks

  • anchored vessels

If you are not sure whether or not a particular spot is regarded as sensitive, assume that it is.

As a final point, if any Coast Guard or law enforcement agency should stop and board your vessel, please cooperate with them in any way you can. Allowing them to do their job keeps us all safer on the water.

Resources: U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary – Eighth District/Eastern Region "Commandant's Direction 2002", National Boating Safety Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes (10/01)

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