Coast Guard study recommends “voluntary fairways” for coastal vessel traffic

The Coast Guard have published the Final Report of the Pacific Coast Port Access Route Study (PAC-PARS) into the Federal Register and it is available for the public to inspect. 

According to officials, this is the first comprehensive evaluation of vessel traffic patterns that use Pacific coastal waters off Washington, Oregon, and California.  

In a release, it states that the main goal of the PAC-PARS was to evaluate historic and future waterway usage to determine navigational risk and provide recommendations to uphold safety of navigation.  

To do this, the study examined vessel tracking data from the past 10 years and considered environmental data, existing and planned offshore development infrastructure, and historical marine incident data among other datasets. 

Data and image from PAC-PARS

The Coast Guard also considered concerns and recommendations from maritime stakeholders, tribes, and members of the public. The Coast Guard received and considered more than 22,000 comments during three public comment periods.  

The PAC-PARS recommends establishing new voluntary fairways for coastwise and nearshore vessel traffic with connections to existing Traffic Separation Schemes and ports.  

According to Waterways Management Branch Chief CDR Brendan Harris, he tells KXRO that the fairway zone starts at 3 nautical miles off the coast and extends roughly 20-30nm to the seaward edge, depending on where you measure to. 

The coastal fairway begins roughly 40nm offshore and extends another 15nm seaward.

The Coast Guard stated in their released that these fairways would facilitate safe and predictable traffic patterns as the demand for and use of Pacific coastal waters increases.  

“The variety and number of waterway users along the Pacific Coast has dramatically increased over the past decade; in the interest of maintaining navigational safety for all members of the maritime community, the Coast Guard conducted this study. Its fairway recommendations promote safe vessel transits along the coast and connect to major port approaches,” said Coast Guard Pacific Area port and waterways specialist, Lieutenant Liesl Olson. 

A Notice of Availability for the final study results, as well as the associated appendices and enclosures, were published on the Federal Register under docket USCG-2021-0345, and can be found by searching the docket above at 


Additionally, the study will be available at the USCG Navigation Center’s website