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A jet ski on Negril beach. - Photo by Karrie Williams

Private jet-ski ban lifted

Last Friday, July 18, the operation of private personal water crafts (PWCs) reopened across the island for licensed PWC users.

This after an islandwide ban was imposed in February to allow for the regularisation of the commercial operations, and for steps to be taken by the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) to register all PWCs or jet skis in the island.

The general ban was among a raft of measures announced to streamline both private and commercial PWC operations. The measures were applied in the wake of three accidents involving PWCs between August 2013 and January 2014. In announcing the ban in Parliament in February, Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill had indicated that the suspension of the operations will be lifted in each area as the relevant measures and regulations are implemented and persons become compliant.

Over the last few months, the MAJ has spearheaded a process to register all PWCs islandwide. To date, 90 private and 29 commercial vessels have been registered.

A task force was established as one of the measures to bring PWC activity under stronger management and enforcement. The PWC Task Force is being guided by the MAJ and the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), with enforcement by the Marine Police Division.

The announcement to reopen the operation of private PWCs was made following a recent meeting of the task force. The move follows the recent reopening of the operation of commercial PWCs at the UDC beach in Ocho Rios Bay, St Ann on June 2. However, the ban on the importation of PWCs will remain in place until further notice.

McNeill said: "Guided by the recommendation of the task force, it was determined that the suspension of private PWC operations for licensed PWC users should now be lifted, as adequate measures and regulations have been put in place." He added that, "the owners and operators of private and commercial launch sites will be required to inform the MAJ of these sites to facilitate the effective monitoring of the activities across the island."

Launch site

A launch site refers to an area on the foreshore (a channel between 20 and 40 metres wide) through which PWCs are permitted to leave and return. PWCs will be launched from such sites in accordance with specific guidelines and recommendations which include the existence of a ramp or other suitable area for the safe launching of the PWC and erection of prescribed signage.

Launch sites will not be established in close proximity to high-risk areas such as places where members of the public customarily swim. These include the Blue Lagoon (Portland), licensed beaches, public bathing beaches including in Negril, Montego Bay and Hellshire Beach, where PWC operations will be prohibited.

The minister explained that "private PWC operation will also be allowed at Lime Cay and Maiden Cay, where temporary measures will be put in place to facilitate PWC activity, while some remaining concerns including issues related to launch sites are addressed."

Upon registration, PWC operators are issued with registration certificates and decals which have been provided in two colour codes, to differentiate between private and commercial crafts.

Private PWC use will be allowed under the following conditions:

a. PWCs must be registered and have the appropriate decals affixed. PWCs not possessing private decals will be liable for detention by the authorities.

b. PWCs that are registered for private use cannot be utilised commercially.

c. All operators of PWCs must have received training in the operation of the vessel from the MAJ.

d. PWCs must be issued with valid small vessel safety certificates which will reflect the following:

PWCs are permitted to operate in daylight hours only and shall not be operable between sunset and sunrise.

PWCs should enter and leave the shore at a slow speed of three knots.

Occupants of PWCs must wear life vests at all times and the area of operation is at least 200 metres from the shore.

e. PWCs must not be refuelled at sea.

f. PWCs must observe the collision (at sea) regulations.

McNeill also indicated that steps are being taken to facilitate the reopening of PWC operations in other areas including Negril, adding that as the task force moves ahead to regularise operations in these areas, consultations will be held with the relevant stakeholders including a meeting which will be held in Negril next week. 


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