Navigation in congested waters and restricted areas

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            Voyagers are not always performed on high seas far from offshore dangers. Ships have often to shape their course to the coast, among all kinds of natural and man-made obstructions to navigation. A typical example of this kind of sailing is navigating a vessel in narrows. When sailing through narrows, ships should proceed with the greatest  possible care and frequently at a reduced speed which is sometimes is sufficient to have the vessel under control (not to loose steerage).

Nowadays to facilitate sailing in congested waters traffic separation schemes have been introduced in a good number of narrows, of which the Strait of Dover and the English Channel are among the most difficult for European shipping. Entering narrow waters with established routeing, ships are to take recommended track to avoid traffic from the opposite direction. Modern VLCCs and other mammoth vessels are to sail along specified deep-draught routes. These recommended traffic lanes are shown on plans and nautical charts. In the narrows where there is no routeing ships usually keep to the starboard side of channel or fairway.

Overtaking has until recently been prohibited in most congested and restricted waters. As present, however, in order to avoid unnecessary congestion due to rapid growth of sea traffic, ships may overtake one another almost anywhere, but if intending to do so they must ask the permission of the ship to be overtaken, either by VHF or sound signals and commence overtaking manoeuvre only when such permission is granted.

To ensure safety of navigation while effecting overtaking or passing manoeuvres in narrow waters, shipmasters must comply with pertinent rules of the international regulations for preventing collisions at sea. Local regulations, which give advice as to peculiarities of sailing in certain localities, should also be followed closely.


1.  Routering is a complex of measures concerning routes followed by ships and aiming at reducing the risk of causalities; it includes traffic separation schemes, fairways tracks and deep-draught routes.

2.  A traffic separation scheme is a scheme congested areas by separating traffic.

3.  A traffic lane in an area within definite limits inside which all ships are advised to proceed in approximately the same direction.

4.  A track is a recommended direction of general traffic flow without definite boundaries or with only one such boundary.

5.  A deep-draught route, which is primarily selected for deep-drawing vessels, is a route outside which they cannot navigate safely because of their draught.

6.  A fairway is an area within definite limits inside which two-way traffic normally may be expected.

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