In the late afternoon on August 30, 2016, a group of eight kayakers set off from the dock at West 44th Street in New York City for a guided tour along the Hudson River. The intended route was south along the waterfront of midtown Manhattan, then southwest down the river. As the tour passed the New York Waterways ferry piers at West 39th Street, a commercial passenger ferry backed out of its berth, then turned west to head toward New Jersey. The kayak tour guide attempted to signal the ferry captain by waiving his arms, but the captain later told investigators that because of the glare of the setting sun he did not see the paddlers in time to avoid colliding with them. Three kayakers, including the guide, were injured in the collision—two of them seriously. The ferry captain alerted authorities and used his vessel and crew to help rescue the kayakers. New York Waterways did not learn until several hours later that all kayakers had been rescued and accounted for.
The New York City accident illustrates the dangers of recreational and commercial vessels operating on shared waterways, and several stakeholders had previously discussed with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) their concerns rising from an increase in encounters between these types of vessels. Given the number of encounters currently observed between commercial and recreational vessels, the predicted increase in the number of such encounters, and feedback from marine industry representatives, the NTSB sought to better understand the scope of the issue and determine the extent to which the safety of our nation’s waterways is impacted. This report provides the NTSB’s findings as well as recommendations to improve shared waterway safety.
In this photo, kayakers are operating in close proximity to a barge and towing vessel in the Chicago River.
Photo Courtesy of Larry Dostal