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#371516 - 03/25/10 07:25 AM Boating Safety in Belize
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In this thread I would like to publish some articles regarding boating safety from Mr. H. Gilbert Swaso (Major Retired) for the “WAFAGUA Nautical Safety Institute” with permission. When you would like to have more information, these are the coordinates: P.O. Box 2307 Belize City, Tel: 670 8297, E–mail: swaso.wnsi@yahoo.com. I will post the articles a week apart, so subjects can be discussed in the thread without changing subject too quickly. The first article will follow below.
Live and let live

#371517 - 03/25/10 07:38 AM Re: Boating Safety in Belize - LIGHTS ON [Re: Short]
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Dear Editor,

Belize is a party to the International Regulation for the Prevention of Collision at Sea since 1991. This International Maritime Organization (IMO) Convention which is also known as COLREGS or the Rules of the Nautical Road mandates the overriding responsibilities of every Master (Boat Captain) to prevent a collision. The Convention emphasize the use of “Good Seamanship”, under the Rule, the Practice of Good Seamanship stipulates that; “It is the responsibility of every vessel Master to take all necessary action to avoid a collision taking into account: The weather, Vessel Traffic Density and the limitations of other vessels. It also mandates that; such action should be taken in ample time and at a safe distance from other vessels”.

Furthermore, the rules also stipulate; amongst others, the use of navigation lights for the various classes and sizes of vessels. Navigating at night requires special care and attention. Vessels operating at night, whether at anchor or underway must carry and exhibit the correct lights. It is important that the Master/Owner ensure that navigation lights on boats are in the right place and displayed appropriately to the respective size and class of the vessel.

Noteworthy is that operating a boat at night is not like driving a car. Vessel navigation lights are used to show other mariners where you are and not to light up the way ahead like a car. Correctly fitted navigation lights indicate the type of boat and its direction of travel. Therefore, “LIGHTS ON” at night and during times of restricted visibility.

It is the responsibility of every Master:

· To display correct navigation lights at night and during times of restricted visibility;
· To ensure that Navigation lights are in the right place and displayed appropriate to the vessel size and class;
· To ensure that all safety equipment, particularly lifejackets are onboard and within easy access for each person onboard;
· To navigate on the correct or starboard (right-hand) side of the channel.

LIGHTS ON will prevent collision and safe lives.


Mr. H. Gilbert Swaso (Major Retired)

Steering a course towards Professional & Efficient Boating Skills

P.O. Box 2307
Belize City
Tel: (501) – 670 – 8297
E–mail: swaso.wnsi@yahoo.com

#373102 - 04/10/10 10:16 PM Re: Boating Safety in Belize - LIGHTS ON [Re: Short]
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An interesting question and response regarding this issue:

Originally Posted By: Questioner
I would like to run the following problem by you: since about a year it seems to have become a fashion among new residents on this coast to install flood lights at the front of their boats. Although they seem to install them for docking purposes, new and inexperienced captains use them especially when there is no moon, blinding all sea traffic.

Local captains encounter this on regular basis being totally blinded, so they have to stop till the boat with headlights pass. It takes minutes to regain sight and to be able to continue. This is very dangerous both for those blinded but also those who use these lights, as they are not able to see anything else but what is in their light path (not even boats with running lights).

Originally Posted By: Mr. H. Gilbert Swaso (Major Retired)
Kindly be informed that this practice is not only illegal but as you are aware very dangerous and done without any regards to the other mariners using the waterways.
Note that I will pass the information to the Ports Commissioner. Hope that the information provided is of some help.

Originally Posted By: Previous Article
Noteworthy is that operating a boat at night is not like driving a car. Vessel navigation lights are used to show other mariners where you are and not to light up the way ahead like a car.

#373272 - 04/13/10 07:13 AM Re: Boating Safety in Belize - COLLISION AT SEA [Re: Short]
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Dear Editor,

The mariners of today are operating their respective vessels in waters that are more congested. Therefore, it is more important than ever before for the mariners to be alert and to maintain a constant “LOOKOUT”. Lookout as stipulated by the Navigation Rules of the Nautical Road; “shall be maintained at all times, by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make full appraisal of the situation and the risk of collision”. Dereliction of this responsibility usually results in devastating consequences. In fact, according to statistic, collision with another vessel is the most common type of marine casualty (accident) that is most frequently caused by “improper lookout”.

A lookout is a well trained mariner who is very knowledgeable and skilled in the art of observation and listening. The lookout once properly trained knows how, where and what to look for and what sounds to be alert for; in order to take the appropriate actions in ample time to prevent a collision. Therefore, if a proper lookout is not maintained, particularly in high traffic density areas, then a collision is imminent. As an example, if a lookout observe that his/her respective vessel appears to be on converging course with another vessel(s), then careful compass or relative bearing should be taken frequently. The bearing of the vessel that is sighted will indicate if the situation to be encountered is a “head on”, “crossing” or an “overtaking” situation and if a risk of collision exists. Once the situation is ascertained, the Boat Captain shall take action in accordance with the Navigation Rules as a Stand on or the Give way vessel.

It must also be noted that even if a particular vessel have the right of way, the Navigation Rules also requires the Boat Captain to do everything possible to avoid a collision – even if it means a departure from the Rules in order to avoid the immediate danger.

Essentially, training and education will make the mariner more knowledgeable of his/her responsibilities particularly those responsibilities stipulated by the Navigation Rules. Knowledge of the Rules will prevent collision, therefore mariner know the Rules thus save lives!!!!


Mr. H. Gilbert Swaso (Major Retired)

Steering a course towards Professional & Efficient Boating Skills

P.O. Box 2307
Belize City
Tel: (501) – 670 – 8297
E–mail: swaso.wnsi@yahoo.com

#373881 - 04/19/10 05:43 AM Re: Boating Safety in Belize - BOATING SAFETY TIPS [Re: Short]
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Dear Editor,

The incident of Sunday 21 March 2010 as reported by the media particularly on Channel Five and Seven respectively is an example of how not to conduct any boating activity. Thank to the almighty God the lives of 35 people were spared.

Experience and history has demonstrated to us that the sea has afflicted several seafarers before us and that it is foolhardy to venture out to sea or any water body unprepared. As a result seafarers must acquire a solid background in many disciplines that comprises nautical science and seamanship particularly because Safety is an important concept in seamanship.

Easter is one of a time of the year that several Belizeans venture out to sea to enjoy the wonders of our marine paradise. As such Master and Owner of vessel are advised to assume their respective responsibilities of safety to their crew and passengers.

It is the responsibility of every Master:

· When you are operating a vessel you have a responsibility to your crew and passengers.

· As the Captain of a vessel, you are responsible for ensuring that your passengers understand basic safety practices and law onboard.

· Use a pre-departure checklist to make sure you’ve taken the necessary safety precautions.

· Make and File a FLOAT PLAN

· Ensure that you have enough fuel for the trip; use the 1/3 Rule
o 1/3 to your destination
o 1/3 to return to your Home port
o 1/3 for RESERVE

· Before departing, have a safety discussion with your passengers. You should point out:
o Location of PFDs, fire extinguishers, VDSs, and first aid kit.
o The need for each passenger to wear their PFD, especially during times of high boat traffic, severe weather, or any other dangerous boating conditions.
o Safety procedures if caught in rough weather, if someone falls overboard or if a fire erupts
o How to signal for help or use the VHF marine radio to make a MAYDAY call.
o Risk of consuming alcohol.

· Don’t throw any litter overboard. Bring all your trash back onshore to dispose of properly. Be sure to retrieve anything that blows overboard.

· Fishing line and plastics are deadly for fish and other marine species and should never be discarded in the water or on land near the water.

· Remember, if you have room to take it with you; you have room to bring it back!

· Carry reusable items such as plates, silverware, and glasses to reduce waste.

· Accidents can be easily be prevented; Captains only need to:



Mr. H. Gilbert Swaso (Major Retired)

Steering a course towards Professional & Efficient Boating Skills

P.O. Box 2307
Belize City
Tel: (501) – 670 – 8297
E–mail: swaso.wnsi@yahoo.com

#409154 - 06/03/11 04:52 AM Re: Boating Safety in Belize - THE PARALLEL RULE [Re: Short]
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Dear Editor,

Kindly allow me some space in your newspaper to explain a boating safety procedure, which I refer to as the “Parallel Rule”. This Rule which every Master (Boat Captain) is encouraged to use, whenever applied will improve safety at sea. The Parallel Rule in this case is not the piece of equipment that is used in geometry or on the Navigation Chart to find the Course to Steer, but rather a means of navigating a vessel using two or more methods of navigation.

Currently most Masters licensed by the Belize Port Authority are navigating their vessels within Belizean waters using local knowledge and/or a Global Positioning System (GPS). In most cases these Masters do not know how to use a Navigation Chart, nor have they taken or are certified in either Coastal or Electronic Navigation Courses. Consequently, their knowledge and use of the GPS units is primarily by trial and error. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the same Masters are not tested (written or practical) for their navigational skill in using these methods because it is not part of the requirement for issuance of a license by the Belize Port Authority. Through this oversight, our mariners and their passengers (tourists & family members included) are essentially placed at risk by the same Authority whose responsibility it is to ensure boating safety and safety of lives at sea.

Noteworthy, is that the Navigational Chart is not a legally mandated part of the safety equipment that shall be onboard every licensed vessel. As a consequently it is usually not taken to sea by Masters of our Domestic Registry. The Navigational Chart provides important information about the environment in which the Master will be operating, including but not limited to the nature of the bottom, depth of the navigable waters, location of charted navigational hazards and ways of pinpointing the vessel’s position (latitude and longitude) as indicated by the GPS in relation to surrounding areas. This reduces the risk of the vessel coming into contact with navigational hazards, the bottom and/or reef structures.

GPS units are gaining popularity and are widely used by several Masters. These Masters put great faith in the GPS without realizing that there are inherent errors. They often do not realize or forget that navigating with GPS is not always as accurate as it seems because the manufactures and even the U.S. Department of Defense, which maintains the system, indicate that; “the GPS signal that you receive should be accurate to within 50 feet or 15 meters 95% of the time, while 5% can be out as much as 300 feet”. In practice, however, the average tends to be 30 feet. The GPS units also do not indicate subsurface hazards.

Ultimately, because of the lack of training and certification within the Seafarers’ Profession most local Masters rely on local knowledge. Local knowledge (Piloting) or the use of natural features is greatly dependent on good weather and visibility.

Considering that; the weather is very unpredictable and can deteriorate very rapidly, that GPS units have inherent errors and are not as accurate as they seem and that the navigation chart provides vital information including location of navigation hazards, the safest way to navigate is to use a combination of any two or three methods of navigation, hence the “Parallel Rule”. The parallel rule suggests that masters should not rely entirely on only one method whenever plying their vessels. A possible application of the parallel rule would have a master plotting a course to his destination on a chart, making sure to avoid indicated hazards, periodically ‘fixing’ his position on the chart using the GPS unit and monitoring progress and position using local knowledge. Use of the Parallel Rule will minimize accidents and will evidently ensure safety of lives and property and equally important marine environmental protection.


Major (Retired) H. Gilbert Swaso
Managing Director, WNSI

Steering a course towards Professional & Efficient Boating Skills

P.O. Box 2307
Belize City
Tel: (501) – 670 – 8297
E–mail: swaso.wnsi@yahoo.com


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