Skip to main content

President Woodrow Wilson Executive Order

Executive Order.


<August 27,1917>

Establishing Defensive Sea Areas for Terminal Ports of the Panama Canal, and providing Regulations for the Government of Persons and Vessels Within Said Areas.


     By virtue of the authority vested in me by law, the following-described  defensive sea areas for the terminal ports of The Panama Canal are hereby established, to be maintained until further notification, at the places and within the limits prescribed as follows, that is to say:


OUTER LIMIT.—From the northern end of Naranjos Cays to a point 2 miles due north of the breakwater entrance, thence tangent to the arc of a circle with 1-mile radius, having the mouth of the Chagres River as a center, thence along the arc of this circle to the beach.

INNER LIMIT.—Line joining east end of west breakwater and west end of east breakwater.


OUTER LIMIT.—Line joining Venado Island with north end of Taboguilla Island; thence north 53° east, true, for 5 miles; thence north 39° west to a point with San Jose Rock bearing north 53° west, true, distant 2 nautical miles; thence to Tres Hermanos Beacon; thence to Punta Mala.

INNER LIMIT.—Line joining Guinea Point with inner end of causeway.

     The following orders and regulations for the government of persons and vessels within the limits of said defensive sea areas, which orders and regulations are necessary for the purposes of defense of the Canal Zone, are hereby promulgated:

     I. In the neighborhood of each defensive sea area the following entrances are designated for incoming and outgoing vessels:


Designated Entrance for Incoming Vessels:

     A patrol boat stationed with end of west breakwater bearing south, true, distant 2 nautical miles.

Designated Entrance for Outgoing Vessels:

     The main entrance to the Panama Canal, between the breakwaters.


Designated Entrance for Incoming Vessels:

     Patrol boat stationed with north end of Taboguilla Island bearing due west, distant 1 nautical mile.

Designated Entrance for Outgoing Vessels:

Canal prism.

     II. A vessel desiring to cross a defensive sea area shall proceed to the vicinity of the entrance, flying her national colors, together with International Code number and pilot signal, and there await communication with the Harbor Entrance Patrol. It is expressly prohibited for any vessel to enter the limits of a defensive sea area otherwise than at a designated entrance and after authorization by the Harbor Entrance Patrol.

     III. Boats and other craft employed in the Harbor Entrance Patrol will be distinguished by the union jack, which will be shown from a position forward. At night they may show a vertical hoist of 3 lights—white, red, and white, in order named.

     IV. On receiving permission from the Harbor Entrance Patrol to enter a defensive sea area, a vessel must comply with all instructions as to pilotage and other matters that she may receive from proper authority, either before or during her passage across the area; it is understood that only upon condition of such compliance is the said permission granted.

     V. No permission will be granted to other than a public vessel of the United States or a Canal craft to cross a defensive sea area between sunset and sunrise, nor during the prevalence of weather conditions that render navigation difficult or dangerous. A vessel arriving off a defensive sea area after sunset shall anchor or lie-to at a distance of at least a mile outside its limits until the following sunrise; vessels discovered near the limits of the areas at night may be fired upon.

     VI. No vessel shall be permitted to proceed within the limits of a defensive sea area at a greater speed than six (6) knots per hour.

     VII. All matters pertaining to fishery and the passage of small crafts within a defensive sea area shall be regulated by the senior officer of the Harbor Entrance Patrol.

     VIII. These regulations are subject to modification by the senior officer of the Harbor Entrance Patrol when the public interest may require; and such notification as circumstances may permit will be issued regarding modifications thus made.

     IX. Any master of a vessel or other person within the vicinity of a defensive sea area who shall violate these regulations, or shall fail to obey an order to stop and heave to, or shall perform any act threatening the efficiency of mine or other defenses or the safety of navigation, or shall take any action inimical to the interest of the United States in its prosecution of war, may be detained therein by force of arms and renders himself liable to prosecution.

     X. The respobsility of the United States of America for any damage inflicted by force of arms with the object of detaining any person or vessel proceeding in contravention to regulations duly promulgated in accordance with this executive order shall cease from this date.

     XI. This order shall take effect from and after this date.

Woodrow Wilson


     27 August, 1917.

[No. 2692]

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Related Content