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Boaters reminded to stay safe as busy season on the water gets underway early

May 31, 2023

Vancouver, B.C.: Boaters and other recreational users of Vancouver’s waterways are reminded to follow important safety guidelines, as large numbers of people hit the water early this year. 

With an unseasonably warm May and the end of pandemic-related restrictions, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s harbour patrol teams have talked to 30% more boaters and paddle sport users in Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River about safe boating this year compared to the same period in 2022, including twice as many interactions in May alone. 

As the federal agency responsible for the shared stewardship of the waters that make up the Port of Vancouver, the port authority responds to concerns and promotes awareness amongst boaters and other recreational users in its jurisdiction around how to act in a safe manner that does not put themselves or others in harm’s way. The port authority’s harbour patrol team educates hundreds of recreational users on the water each year—such as boaters, kayakers and stand-up paddlers—on safety considerations and local rules, such as speed limits and why it’s important to stay clear of deep-sea vessels. 

“We love seeing boaters and paddlers out enjoying the waters that make up the Port of Vancouver, and our focus is working with all users to build the awareness and understanding needed to support a safe shared space for recreational and commercial traffic,” said Jason Krott, manager, marine operations and fleet, at the port authority. “For example, many recreational boaters and paddlers are unaware of the need to stay clear of large, deep-sea ships due to their limited visibility, slower stopping speeds and potential to cause dangerous wakes. There are also specific speed limits in busier areas or those with higher numbers of non-motorized craft, such as the Lower Indian Arm, Grant Narrows, Coal Harbour and Lions Gate Bridge areas.” 

Feedback received on a new speed limit of five knots introduced by the port authority in 2022 in the Lower Indian Arm near Belcarra shows that this change has increased the feeling of safety for all water-users—particularly those using human-powered craft.  

“In recent years we’ve noticed an increase in the number of safe boating interactions our harbour patrol teams are having with paddlers using kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards,” Krott said. “These interactions include everything from providing proactive safety advice to asking them to leave areas off-limits for non-motorized recreational watercraft such as the Inner Harbour area between the Lions Gate and Second Narrows bridges.” 

Safe Boating Awareness Week ran from May 20 to 26 this year and aimed to help educate all boaters on how to be safe and make informed choices when on the water. 

For more information, visit 


Eight tips for staying safe on the water: 

  1. Watch out for large ships – Large, deep-sea cargo ships have limited visibility. Don’t assume they can see you. They also can’t move quickly, especially in narrow channels. Even if you have the right-of-way, you must yield to them. 
  2. Never get between a tugboat and its tow – Tow cables are often submerged and not visible. 
  3. Be aware of speed restrictions – Waterways are busier in the summer season, so it’s important to operate your boat at a safe speed. Consult our port information guide for speed limits. 
  4. Be mindful of others – Boaters and human-powered watercraft such as kayaks, paddleboards, canoes should keep a sharp look out for each other. Avoid boating in swimming areas. 
  5. Think about conditions – Consider environmental conditions, such as wind, weather, currents and tides, to help you prepare for the safest route. During summer months, the freshet runoff can increase current flows, debris, and water levels. These changes have a significant impact on bridge clearances and riverbed depth in the Fraser River.  
  6. Marine emergencies – In an emergency, press *16 on your mobile phone, VHF: 16 on your radio or phone 911.  
  7. Remain in communication – Boaters should monitor VHF (Very High Frequency) 16 at all times to learn about restricted areas. In Burrard Inlet, monitor VHF 12 and on the Fraser River 74. Pay attention to the following warning signals: one prolonged blast is a warning, and five or more short and rapid blasts of a ship’s whistle means “danger – stay clear”. 
  8. Bring along necessary equipment – Equip your boat or craft with precautionary safety items such as a flashlight, whistle and a sound-signaling device. Ensure everyone is wearing a lifejacket or a personal flotation device. 

Media contact 

Alex Munro  
Media relations advisor  
[email protected]    

About the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the Port of Vancouver     

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is the federal agency responsible for the shared stewardship of the Port of Vancouver. Like all Canada Port Authorities, we are accountable to the federal minister of transport, and operate pursuant to the Canada Marine Act with a mandate to enable Canada’s trade through the Port of Vancouver, while protecting the environment and considering local communities. The port authority is structured as a non-share corporation, is financially self-sufficient and does not rely on tax dollars for operations. Our revenues come from port terminals and tenants who lease port lands, and from port users who pay various fees such as harbour dues. Profits are reinvested in port infrastructure. The port authority oversees the use of port land and water, which includes more than 16,000 hectares of water, over 1,500 hectares of land, and approximately 350 kilometres of shoreline. Located on the southwest coast of British Columbia in Canada, the Port of Vancouver extends from Roberts Bank and the Fraser River up to and including Burrard Inlet, bordering 16 municipalities and intersecting the traditional territories and treaty lands of more than 35 Coast Salish Indigenous groups. The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest port, and the third largest in North America by tonnes of cargo. Enabling the trade of approximately $305 billion in goods with more than 170 world economies, port activities sustain 115,300 jobs, $7 billion in wages, and $11.9 billion in GDP across Canada. 

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