Commercial Traffic

Commercial Traffic

The Ohio River is classified as federal waters, and all boaters must comply with the U.S. Coast Guard requirements. Commercial vessels, including towboats and tugboats, operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. These vessels operate under significant constraints one of which is that they are confined to a shipping lane within a channel. Recreational boaters must yield the right of way to all commercial vessels. Another important constraint is the pilot's "blind spot." The blind spot area is determined by drawing a line from the captain’s eyes in the pilothouse to the front of the barges and extend it down to the water. The diagram below illustrates that the blind spot area can extend for hundreds of feet in front of the barges. Therefore, do not canoe, kayak, ski or ride your personal watercraft (PWC) in the path of barges. Barges also have limited navigation due to their size and weight and therefore cannot turn or stop quickly. It can take up to three miles for a towboat to stop a string of full barges. The speed that a barge travels is deceptive. For example, a tow can travel one mile in seven minutes and if a water skier falls a thousand feet in front of a moving tug, the skier has less than one minute to get out of the way.  In addition, "Wheel Wash" is a strong underwater current caused by a towboat’s engines that can result in severe turbulence hundreds of yards behind a large vessel; consequently, recreational watercraft must maintain at least 1000 feet in clearance behind the rear of towboats.