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Here is the coast guard press release for what they are calling Operation "Clear Channel" concerning the northern channels where 90% of the rec fishers go for fluke fishing.

U.S. Coast Guard

Press Release Date: August 4, 2005

Contact: Lieutenant Scott White
(718) 354-4228

Coast Guard Sector New York Launches Operation Clear Channel Recreational Boats, Watercraft Unsafely Crowd Narrow Shipping Channels

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – The U.S. Coast Guard has initiated a local maritime outreach effort designed to increase safety on the congested waters in and around New York Harbor. The program, dubbed "Operation Clear Channel", is aimed at educating the maritime public of the dangers associated with the operation of small vessels and personal watercraft in the confines of the narrow navigational channels used by larger commercial ships entering and departing the port.Every day an average of 1,400 commercial vessel movements occur within the waters of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Many of these vessels such as tankers, container ships, cruise ships, and tug-barge combinations are constrained by their draft and can not maneuver to avoid smaller vessels.The federal navigation rules, also known as "Rules of the Road," address this safety concern by giving these vessels priority, or right-of-way, over smaller vessels when navigating in narrow channels. In addition to being confined when operating within the channel, it can take thousands of yards for a large ship to stop. To illustrate this point, if a water skier falls a thousand feet in front of a moving tug and barge, the skier has less than one minute to get out of the way before being run over.Thus, for obvious safety reasons, recreational boating activities, including fishing, waterskiing, diving, etc., should always be conducted at a safe distance outside the navigation channels. When transiting within or in close proximity to a channel, boaters should keep a sharp lookout for other vessels and always be prepared to "give way" to ships that are constrained in their ability to maneuver.Captain Glenn Wiltshire, Captain of the Port of New York and New Jersey, and Commander of Coast Guard Sector New York said, “While I want all boaters to enjoy the waterways in our area, recent increases in reports of commercial vessels having to take evasive actions to avoid small boats in the channel are of great concern to me.I ask that all boaters be aware of their position and remain outside the main channels to ensure the continued safety of all waterway users. We don’t want to wait for a tragedy to occur.”In carrying out "Operation Clear Channel", Coast Guard units in the New York and New Jersey area will promote boater awareness on this issue through vessel enforcement patrols and visits to local marinas.The Coast Guard will specifically target the approaches to New York Harbor, including the Ambrose Channel, Sandy Hook Channel, and the Raritan Bay reaches.The local boating public should be aware of the penalty provisions within U.S. Code, Title 33, Section 2072, that specify “Whoever operates a vessel in violation of the navigation rules is liable to a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 for each violation, for which penalty the vessel may be seized and the case shall be brought before the district court of the United States of any district within which the vessel may be found."

Mariners interested in increasing their knowledge of boating safety, including the Rules of the Road, should consider a Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety course.Course information is available online at or by calling 1-800-336-BOAT.

Further information concerning Operation Clear Channel can be found at under the New York port directory page or by contacting Lieutenant Scott White at (718) 354-4228.


Editors Note: Still photos from a merchant vessel of pleasure boats crowding a shipping channel are available through Jack Olthius of the Sandy Hook Pilots Association at (718) 448-3900.
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