Boat operators should be aware of established security zones surrounding land-based restricted facilities and vessels such as passenger ferries, military vessels and cargo ships.
Boat operators are an important part of the homeland security effort. Boaters play an active role in national security by reporting any suspicious activity to the proper authorities.
One thing you must contend with if you boat in certain areas of the country are Naval Vessel Protection Zones. These zones are designed to prevent attacks against our Navy by placing restrictions on how closely you may come to a naval vessel.
You may not approach within 100 yards of any U.S. naval vessel. Sometimes this is an impossible thing to accomplish. If you need to pass within 100 yards of a U.S. naval vessel in order to ensure a safe passage in accordance with the Navigation Rules, you must contact the U.S. naval vessel or the Coast Guard escort vessel on your VHF radio. (Channel 16)
You must operate at minimum speed within 500 yards of any U.S. naval vessel. You must proceed as directed by the vessels’ commanding officer, or the official patrol.
Violations of the Naval Vessel Protection Zone are a felony offense, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines. And don’t forget, both the Navy and the Coast Guard are authorized to use deadly force to protect themselves.
Keep your distance from all military, cruise line, or commercial shipping. In addition to the Naval Security Zone requirements, you may also not operate your vessel near certain commercial vessels. It’s best just to avoid all commercial vessels if possible.
Observe and avoid all security zones and commercial port operations. Areas that have a large marine facilities including military, commercial/cruise, or petroleum facilities should be avoided. There are also restrictions near most dams, power plants and other facilities located near water.
Don’t 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.
Keep a sharp eye out for things that are out of the ordinary. You are asked to report all activities that seem suspicious to the local authorities. To report suspicious activity, call the National Response Center at 877-24WATCH. If there is immediate danger to life or property, call 911 or the U.S. Coast Guard on Channel 16. Do not approach or challenge those acting in a suspicious manner.
Wear your life jacket. Wearing your life jacket, and operating in accordance with the Rules of the Road and other boating regulations will ease the burden on the Coast Guard and other law enforcement personnel.
For more information on security zones go to the USCG website at www.uscgboating.org