Stiffer laws are coming “to bring order” to the water sports industry, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey announced today.
During debate on the Appropriation Bill at Parliament, the Minister was responding to a question from his tourism colleague Kerrie Symmonds who asked what plans were in place to bring order to the sector.
Symmonds cited the incident in June last year when two American tourists Oscar Suarez, 32, and Magdalena Devil, 25, disappeared after renting a jet ski from an operator in Holetown, St James. That incident sparked a national debate about the monitoring and policing of the water vessels.
Humphrey said his ministry had met with the coast guard, maritime operators, the BHTA and others about the legislation and he was soon ready to go to Cabinet for approval.
He told the House: “I am hopeful that in a month, at most six weeks, I would be in a position to bring this to Cabinet with a definitive position to exactly how it is going to look but most of the ground work had already been done .
“Bringing discipline to that space is one of my more pressing concerns so we will have it resolved in short order.”
Carlisle Bay is also to be designated as a marine management area.
Humphrey added: “The coast guard is doing significant work for us. When I make a call a coast guard is always nearby and he will find his way to do it.
“I think we might need one or two persons who are based as well on the water to be able to monitor for us.
“But once we start structuring where you have to come on mornings give us your name, report your jet ski we have to put the structure in place.”
The maritime affairs ministry’s Chief Technical Officer Jacqueline Blackman said that they had several meetings with key players, declaring that everyone was on board.
She explained: Late last year we had a site visit to the various channels or the routes by which the water sports operators enter and exit the water to conduct the water sports activity in order to agree on the coordinates for these channels.
“We would have gone on a site visit with the Barbados Coast Guard, the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport as well as representatives of the Water Sports Association and we had agreed on certain points on coordinates for these channels which were then plotted by the Coastal Zone Management Unit.”
The senior civil servant said there was also talk about putting Global Positioning System (GPS) systems on the vessels.
Said Blackman: “There has also been discussion about some type of GPS to be on the vessel so that that vessel can be monitored in case of lost or any other circumstances where we are unable to locate the vessel.
“When we did have that meeting there was no push back on the GPS, we are intended to also put that in legislation.”
Blackman told the Lower House that the safety of both the operators and their clients was priority.
She said: “We are also looking at the safety of the vessel in terms of the life jackets and so on the issuing of instructions for persons who rent the vessel to ensure that they have been given the instructions and they have accepted those instructions and it is properly documented.
“Our patrols like coast guard and the RBPF we are hoping to strengthen these pieces of legislation and create a safer environment for the operators and their clients”, she said.