The Vancouver Police Department’s Marine Unit is advising boaters to use extreme caution around freighters and to give them ample sea room, following a close-quarters incident over the weekend between a 500-foot freighter and a 14-foot sailing dinghy off Jericho.

The freighter was travelling at 2 knots (3.7 km/h) and the pilot was forced to put the freighter’s engines into “full astern” (an immediate reverse) and do an emergency drop of the anchor when the sailing dinghy cut across her path and overturned. The pilot of the freighter advised that if the freighter had been doing another knot, they would not have been able to avoid running over the two persons on the sailing dinghy, which would have most likely resulted in a double fatality. The freighter weighed 21,000 gross tons, but they can weigh much more and can take up to a quarter mile to stop.

In this case, the operator of the dinghy did not even initially realize that the freighter was in fact moving.

“People out on the water must remain aware of where they are and stay away from freighters,” says VPD Marine Unit Constable Jamie Gibson. “Never cut in front of them.”

This caution also applies to the cruise ships, which may travel up to 8 knots through First Narrows on their way out to sea.

“Boaters should stay out of navigational channels,” says Gibson. “Refer to the Canada Shipping Act – Collision Reguations that outline rights-of-way.”