Sweeping changes are on the horizon for the water sports industry that will impose GPS tracking, new certification, stiffer penalties, and new coastal corridors to reign in a sector that has been unregulated for years.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey announced that the changes would take effect when new domestic shipping legislation is brought to Parliament in the “near” future.
Cabinet has already approved the proposal that was presented after an extended period of dialogue between key stakeholders and the Ministry.
One key aspect is the imposition of special lanes at 31 beaches across the country that will determine where jet skis are allowed to pass as they move between the shoreline and open ocean.
“We have done so in conversation with the jet ski operators and water sport operators, and the idea is that you would enter the beach at a particular point, and after 100-250 meters, it is open ocean. Once you come back in, you have to go back into the lanes,” Humphrey disclosed.
“We have also put no-wake zones in the legislation which acknowledges that if you are going at a certain speed, you are going too fast, and we have also decided on GPS on the water craft to ensure that Barbadians are safe,” he added.
The movement toward GPS tracking comes more than a year after an American couple mysteriously disappeared after departing on a jet ski off Holetown, St James.
Also in the coming legislation will be a requirement that with the exception of industry veterans, all operators of pleasure craft will be required to undergo specialized training, and violators will run the risk of losing their licences.
“The reality is that on many of these pleasure craft, there are persons who have no training, no certification and qualifications and are operating these vessels. What we have put in the legislation is to ensure that people who operate these vessels have a level of training, but we have grandfathered the people who have been doing it for a number of years and doing it right. So, all they need to do is to prove that they are doing it right and they wouldn’t need the certification,” Humphrey explained.
“But persons coming in will need to have the certification and competency to do it. We have also implemented, in the legislation, a ticketing system, so . . . after a first, second and third ticket, it would result in revocation of a licence. Current legislation only speaks to revocation if you have killed or seriously injured someone, but we are saying that for other instances where you may have violated the legislation, then you could have your licence revoked as well.”
According to the Maritime Affairs Minister, the Marine Unit of the Royal Barbados Police Force in collaboration with the Barbados Coast Guard will be tasked with enforcing the measures. In addition, he has asked small craft operators to strengthen the coming framework by forming a representative organization.
“I think that in some cases there is just not enough discipline on the water and this will help us do so. For the most part, the water sport operators are satisfied with it and for the most part, water sport operators comply with the law, but there are instances where a few people have made it hard for everybody else.
“We have also encouraged the water sport operators, particularly the jet ski operators, to form an association so that they would have a representative body for these types of conversations and different people speaking on the issues,” Humphrey added.