Boating Safety Initiative: Barnegat Bay
West Trenton, N.J. - Beginning in 2012, New Jersey mariners may notice a reduction in the number of regulatory buoys on the waters of the State. A boating safety pilot program is being conducted, which will scrutinize the placement of regulatory buoys on the water. The goal of the program is to eliminate many of the unnecessary regulatory buoys that litter waterways such as the Barnegat Bay. Regulatory buoys can be easily identified by their color, which is white with orange bands. A message, such as “slow speed/no wake” is also displayed on the buoy.
In 1988 there were about 35 slow speed/no wake buoys placed in waterways throughout the State. During the summer of 2011, there were more than 750 slow speed/no wake buoys in the Barnegat Bay alone. It is possible that up to one third of the regulatory buoys in the bay can be eliminated through this program.
The New Jersey State Police, Marine Services Bureau, Point Pleasant Station personnel are evaluating the areas where regulatory buoys have historically been placed, in an effort to determine which regulatory buoys are no longer needed. Once identified, unnecessary buoys will not be placed in the bay for the 2012 boating season. While many factors must be considered when making a determination about a specific buoy, the final determination as to whether a buoy will be eliminated or retained, will be based on public safety and quality of life.
The buoys that will undergo the closest scrutiny are, for the most part, slow speed/no wake buoys that had been placed in the Bay to warn mariners of a temporary slow speed/no wake area and are no longer required, and buoys that are placed in locations where it is clear, based on the existing laws and regulations that all mariners are expected to know, that vessels are required to slow down to no wake speed.
Additionally, alternative means of marking certain areas are being explored. One of the methods being considered is through the use of signs, which would be utilized to warn mariners when they are approaching a slow speed/no wake area, and inform them when they are leaving a slow speed/no wake area. This strategy could be very effective on long narrow channels where a small number of signs could eliminate the need for many buoys.
The elimination of some of the regulatory buoys will not change the way in which mariners are permitted to transit the State’s waterways. New Jersey laws require that the speed of every vessel be regulated so as to not cause danger or injury to persons or property, either directly or by the effect of the vessels wake. In addition, New Jersey regulations require that all vessels must be slowed to “slow speed/no wake” when passing:
- A marina, pier, dock, wharf or abutment at a distance of 200 feet or less;
- Work barges, platforms or floats while actually engaged in work related activity;
- Through bridge openings of 400 feet or less;
- Through lagoons, canals and confined areas of less than 200 feet in width;
- Vessels not under command;
- Emergency vessels displaying sequential flashing or rotating blue lights; or
- Vessels engaged in activities recognized by the Coast Guard displaying rotating or sequential flashing red and yellow lights.
New Jersey regulations define "slow speed/no wake" as the speed at which a vessel moves through the water and is able to maintain minimum headway in relation to the vessel or structure being passed and producing the minimum wake possible.
Regulatory buoys (including Slow speed/no wake buoys) are placed in the waterways at the beginning of each boating season, and removed at the end of each boating season. While the pilot program is not intended to be a cost saving measure, unnecessary buoys are costly to maintain, detract from the natural beauty of the bay, and pose a hazard to vessels navigating on the bay.
For more information, please visit the New Jersey State Police, Marine Services Bureau, web site at www.njsp.org/maritime. From there, go to “Boating Safety Initiatives.”
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