North Sea makeover gives boaters elbow room
THE HAGUE _ The North Sea was never a good place for yachters to take a nap. Annually, 250,000+ ships move through its waters off the Netherlands which _ anticipating more traffic _ has just reshuffled cargo routes. The coast guard spent 3 days relocating buoys creating new offshore shipping lanes that took effect Aug. 1. They give offshore boaters a little more elbow room. Still no place for a nap, though.
A spaghetti grid of intersecting shipping lanes has been replaced with a more sensible layout. From now on traffic from the English Channel to Germany and back has its own dedicated sea lanes. Hundreds of kilometers of routes have been abolished or moved. Same with anchorages. Separate lanes have been laid in and out of IJmuiden for the growing ranks of cruise and cargo ships headed for Amsterdam.
North-south lanes have been moved westward meaning yachters will see fewer tankers and other large craft. Obstacle areas (such as platforms) have been reconfigured along with caution zones. “It is the largest rejigging of shipping routes ever,” says Jacques van Kooten of the Dutch Management Service. “These route changes were approved last November by the International Maritime Organization. We had crisscrossing routes. We have separated that more.”
Sitting atop of the busy Dover Strait, North Sea shipping lanes serve large ports _ notably Rotterdam, Antwerp, London, Zeebrugge, Felixstowe, Hamburg, Bremen and Bremerhaven. They are also used by ferries, fishing boats and recreational boaters. The at times shallow North Sea is dotted with oil and gas platforms, ever larger wind parks, no-go areas used for military exercises and ammunition dumping grounds labeled as ‘’areas to be avoided.”
The Netherlands Hydrographic Office has produced new North Sea charts. Notices to Mariners are published on the website of the Netherlands Hydrographic Office (www.hydro.nl) and that of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (www.ukho.gov.uk).