Attention all sailors/boaters:

We have noticed a concerning trend recently with many sailing and recreational vessels coming dangerously close to large commercial ships in Hamilton Harbour.  Please read this and pass the information along to anyone who you feel might benefit from this message.


Cst. Ben Rushton #1118

Hamilton Police Service – Marine Unit

(905) 546-4941



The below photos were provided to Hamilton Police Marine Unit by a crew member aboard a laker in Hamilton Harbour.  These images were captured on Thursday June 9th, 2016 at around 6:45pm in the area just north of Pier 12.

Notice how close these sailboats were to this ship, as well as the limited visibility from the bridge.

The ship in this case sounded several short blasts of their horn to alert the sailors, yet they maintained their course.

Please read on; important information follows below these pictures.

hamilton 1

hamilton 2


Despite what some may think, sailing vessels DO NOT have right of way over all other vessels on the water.  According to the Collision Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act, “a sailing vessel underway shall keep out of the way of a vessel not under command, a vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre, a vessel engaged in fishing”.  Furthermore, if a sailboat is being propelled by motor, and not wind, it becomes a power-driven vessel and falls under the same rules of the road as any other pleasure craft.

Hamilton Harbour is a commercial Port with mixed recreational and commercial traffic.  The large commercial ships that enter the port are restricted in their ability to manoeuvre; they cannot and will not give way to sailing vessels and pleasure craft!

Please watch this video produced by the Canadian Marine Pilots’ Association in cooperation with Transport Canada.  It’s very informative:

The Hamilton Police Marine Unit and the Hamilton Port Authority are jointly running a boating safety project that includes educating boaters about safe navigation in Hamilton Harbour; see the attached pamphlet for more information.

The key points to remember in regards to navigating around large commercial ships are:

  • keep watch to avoid collisions
  • remember it is harder for them to see you or to change their route to avoid you
  • do not cross closely in front of larger vessels
  • steer clear of shipping lanes (marked on charts)
  • yield to large vessels and stay well clear of them

Fines for careless or unsafe operation of a vessel can be over $600.  Furthermore, criminal charges may be applicable if one’s actions result in property damage, personal injury, or death.

Thank you for reading and for boating safely.  Please spread the message!