Sharing Rivers With Recreational Boaters Topic At IWC
The Waterways Journal
16 March 2015
By Heather Ervin
A discussion on sharing the waterways with recreational boaters
was held during the Inland Waterways Conference on Wednesday,
March 4 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown St. Louis, Mo.
The panel was led by Ed Huntsman, recreational boating safety
specialist with the Coast Guard; Gary Frommelt, vice
president-marine operations with Entertainment Cruises; and Chris
Stec, chief operating officer with the American Canoe Association.
Moderated by Alan Bernstein, director of Maritime Meetings, the
panel suggested ways in which the inland marine industry can
continue to practice safe operating conditions while sharing the
water with recreational boaters, fishermen, cruise ships and
others who enjoy the waterways.
“As with all professionals, towboat operators can continue to
serve as good role models using sound signals, proper VHF radio
procedures, not overusing their powerful search lights at night
that can blind boaters, and try to remember that those
recreational boaters they encounter may not have even a basic
understanding of the rules of the road,” said Hunstman. “Captains
shouldn’t hesitate to sound a danger signal if they suspect there
is a situation developing and use their PA system to let boaters
know they are entering a dangerous area and to allow towboat
operators room to maneuver.”
Safety suggestions for recreational boaters were also discussed.
“Recreational boaters should exercise situational awareness
anytime they are on the water,” said Huntsman. “Boating needs to
be fun, but prudent boaters prepare beforehand to ensure basic
safety measures have been put into place.”
These safety precautions include obtaining a vessel safety check
from the Coast Guard or U.S. Power Squadron; ensuring the boat has
been serviced and fueled before leaving its slip or ramp;
obtaining a boater’s education course through the Coast Guard, the
Department of Natural Resources, BoatUS, etc.; checking that their
VHF radio is operational and knowing how to use it properly;
avoiding alcohol or drugs while on a boat; staying hydrated to
avoid illness during operation; and wearing a life jacket that is
Coast Guard approved.
Huntsman said it is crucial that boaters receive educational
training on how to properly and safely operate their boats and
watercraft through state or boating agencies. Approved courses can
be found online at nasbla.org.
“We’re all boaters trying to have a good day on the water,” added
Huntsman. “Whether we are professionals delivering cargo,
instructing a student or out for the day with our family and
friends, we have a right in this country enjoy the waterways. We
also have a duty to operate our boats in a safe manner, which
means watching out for the other guy.”
Hunstman said recreational boaters have told him not to worry.
“They say it will never happen to me, but to the other guy,” he
said. “I’m quick to remind them that to everyone else, they are
the other guy.”
Related to the issue of boater safety on the water, the National
Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) has
announced a campaign entitled Spring Aboard to be held April
20–26. It is open to participation by all states, territories,
boating education organizations, instructors and course providers,
regardless of whether their state’s boater education courses are
mandated or voluntary.
According to a report released by the Coast Guard in collaboration
with the Department of Homeland Security in 2013, the number of
recreational boating-related deaths, injuries and accidents have
decreased dramatically since 1997. Accidents have decreased by
nearly half from more than 8,000 accidents in 1997 to 4,062
accidents in 2013.