• City of Tacoma QA
  • City of Tacoma Data



Title 4 - HARBOR



Chapter 4.02 - Definitions


4.02.010        Definitions, generally.

4.02.020        Anchorage area.

4.02.030        Aquatic event.

4.02.040        Authorized emergency vessel.

4.02.050        Diver’s flag.

4.02.060        City.

4.02.070        Harbor Master.

4.02.080        Obstruction.

4.02.090        Oil.

4.02.100        Permit.

4.02.110        Person.

4.02.120        Pier.

4.02.130        Pollution.

4.02.140        Restricted area.

4.02.150        Skin diving.

4.02.160        Submerged street area.

4.02.170        Tacoma Harbor.

4.02.180        Vessel.

4.02.190        Watercraft.

4.02.200        Water ski.

4.02.210        Waterway.



4.02.010     Definitions, generally.

The words and phrases used in this title shall have the meanings set out in this chapter, except where the same shall be clearly contrary to or inconsistent with the context of the section in which used.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.020     Anchorage area.

“Anchorage area” means a designated location where vessels or watercraft may anchor or moor.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.030     Aquatic event.

“Aquatic event” means any organized water event of a limited duration which is duly sanctioned at least seven days in advance by duly constituted authority, and which is conducted according to a prearranged schedule, and in which general public interest is manifested.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.040     Authorized emergency vessel.

“Authorized emergency vessel” means any authorized vessel or watercraft of the City Fire Department, City Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the United States Government, and the State of Washington.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.050     Diver’s flag.

“Diver’s flag” means a red flag five units of measurement on the hoist by five units of measurement on the fly, with a white stripe of one unit crossing the red diagonally, the flag to have a stiffener to make it stand out from the pole or mast. This flag shall only pertain to skin and scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving and shall supplement any nationally recognized diver’s flag or marking.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.060     City.

“City” means the City of Tacoma.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.070     Harbor Master.

“Harbor Master” means the Chief of the Fire Department and duly authorized deputies and assistants acting on his behalf.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.080     Obstruction.

“Obstruction” means any vessel or watercraft, or any matter which may in any way blockade, interfere with or endanger any vessel or watercraft, or impede navigation, or which cannot comply with the “International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972” (72 COLREGS), 33 CFR 81, or which interferes with the normal public use of the waters of Tacoma Harbor.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.090     Oil.

“Oil” means any oil or liquid, whether of animal, vegetable, or mineral origin, or a mixture compound or distillation thereof.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.100     Permit.

“Permit” means the written authority of the Harbor Master.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.110     Person.

“Person” means an individual, corporation, partnership, association, state, municipality, commission, or political subdivision of a state, whether acting by themselves or by a servant, agent, or employee; the single number shall, when necessary, mean and include the plural, and the masculine pronoun shall include the feminine.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.120     Pier.

“Pier” means any pier, dock, wharf, bulkhead, dolphin, walk, landing, seawall, quay, float, or other structure to which a vessel or watercraft may make fast, or which may be utilized in the loading, unloading, or handling of products, merchandise and/or passengers.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.130     Pollution.

“Pollution” means the man-made or man-induced alteration of the chemical, physical, biological, and radiological integrity of water, but shall not mean the addition of fresh water to the salt waters of Puget Sound.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.140     Restricted area.

“Restricted area” means an area that has been marked in accordance with and as authorized by the laws or regulations of the City, to be used for or closed to certain designated purposes such as swimming, skin diving, ferry landings, and aquatic events, the method of marking or designation of which shall have been made by the City or its duly constituted officials in accordance with the provisions of this title.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.150     Skin diving.

“Skin diving” means any free swimming person and/or any person who uses an artificial or mechanical means to replace his air, including self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, snorkel tube equipment and free diving gear, but shall not mean swimmers using patrolled public beaches designated as swimming areas.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.160     Submerged street area.

“Submerged street area” means any platted street area (or extension thereof) occupied by any of the waters of Tacoma Harbor.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.170     Tacoma Harbor.

“Tacoma Harbor” means all tidewaters, navigable waters, waterways, adjacent waters, and all tributaries, and all wharves, slips, and landing places adjacent thereto, within the limits of the City of Tacoma.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.180     Vessel.

“Vessel” means any contrivance 65 feet or more in length overall used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.190     Watercraft.

“Watercraft” means any contrivance less than 65 feet in length overall used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water. Cribs or piles, shingle bolts, booms of logs, rafts of logs, and rafts of lumber, shall be included within the terms “watercraft” or “vessel” when being towed, but shall be included within the term “obstruction” when they are floating loose, not under control or tow, or when under control or tow and obstructing any navigable channel.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.200     Water ski.

“Water ski” means all forms, manner, means, or contrivances of person or persons being towed behind a vessel or watercraft.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.02.210     Waterway.

“Waterway” means all portions of the following designated waterways lying within the boundaries of the City of Tacoma, to wit: City Waterway, Wheeler-Osgood Waterway, Middle Waterway, St. Paul Waterway, Puyallup Waterway, Sitcum Waterway, Blair Waterway, and Hylebos Waterway.

(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

Chapter 4.04 - General Provisions


4.04.010        Statement of policy.

4.04.020        Authorization.

4.04.030        Nonwaiver of liability, civil or criminal.

4.04.040        Shoreline Management Act.

4.04.050        Severability.


4.04.010     Statement of policy.

The City Council recognizes that the body of water and its adjacent uplands known as Puget Sound (which includes those waters designated in this Title 4 as Tacoma Harbor) is an estuary consisting of approximately 2,500 square miles of inlets, bays, and channels, more than 200 islands, and in excess of 2,000 miles of shoreline which supports navigation, commerce, and other water-related economic uses and provides employment, recreational, educational, and other opportunities to the approximately 65 percent of Washington citizens residing within the 12 counties which border on Puget Sound, and it is apparent that the waters and shorelines of Puget Sound are accessible to and subject to multiple, and at times competing, uses.


The City Council further recognizes that Puget Sound and Tacoma Harbor are also significant recreational resources for the City, supporting tourism and recreational activities such as boating, swimming, water skiing, fishing, and scuba diving. Puget Sound residents own a multitude of pleasure boats, and in the summer, literally thousands of these craft cruise throughout Puget Sound. The density of both commercial and pleasure boat traffic continues to increase, as does the number of facilities necessary to serve such traffic and provide for transfer of cargo from vessels to on-shore storage or for transport overland by truck or rail. It is recognized that the increased amount of harbor traffic and the ever-increasing frequency of cargo transfers, involving at times hazardous materials, have, together with the increased number of pollution-creating activities on shore, created an increased potential for the serious impairment of the use and quality of the Puget Sound waters and a substantial detrimental risk to the safety and public health and welfare of the citizens of Tacoma.


It is declared to be the public policy of the City to assert and exercise all jurisdiction it may have to protect all aspects of its marine environment and the quality of the waters of Tacoma Harbor by all appropriate means, and to provide for local regulations to protect the public health and safety and to enhance the public enjoyment and safe use of Tacoma Harbor. The City is cognizant that the uses made of Puget Sound outside Tacoma Harbor will affect Tacoma Harbor, as do uses made of Tacoma Harbor affect other parts of Puget Sound, and the City, in recognition of the multi-jurisdictional effects, and in recognition of the State of Washington’s and the Federal government’s respective interests in the quality of the waters of Puget Sound, water uses, navigational rules, elimination of navigational hazards, and various other matters in which the City, State, and Federal government may have concurrent or joint jurisdiction, hereby proclaims a public policy of working cooperatively with the State and Federal governments in a joint effort to extinguish the sources of water quality degradation and in the enforcement of local, State, and Federal laws and regulations pertaining to or affecting the use of Tacoma Harbor and the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Tacoma.

It is the intent of the City, in adopting this title, to exercise its traditional local police powers to supplement State and Federal programs, and also to develop a close relationship with the State and Federal governments in the enforcement of laws affecting Tacoma Harbor, to the end that the interests of the City and the general public will best be served. It is further the policy and intent of the City, by the enactment of this Harbor Code, to preserve to itself and its citizens the civil right to abate public and private nuisances, and the City Manager is authorized, through the City Attorney, to commence such civil or criminal legal actions as may be appropriate to provide for elimination of sources of water quality degradation which affect Tacoma Harbor, whether such sources be within or outside the corporate limits of Tacoma, and to provide for the elimination of obstructions or activities which impair the navigability of Tacoma Harbor, or otherwise interfere with the normal public use thereof.


(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.04.020     Authorization.

The City, in the exercise of its police power, assumes control and jurisdiction over all tidewaters, navigable waters, adjacent waters, waterways, and all tributaries within its limits, with the wharves, slips, and landing places adjacent thereto, and such water shall, for the purpose of this title, be known as the Tacoma Harbor. The provisions of this title shall be construed to supplement United States and State of Washington laws and regulations when not expressly inconsistent therewith in the area where such United States and State of Washington laws and regulations are applicable.


 (Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.04.030     Nonwaiver of liability, civil or criminal.

Nothing in this title shall be deemed to exempt or relieve any person from any liability, duty, penalty, or punishment provided by any present or future law of the United States, the State of Washington, or any political subdivision. Nothing in this title shall be construed so as to relieve any person owning or controlling any vessel, watercraft, pier, obstruction, structure, or other property of any nature, real or personal, from any liability for damages, and the safeguards to life and property required in this title shall not be construed as relieving any person from installing and maintaining all other safeguards which may be required by law. Nothing in this title shall be construed to curtail or abridge the right of any person to prosecute a civil action for damages or injunctive relief by reason of or for the abatement of any public or private nuisance.


(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.04.040     Shoreline Management Act.

The provisions of this title are in addition to the provisions of Chapter 13.10 of the Official Code of the City of Tacoma relating to shoreline management, and nothing herein shall be construed to excuse noncompliance with the provisions of that chapter and applicable State and Federal laws.


(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

4.04.050     Severability.

If any provision of this Title 4, consisting of 14 chapters numbered 4.02 through 4.28, or its application to any person or circumstance, is held invalid, the remainder of said Title 4 or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected.


(Ord. 22868 § 1; passed Jun. 7, 1983)

Chapter 4.05 - Watercraft Registration



4.05.010        Application – Provisions supplemental.

4.05.020        Watercraft registration required – Statutes adopted by reference.

4.05.030        Watercraft registration – Alteration


4.05.010     Application – Provisions supplemental.

The provisions of this title shall be applicable to all vessels and watercraft operating in the waters of the City. The provisions of this title shall be construed to supplement United States laws and state laws and regulations, when not expressly inconsistent therewith, in the waters of the City where such United States laws and state laws and regulations are applicable.


(Ord. 27361 § 1; passed May 24, 2005)

4.05.020     Watercraft registration required – Statutes and Regulations adopted by reference.

The following sections in the Revised Code of Washington (“RCW”) are adopted by reference, as currently enacted or as amended hereafter, and as supplemented by Chapter 308‑93 in the Washington Administrative Code (“WAC”), including penalties; except as otherwise specifically set forth in this chapter and except that conduct constituting a felony, as determined by the prosecutor, is excluded. A complete copy of RCW 88.02.010 through RCW 88.02.118 and Chapter 308‑93 WAC is on file with the City Clerk. For purposes of this chapter only, the definitions contained in Chapter 4.02 TMC do not apply, but rather the definitions contained in RCW 88.02.010, adopted herein, shall apply.



88.02.010      Definitions.

88.02.020      Registration and display of registration number and decal prerequisite to ownership or operation of vessel – Exceptions.

88.02.023      Vessel dealer display decals – Use.

88.02.025      Registration of vessels numbered under the federal boat safety act.

88.02.028      Registration of rented vessels – Dealer’s vessels – Dealer registration numbers not transferable.

88.02.030      Exceptions from vessel registration – Use of excess document identification fee for boating safety programs – Rules.

88.02.035      Confidential vessel registration, law enforcement purposes.

88.02.040      Issuance of registrations – Agents – Deposit of fees in general fund – Allocation for boating safety and education, law enforcement, and derelict vessel removal and disposal.

88.02.045      Allocation of funds under RCW 88.02.040 to counties – Deposit to account for boating safety programs.

88.02.090      Inspection of registration – Violation of chapter.

88.02.110      Penalties – Disposition of moneys collected – Enforcement authority.

88.02.112      Registration certificate required – Penalty.

88.02.115      Additional penalties for unauthorized or personal use of dealer display decals.

88.02.118      Evasive registration – Penalty.


(Ord. 27361 § 1; passed May 24, 2005)

4.05.030     Watercraft registration – Alteration.

The following sections in the Revised Code of Washington (“RCW”) are adopted by reference, as currently enacted or as amended hereafter, as if fully set forth in this chapter and except that conduct constituting a felony, as determined by the prosecutor, is excluded. A complete copy of RCW 46.12.300 through 46.12.330 is on file with the City Clerk.



46.12.300      Serial numbers on vehicles, watercraft, campers, or parts – Buying, selling, etc., with numbers removed, altered, etc. – Penalty – Gross Misdemeanor.

46.12.310      Serial numbers – Seizure and impoundment of vehicles, recreational watercraft, campers, or parts – Notice to interested persons – Release to owner.

46.12.320      Serial numbers – Disposition of vehicles, watercraft, campers, or parts authorized, when

46.12.330      Serial numbers – Hearing – Appeal – Removal to court – Release.

(Ord. 27361 § 1; passed May 24, 2005)