Sailboat Operator Cited for ‘Rule 9’ Violation After Crossing in Front of Tanker Near Stockton

Mike Schuler
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May 11, 2020

A 25-foot sailing vessel crosses the bow of a 550-foot tank ship transiting a narrow channel near Stockton, California, April 18, 2020. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The operator of a recreational sailboat has been cited for violating navigation rules after his sailboat crossed in front of tanker in a narrow channel near Stockton, California last month.

The 25-foot sailboat crossed in front of the bow of a 550-foot tanker on April 18 while transiting a narrow channel in the vicinity of Stockton. The U.S. Coast Guard cited the operator and fined him for violating 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 83.09, commonly referred to as Rule 9.

The top of the mast was the only visible portion of the sailboat when the tanker was required to take action to avoid collision.

“Large commercial vessels have a blind spot that often extends hundreds of feet in front of their bow,” said Lt. Anna Funk, a Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Investigating Officer. “These ships are far less maneuverable than small recreational boats and can take up to a mile and a half to stop, which means they have to take evasive action well in advance if the intentions of nearby vessels are unclear.”

Owners and operators can face maximum civil penalties of $14,910 per incident for violating navigation rules.

According to Rule 9 – Inland waters, vessels and powerboats less than 20 meters (or 65 feet), all sailboats and vessels engaged in fishing shall not impede the passage of a vessel that can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway. Additionally, a vessel shall not cross a narrow channel or fairway if such crossing impedes the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within that channel or fairway. The term “shall not impede” means a small vessel or craft must keep well clear and not hinder or interfere with the transit of larger vessels. All vessels shall avoid anchoring in a narrow channel, unless doing so is in the immediate interest of navigation safety.

Marine Safety and Security Information Bulletin (MSIB) 14-07 shows a list of “narrow channels or fairways” in San Francisco Bay and approaches for the application of the Inland and International Rules of the Road.

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