01/27/2014 11:38 EST | Updated 03/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Ships' foghorns sound throughout Metro Vancouver

Ships sounding their foghorns in one of North America's busiest harbours are leaving residents living near the water fighting another kind of fog — the kind caused by sleep deprivation. 

Metro Vancouver has been blanketed with thick fog for much of January. The low-lying cloud cover is one of the most dangerous conditions for ships at sea because low visibility makes navigating difficult.

"In fog you can get disoriented very fast, irrespective of the familiarity of the area," says Captain ManikRudrakumar of BCIT's Marine Campus. 

Rudrakumar says most marine traffic is required by international and Canadian regulations to sound their foghorns when visibility is restricted. Ships that are anchored must sound them every minute and those that are moving through the harbour must sound them every two minutes.

"From the ships at anchor and the ships that are moving and the tugboats that are towing and seabuses that are moving — anything that moves is required by law. We can't circumvent it. We have to sound these fog signals," says Rudrakumar.

The constant moan of foghorns is keeping some Vancouverites awake at night, but Mike Cotter of the Jericho Sailing Centre says people just have to live with it.

"Complaining about it is like complaining about roosters when you live next to a farm," says Cotter.

"We can't see other vessels and they can't see us." 

Cotter says operators of smaller vessels should not launch in the fog. If they unexpectedly get caught in low visibility, they should make noise and listen for waves on the shore to navigate back to safety."We can't see other vessels and they can't see us."

Environment Canada forecasts the fog will dissipate in the next few days.