Victoria Harbour


Port of Victoria Traffic Scheme

Introduction to Victoria Harbour

The Port of Victoria is home to many activities including international ferry services, commercial tugs and barges, fishing fleets, harbour ferries and water taxis, whale watching operations, seaplanes and numerous power driven and non-power driven recreational craft such as kayaks and sculls. There are also numerous “Special Events” that have an impact on port traffic and general operations.

Aviation and marine traffic in the Port of Victoria has increased over the past few years and your cooperation is needed to ensure effective operations and safety in the port. The following rules, special procedures and restrictions have been developed jointly by port users and regulatory authorities and apply to all vessels and seaplanes operating in the Port of Victoria.

Note: For official information on marine aids to navigation, water depths, etc., please refer to Chart #3412 published by the Canadian Hydrographic Service.

Harbour Characteristics

For the purpose of this traffic scheme, the Port of Victoria may be considered in four parts:

  • the OUTER HARBOUR extending from the breakwater to Shoal Point,
  • the * MIDDLE HARBOUR extending from Shoal Point to Laurel Point,
  • the INNER HARBOUR extending from Laurel Point to the Johnson Street Bridge, and
  • the UPPER HARBOUR extending north of the Johnson Street Bridge.

Located in the middle of the MIDDLE HARBOUR and extending into the OUTER HARBOUR are two Unmarked Seaplane Take Off and Landing Areas, as well as an unmarked Seaplane Taxiway area just north of Pelly Island.

Located on the south of the MIDDLE HARBOUR and extending into the OUTER HARBOUR are two Inbound/Outbound Traffic Lanes. The eastern portion of the division between the inbound and outbound traffic lanes is marked with five lighted yellow cautionary buoys flashing every 4 seconds.

Located just off the north shore of the MIDDLE HARBOUR are four information buoys — white and orange in colour. These buoys mark the eastern most limit of the seaplane take off and landing area and as well serve to separate non-power driven vessel traffic from seaplanes on the water.

The vertical clearance under the Johnson Street Bridge at high-water is 5.9m (19ft) and the width of the channel between pilings is 37m (122ft).


White strobe lights are located at Shoal Point, Laurel Point, Berens Island and on Pelly Island and are activated by the Flight Service Station to alert mariners of the imminent takeoff or landing of a seaplane. When these strobe lights are activated, use extreme caution.

The Rules of the Road: “Collision Avoidance”

A seaplane on the water shall, in general, keep well clear of all vessels and avoid impeding their navigation. In circumstances, however, where risk of collision exists, vessels (including seaplanes) are required to comply with the REGULATIONS FOR THE PREVENTION OF COLLISIONS (Collision Regulations).

Mariners are directed to, and are reminded that Part B — Steering and Sailing Rules of the Collision Regulations describe responsibilities between vessels in all conditions of visibility.

* Note: Marine Chart #3412 and the Canada Flight Supplement show the Inner Harbour as consisting of both the Middle and Inner Harbour areas.

Note: All references to vessel includes ships as defined in the Canada Marine Act (CMA) 2. (1)

Vessel Operating Procedures

Power Driven Vessels less than 20m (65 ft) in Length, including sailboats, shall transit the OUTER HARBOUR and the MIDDLE HARBOUR via the vessel Inbound/Outbound Traffic Lanes, as indicated on the chart.

Power Driven Vessels of 20m (65 ft) in Length or greater shall transit the MIDDLE HARBOUR via the Seaplane Take Off and Landing Areas, or via the Inbound Traffic Lane and shall transit these areas without stopping or delay.

Non-power Driven Vessels including row boats, rowing sculls, kayaks and canoes are authorized to use the OUTER, MIDDLE, INNER and UPPER HARBOUR for recreational purposes. Non-power driven vessels are, whenever possible, to avoid transiting the centre channel under the Johnson Street Bridge by remaining inside the fender piles and the shore on either the west or east side when transiting to and from the INNER HARBOUR with the west side being preferred. While in the MIDDLE HARBOUR, or in transit to the OUTER HARBOUR, non-power driven vessels shall transit by using the Outbound Traffic Lane or by operating close to the north shore, north of the four white information buoys until west of Colville Island. While in transit from the OUTER HARBOUR to the UPPER HARBOUR, non-power driven vessels shall transit by using the Inbound Traffic Lane or by remaining close to the north shore, north of the four white information buoys. Non-power driven vessels should use “extreme caution” when operating in larger vessel docking areas such as Fisherman’s Wharf.

All Vessels entering or exiting the Inbound/Outbound Traffic Lanes shall merge gradually into the appropriate traffic lane and shall avoid crossing traffic lanes. However, if the crossing of a traffic lane is unavoidable, vessels shall cross at right angles to the traffic lane. All vessels navigating in the area between Songhees Point and Laurel Point, near the Inbound/Outbound Traffic Lanes should use extreme caution, as it is a congested area and is often used by non-power driven vessels to transit between the north and south shores. Additional caution is also required in the area between Berens Island and Shoal Point where traffic from West Bay, the Middle Harbour and the Outer Harbour all converge near the north/south Seaplane Take Off and Landing Area.

All vessels are reminded there is a black water discharge prohibition in effect for waters in the Port of Victoria. Pump out locations are noted on the Chart side of this publication for the convenience of boaters.

Harbour Ferries/Water Taxis: Due to the nature of the service these vessels provide, they are required to “criss-cross” the INNER HARBOUR on a continual basis in various locations. Harbour ferries will use the Inbound/Outbound Traffic Lanes whenever possible. However, when crossing Seaplane Take Off and Landing Areas they are required to yield to seaplanes prior to entering and, having entered the area, to maintain course and speed until exiting. In addition, prior to crossing a seaplane take off and landing area, the water taxi operator must monitor VHF 122.2 to ensure he (she) is aware of aircraft in the area. When transiting a takeoff and landing area, a water taxi must exhibit a flashing yellow light.

Note: Harbour Ferries are authorized to transit along the north shoreline, in a westerly direction only, remaining north of the four white information buoys while enroute to West Bay.

Seaplanes are to operate in accordance with the Canada Flight Supplement and the Water Aerodrome Supplement as appropriate.

Three short blasts of a large ferry’s whistle (the Coho) means it is in astern propulsion. Stay well clear. Never cross in front of a ferry or in its wake. Tugs and barges have limited manoeuvrability. Stay well clear.

Seaplanes: “What Boaters Need to Know”

Aviation procedures request that pilots take off southbound in the north/south seaplane take off and landing area. Landings will most likely occur either eastbound or westbound in the east/west seaplane take off and landing area or northbound in the north/south take off and landing area. However, wind, water and aircraft load conditions may be such that aircraft will take off or land in either area, in either direction.

A Seaplane Inclement Weather Operating Area in West Bay may be used for takeoff in some high wind conditions. Because of varying weather conditions, boat operators should not count on pilots always being able to operate completely within the designated areas. Therefore, boaters must remain vigilant at all times. To aid boaters, four white strobe lights, located at Shoal Point, Laurel Point, Berens Island and Pelly Island, are activated by the Flight Service Station up to 60 seconds prior to a seaplane taking off or landing. Also, seaplanes so equipped will normally activate on board landing/pulsating lights prior to take off.

Seaplanes may have to leave the Seaplane Take Off and Landing Areas to make way for other seaplanes and may use the Inbound/Outbound Traffic Lanes until being able to return to the Seaplane Take Off and Landing Areas. In addition, a Seaplane Taxiway has been established North of Pelly Island for the use of taxiing seaplanes during certain tide conditions.

A Seaplane Holding Area is located southeast of Laurel Point and has been designated for seaplanes to hold for short periods of time while waiting for a berth at one of the seaplane docks, or for a clear outbound taxi route.

Seaplanes operate in Victoria Harbour from 7 a.m. local time until 30 minutes past sunset.


Canadian Coast Guard: In the case of a “Marine Emergency” contact the Canadian Coast Guard radio on VHF channel 16, or *16 on a cellular telephone, or the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre at (250) 413-8933 or *311 on a cellular telephone.

Harbour Master: For general Port information or to report marine incidents such as navigational hazards or pollution, contact the Harbour Master on VHF channel 18A or (250) 363-3578.

Berthage: For public berthage call on VHF 66A.

Canada Customs: The Canada Customs clearance float is located on the east side of the INNER HARBOUR as shown on the chart, telephone 1-888-226-7277.

Flight Service Station: The Flight Service Station is owned and operated by NAV CANADA, telephone (250) 953-1510.

Johnson Street Tilt Bridge, at the NE extremity of the INNER HARBOUR, is operated by the City of Victoria. Radio communications with the bridge operator can be made on VHF channel 12. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight and weekends and statutory holidays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rush hour vehicular traffic requires daily bridge closures from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. The after office hours telephone number is (250) 385-5717.

Rules and Restrictions

Speed Limit: All ships manoeuvring in waters of the Port of Victoria north of a straight line between the westerly end of the Ogden Point breakwater and Macaulay Point to a straight line drawn between Shoal Point and Berens Island shall proceed at a safe speed at all times and shall not exceed 7 knots. All ships manoeuvring in waters of the Port of Victoria north and east of a straight line drawn between Shoal Point and Berens Island and south of the Selkirk Trestle Bridge shall proceed at a safe speed at all times and shall not exceed 5 knots.

Minimize Wake: All vessels are required to minimize their wake in order to prevent damage to shore facilities and other vessels.

No Sailing: Sails shall not be used in the MIDDLE, INNER and UPPER HARBOUR and all sails shall be lowered even when under power.

Professional and Amateur Training: Due to the volume of activity, rowers, canoers, scullers and kayakers shall not conduct any professional or amateur training after 7 a.m. in the INNER HARBOUR, or the MIDDLE HARBOUR.

Anchoring: No ship shall anchor in the Port of Victoria unless authorized by the Port Official.

A Blackwater Discharge prohibition is in effect for all Port of Victoria waters north of Ogden Point as far as the Selkirk Trestle Bridge.

Vessel Operating Procedures, as indicated in this Traffic Scheme, are to be followed.

Seaplane Restrictions:

  1. Prior permission is required from the Port of Victoria Airport Manager before operating in the Port of Victoria
  2. No step taxiing is permitted, and taxi speed is 5 knots maximum north and east of a straight line drawn between Shoal Point and Berens Island
  3. Seaplanes shall maintain a distance of at least 50m from surface vessels during takeoff or landing
  4. No take offs or landings are allowed prior to 0700 unless authorized by the Harbour Airport Manager
  5. The Pelly Island Taxiway Area is not authorized for use when the white horizontal tide markers are visible (located on the concrete bases of Pelly Island and Tuzo Rock marine lights)
  6. Westbound take offs and landings shall not commence until west of a line joining the north and south markers as indicated on the chart
  7. Eastbound landings shall be completed and seaplanes shall be at or below 5 knots before crossing east of a line joining the north and south markers as indicated on the chart
  8. Pilots are to ensure a minimum water depth of 1.8m is available prior to using the inclement weather operating area (see chart #3412)
  9. No Ab Initio or aircraft training

Note: Persons failing to comply with these rules and restrictions may be subject to summary conviction and/or fines. The Port of Victoria Traffic Scheme is not a “traffic separation scheme” as defined in Rule 10 of the Collision Regulations. Authority is derived from the Canada Marine Act, Practices and Procedures for Public Ports.


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