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New Measures Introduced to Regulate Jet Ski Operations

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KINGSTON, October 16, 2013: Jamaica's Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, has announced new short term measures to regulate Personal Water Craft (PWC) and Jet Ski operations across the island in the wake of growing concerns about the number of accidents in Jamaica’s marine recreational areas, some of which have resulted in fatalities and serious injury.

These concerns were underscored in a statement made in Parliament by Dr. McNeill today, October 15, 2013. Minister McNeill said “solicitation, harassment and drug peddling by illegal PWC/Jet Ski operators are at uncontrollable levels and there is a high density of marine traffic in the marine recreational area of Negril’s seven mile beach and at the UDC beach in Ocho Rios.” 

The Minister also expressed serious concerns about the environmental impact of these Personal Water Crafts, particularly regarding the oil discharge from these vessels and the levels of noise pollution associated with them. “We recognize that on one side there is public outcry that has been advocating for a ban on the importation of Jet Skis, while on the other side, there is the reality that people’s economic livelihood as legitimate commercial Jet Ski operators has to be protected. We have therefore to look at the balance,” said Minister McNeill.

The new regulations, which include a six-month suspension on the importation of all Jet Skis (Personal Water Crafts) for commercial purposes, a clamp down on illegal commercial operators of Jet Skis, and the strengthening and enforcement of regulations guiding the safe usage of Jet Skis, are intended to ensure that Jamaica’s waterways can be enjoyed by everyone without threat to their safety.

In order to facilitate the clamp-down on illegal operations, the Marine Police and the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard will conduct concentrated enforcement activities to seize and detain the illegal vessels.

Dr. McNeill outlined that “the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) will be strengthening the enforcement capacity of the Marine Police Outposts in the North East Region by supplying engine and spare parts to ensure that there is at least one fully operational vessel, each for the outposts of Ocho Rios, Falmouth, Montego Bay and Negril; the upgrading of facilities for the Marine Police personnel; and the construction and or repair of launching ramps for the vessels as required at each marine post.”

To strengthen these regulations, in consultation with the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, the Ministry has determined that PWC/Jet Ski activities in all resort areas will be conducted beyond the swimming area and away from the ships and piers.

Jet Ski operators will not be allowed within a certain distance from the shore.  Minister McNeill said “three zones, which will be a minimum of 30 metres apart, will be introduced, namely: the swim zone, the non-motorized zone and the general operating zone for motorized craft, including PWC/Jet-Skis.  The non-motorized zone would be an effective buffer or safe zone for swimmers.” 

In addition, Jet Ski operators are to launch from designated locations and observe basic rules of transit including speed for entry and exit. Clients must be provided with a comprehensive brief by the operators, including a demonstration ride before the client operates the Jet Ski independently. 

As part of the new safety measures, all commercial jet skis must have visible identifications and all operators will be required to display their licenses.  Also, no child under 18 years of age will be allowed to operate commercial jet skis without an accompanying adult. The Maritime Authority of Jamaica will introduce special training and certification courses for commercial Jet Ski operators and will be taking a look at the regulations that govern the use of private Jet Skis with a view to updating them.

The recommendations will be implemented on a trial basis as agreed by all parties. “Some of these measures have already been enforced and others will take effect immediately. We intend to conduct a progress review in six months to determine whether these measures have been effective,” said Minister McNeill.

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