Every year, more than 26,000 ships pass through the Great Belt and approx. 35,000 ships pass through the Sound.
Many of these ships are large cargo or passenger ships. In order to avoid dangerous situations with large ships, seven traffic separation systems have been established in Danish waters where it is important to sail correctly in accordance with the provisions for preventing collisions at sea.
Nevertheless, dangerous situations occur in the traffic separation systems every year when small pleasure boats either have underestimated the situation or do not have knowledge of the regulations, thus getting them into difficulties with a risk of colliding with a large ship. This is not only dangerous, it is also very annoying for a large ship that has to follow a traffic route in order not to go aground or risk a collision with another large ship.
Large ships need much more room for manoeuvring and stopping than small boats, which is sometimes forgotten when yachtsmen enter a traffic separation system. Furthermore, it is difficult for the navigating officer on a ship's navigation bridge to guess about the intentions of a small pleasure boat when deciding how to manoeuvre during the next few minutes and several nautical miles ahead.
Large ships may lose their overview
Often large ships are fitted with effective radar installations, but it may still be difficult to predict the traffic if the navigating officer is navigating an area with many pleasure boats. Here, the regulations on navigation in traffic separation systems are intended to help make the traffic flow in a more predictable manner.
A good example is the below radar image from a large ship navigating densely trafficked waters with many pleasure boats.
Radar image from a large ship navigating waters with many small pleasure boats where no traffic separation system has been established.
Often water police units have to stop yachtsmen
Water police units are patrolling Danish waters to ensure that the regulations for preventing collisions at sea are observed. They have, inter alia, particular focus on traffic separation systems. Unfortunately, the police often have to stop pleasure boats
navigating illegally and presenting a danger to themselves when entering traffic separation systems.
There are examples of large ships that have had to sail into a traffic route in the opposite direction or to make a sharp turn – thus getting very close to other large ships – in order not to hit a pleasure boat that did not navigate correctly in the traffic separation system.
The police use photos and videos to document cases where the regulations have not been observed.
Here are a couple of examples of incautious yachtsmen who have not followed the regulations and who have been filed by the police:
A little dinghy is lying in the middle of the traffic route where a large merchant ship has to pass at the side of the traffic route, just prior to the turning point off Elsinore.
A leisure fishing vessel has placed itself in the traffic route where a merchant ship has to pass at a small distance and sound a warning signal.
What do the regulations say?
You can get information about how to navigate a traffic separation system in the Danish Maritime Authority's "Sail safely and legally in the Sound and in other places with traffic separation systems" (in Danish).
You can find additional information about the regulations for preventing collisions at sea on the Danish Pleasure Craft Safety Board's website (in Danish).