Big ships and small boats

Large vessels are restricted to particular channels and cannot deviate from their set course. These vessels are restricted in their ability to alter their course due to their size and need a large area to turn and stop. Their stern swings out wide when negotiating a turn and they lose steerage if they travel too slowly.

Too close ... an 18 footer crosses a bulk carrier in Sydney Harbour. For safety reasons, recreational vessel must keep well clear of large vessels and ferries.

The main safety tips for small boats around shipping and ferry channels are:

  • Recreational boats, both power and sail, should keep well clear of large vessels and ferries
  • Do not cross ahead of large vessels or ferries unless well clear. Even when hundreds of metres away, your boat may disappear from the ship master’s view from the bridge
  • Remember, large vessels tend to travel much faster than they appear to be. Give yourself plenty of room
  • Do not cross close astern of a large vessel or ferry
  • Always keep to the starboard side of a channel
  • Do not cross a channel if you are going to impede a vessel which has to use the channel.

Active radar reflectors (ARR)

Active radio reflectors emit a signal to nearby radar receivers. The signal is amplified and returned to the transmitting vessel.

This makes vessels more visible on radar receivers, from greater distances and may reduce the chance of being involved in an incident. It may also assist rescue operations in the event of an incident.

ARR needs to be mounted high enough on a vessel to be effective (eg up the mast) and they require a power source, Consequently they may not be suitable for some smaller vessels.

While ARR are not mandatory on NSW navigable waters, they may be a good inclusion to improve your visibility to other vessel operators.

Recreational boat users beware

  • Always keep a proper lookout for big ships and steer clear of them
  • Make your intentions clear to an approaching vessel well in advance. For the master of a large ship who is unclear of your intentions, you should indicate that you are getting out of the way of a large vessel at least one kilometre in advance of that vessel
  • It is important that you do not anchor in the navigation channel
  • Ensure that at all times you can be seen clearly. Dull aluminium tinnies can be difficult to see, especially in overcast and poor conditions. Wear bright clothing and be seen
  • After sunset and in restricted visibility ensure you have the correct navigation lights fitted and they are in proper working order. Your lights must be bright and must be visible for a distance of kilometres. Lights not only tell the other vessel what sort of vessel you have, but also what you are doing and where you are going. Make sure that if someone 'interprets' your lights, they are getting the right message.

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