San Francisco Bay is one of the most popular recreational boating locations in the world, offering unparalleled opprtunities for sailing, fishing, rowing, wind surfing and other activities. At the same time, the Bay is the destination and departure point for thousands of large, deep draft commercial ships, as well as military vessels every year. Also sharing these waters are passenger ferries, tug boats, water taxis and other vessels associated with a busy port and large metropolitan area. This diversity and sheer number of vessels sharing the same waters every day can make the Bay a very busy and congested place, particularly during the peak summer months. Furthermore, the different operating patterns of these vessels make navigation safety a top concern. To help prevent tragic collisions between large and small vessels from occurring, it is essential that recreational boaters do their part and take actions to ensure their safety and the safety of the environment. This brief tutorial outlines steps you can take to help make the waters of San Francisco Bay a safe and enjoyable place to be!
Under Rule 9 of the International and Inland Rules of the Road, all vessels less than 20 meters (66 feet), vessels engaged in fishing and all sailboats cannot impede the passage of a vessel that can only operate safely in a narrow channel or fairway. The Captain of the Port has designated all major deep draft ship channels in San Francisco Bay as narrow channels or fairways, thus making Rule 9 applicable in these areas. In addition, some channels have been designated as Regulated Navigation Areas (RNAs) in order to organize traffic flow patterns. Rule 9 is also applicable in these areas.
Rule 9 places the obligation on you, the small vessel operator, to avoid impeding the large vessel while operating in a deep draft channel. Rule 9 is intended to protect you - the recreational boater. Large vessels that are restricted to narrow channels lack the maneuverability and visibility that small vessels have, and require ample time and space to maneuver properly and stop. If a situation deteriorates to the point where two vessels are forced to take evasive action to avoid colliding, the resulting confusion often causes a collision instead of preventing one, with disastrous consequences to human life, the marine environment and personal property.
Most large, deep draft commercial ships transit the Bay to and from the Ports of Oakland, Richmond and the refineries dotting the Carquinez Strait area. Oil and chemical tankers frequent Richmond and the Carquinez Strait, container vessels frequent Oakland and Alameda. The channels leading to all of these Ports have been designated as narrow channels or fairways. Some of these channels are also RNAs, and have specific restrictions in place to manage vessel traffic. Below is a partial list of designated narrow channels or fairways in the Bay where Rule 9 is applicable, channels with a "*" notation are RNAs.
Information on these and other designated narrow channels can be found in Captain of the Port Public Advisory 05-95. Information on RNAs can be found in 33 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 162 and 165.
Following Rule 9 is much more than smart and courteous boating - it's the law (33 U.S.C. 2009). Violators can be assessed a maximum civil penalty of up to $5,000 by the Coast Guard. Boaters are strongly encouraged to becaome familiar with and follow Rule 9 and all other applicable Rules of the Road, and report violators of these rules to the Captain of the Port.
U.S. COAST GUARD MSO
BLDG. 14, COAST GUARD ISLAND
ALAMEDA, CA 94501-5100
PHONE: (510) 437-3142; FAX: (510) 437-3072