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Starboard (right side) rules for navigation

Starboard (right side) rules for navigation

Environment Canterbury has fielded calls from boaties upset that a heading in the latest issue of Living Here, its regional newsletter, could create a false and potentially dangerous impression.

The headline, “Keeping left on the water” was misleading given that boats approaching each other head on, should go to their right or starboard sides to avoid collision. The same applies on rivers, boats should stick to the right-hand, starboard side.

“The absolutely standard centuries-old national and international rule on the water is to keep right,“ said ECan navigation safety manager Evan Walker. “The story does refer people to the web page – www.ecan.govt.nz/boatingrules - which contains all the boating rules for the region’s water bodies and lakes but we know that too few boaties read these in detail so general safety and collision-avoidance rules are important. 

“ECan has 10 contracted patrol teams and 60 more volunteer maritime enforcement officers over the summer period who spend a lot of time talking to people and educating them about fundamental rules, such as keep to the right, and there is widespread ignorance still out there. 

“We see people buying jetskis who go out with absolutely no boating knowledge so it’s important for people to know the starboard, right hand rule for the water.”


Key guidelines:

The skipper/operator of a boat is responsible for the safety of everyone on board.
If power vessels are meeting end on, both must alter their course to starboard (right side). If they are crossing, give way to starboard.
Children under 10 years of age in boats/jetskis less than five metres in length must wear life jackets when the vessel is underway
Life jackets must be carried to fit all people on board – we recommend that you wear your life jacket when in the boat
A powerboat or jetski that can exceed 10 knots can only be operated if you are over the age of 15.
Vessels towing waterskiers or toboggans etc require a “lookout” person, in addition to the driver, for safety.
Proper navigation lights must be displayed when dark
Access lanes for specific purposes (eg waterskiing) are marked with orange and black buoys within 200 metres of shore.
People navigating through an access lane area must take the most direct route on the right-hand or starboard side of the vessel.
Do not exceed five knots within 200 metres of the shore or a boat displaying a diver’s flag
Do not exceed five knots within 50 metres of any boat or person swimming
Keep 50 metres apart if speed is over five knots
Overtaking boats must keep clear of the boat being overtaken
In rivers, give way to vessels coming downstream.
Do not set nets in shipping lanes.

Questions for skippers to ask themselves before setting out:

Do you have enough life jackets?

Have you checked your anchor and all other equipment?

Have you told someone where you are going?

Have you checked the weather forecast?

Have you checked the tides in your local newspaper?


Lake Ruataniwha will be closed on these days for 2009 rowing regattas:

January 10, 11, practice day Jan 9, Otago Championship

January 24, 25, practice day Jan 23, Canterbury Championship

January 31, February 1, practice day Jan 30, South Island Championship

February 17-22, practice days Feb 15,16, National Championship

Feb 28 to March 1, practice day Feb 27, Fulton Hogan Canterbury Mazda

March 14,15, practice day March 13, South Island Schools Championship

April 10-14, practice days April 8,9, NZ University Tournament

The region’s navigation safety bylaws apply to all inland lakes and rivers where people operate boats, dinghies or jet-skis, and a number of coastal areas, from north of Kaikoura to the Waitaki catchment in the south and to the main divide.

All incidents and accidents happening on the water should be reported to the Regional Harbourmaster within 24 hours by phoning 03 328 9168 or 03 328 9169 or fax 03 328 9158.


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