Boater Fined $34,000 for Going the Wrong Way Up Dover Strait Traffic Lane

Courtesy UK MCA

Published Jun 25, 2024 9:51 PM by The Maritime Executive


A recreational fisherman has been fined $34,000 for multiple breaches of the rules of the Dover Strait Traffic Separation Scheme, which caused considerable disruption in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

On September 14, 2022, HM Coastguard's Rescue Coordination Center in Dover spotted a small fishing boat headed the wrong way up the southwest Traffic Separation Scheme - not just once, but multiple times in the same day. The boat was the Reel Fun 2, owned and operated by UK resident Simon Hughes, 64. 

HM Coastguard tried to reach the Reel Fun 2 several times by radio, but received no response. In order to alert shipping to the risk, the rescue coordination center broadcast a "rogue vessel warning" to all merchant vessels in the TSS. Meanwhile, a Royal Navy vessel intervened and intercepted the fishing boat to establish contact. 

The Rules of the Road require vessels to travel in the correct lane and the correct direction in a traffic separation scheme. Vessels under 20 meters in length "shall not impede the safe passage of a power-driven vessel following a traffic lane," and a breach of this requirement is a COLREGS violation. 

"Failing to comply with the rules may cause confusion on the bridge of large ships, resulting in alteration of speed and course. This can have a knock-on effect for other large ships, creating an unnecessary hazard to shipping," said MCA Investigator Mark Flavell.

Hughes was convicted and sentenced on June 12. He was ordered to pay fines, victim surcharges and prosecution costs totaling $34,000. 

AIS data shows that Reel Fun 2 continued to ply the waters of the English Channel as recently as April 2024.