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Maritime / 8.06.2020

Right of Way on the Waterway

It’s common knowledge that cars and other vehicles must obey the “rules of the road,” including right of way regulations. What some people may not realize, however, is that boats and watercraft must also follow right of way regulations on the waterway.

The Rules Depend on Where You’re Boating

Different areas and bodies of water have unique navigation rules. The four categories of waterway rules include:

  • International Rules: Apply to all vessels on the high seas and in waters connected to them that are navigable.
  • Inland Rules: Apply to all vessels upon the inland waters of the United States.
  • Great Lakes: Includes the Great Lakes and their connecting and tributary waters.
  • Western Rivers: Includes the Mississippi River, its tributaries, South Pass, and Southwest Pass, to the navigational demarcation lines dividing the high seas from harbors, rivers, and other inland waters of the United States.

The United States Coast Guard provides more detail as to when and how these rules apply. In general, the following rules of the waterway apply:

  • Vessels without power have right of way over powerboats in most cases. There are certain exceptions, such as in an overtaking situation.
  • When crossing, the vessel approaching from starboard has right of way.
  • When meeting head-on, each vessel must alter course to starboard and give a wide berth to the oncoming vessel.
  • When approaching a vessel whose intentions are unclear, take evasive actions and attempt to communicate with the other vessel.

Injured in a Boating Accident? We’re Here to Help

Even if you follow all of the “rules of the waterway,” other boaters may not. If you have sustained a maritime injury caused by a reckless boat operator, our team is here to help you recover the compensation you need and deserve.

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