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Dept. of Homeland Security’s Mission Brings New Responsibilities to the Coast Guard – and Recreational Boaters

A breakdown of the new rules and what they mean for boaters.
Boating Safety

Naval Vessel Protection Zones

To prevent attacks on our Navy, such as that on the USS Cole in October 2000, the federal government has established Naval Vessel Protection Zones that limit how closely you may come to a naval vessel.  By this rule, you may not approach closer than 100 yards, and must slow to minimum speed within 500 yards of any U.S. Naval vessel. If you need to approach within 100 yards in order to ensure a safe passage in accordance with the Navigation Rules, you must contact the naval vessel or the U.S. Coast Guard escort vessel on your VHF radio (Channel 16) for authorization.

If a naval vessel is passing near where you are operating your boat, you may be asked to move your vessel to maintain the 100-yard distance.  The U.S. Coast Guard will make an announcement ahead of time to alert boaters in the area via the “Broadcast Notice to Mariners” on VHF Channel 16 and 22, and the “Local Notice to Mariners,” available at under “Current Operational/Safety Information.

Naval Vessel Protection Zones are designed to
prevent another attack like that on the USS Cole
in October 2000.

Serious times require serious measures.  Be aware that a violation of a Naval Vessel Protection Zone is a felony offense, punishable by up to six years in prison and/or up to a $250,000 fine, and both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard are authorized to use deadly force.  For your safety and the safety of our naval vessels, learn and abide by the new rules.

Commercial Shipping Safety Zones

In addition to the Naval Vessel Protection Zone requirements, boaters may also be asked to avoid operating near certain commercial vessels, cruise liners and commercial facilities near the water.  Boaters need to observe and respect these safety zones.  Areas that have large marine facilities – including military, commercial/cruise or petroleum facilities – should be avoided.  Note that there are also restrictions near most dams and power plants. 

Depending on what is being safeguarded and current threat levels, zones may be fixed or moving, temporary or permanent.  While some waterfront facilities may have signs warning boaters not to approach, anchor, loiter, etc., be aware that most do not.  Look for Safety Zones marked on nautical charts with a solid magenta line around the designated zone and an explanation in the chart notes. Boaters can also locate these zones by consulting the United States Coast Pilot reference book (available online at for the area in which they are operating. 

Again, the Coast Guard provides boaters with advance notice of zone enforcement via the “Broadcast Notice to Mariners” on VHF Channel 16 and 22, as well as the “Local Notice to Mariners,” available at Announcements are made if the zone has been changed in some way or if temporary zone enforcement is necessary in response to activities that draw a lot of boaters on the water, such as festivals, air shows, fireworks events and others.  Zone enforcement is also announced on the Federal Register,, and many other online government sites.

Bridges and Shipping Channels

Do not stop or anchor beneath bridges or in shipping channels.  If you do, you can expect to be asked to move and/or be boarded by law enforcement officials.

* * * * *

The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit

Marshall Herron (not verified)
Feb 2, 2012

Posting information similar to the Coast Guard and Homeland Security operations is excellent ... thank you!

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