- Dr. Wykeham McNeill, announced that Cabinet has approved a six-month suspension on the importation of all jet skis for commercial use.
- Dr. McNeill further informed that there will be strengthening of regulations for the safe use of jet skis in harbours and bays.
- Two jet ski accidents which occurred on August 17 and 21 this year.
The Government is taking action to regulate jet ski operations, which should result in a reduction of jet skiing accidents at marine recreational areas, and a clamp down on illegal commercial operators.
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, announced in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, October 15, that Cabinet has approved a six-month suspension on the importation of all jet skis for commercial use.
Additionally, the Ministry has consulted with the marine police, and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard, which will conduct enforcement activities to seize and detain the illegal vessels.
Dr. McNeill further informed that there will be strengthening of regulations for the safe use of jet skis in harbours and bays. In consultation with the maritime authority, it has been decided that activities in all resort areas will be done beyond swimming areas, and away from ships and piers.
Additionally, the Tourism Minister explained that jet ski operators will not be allowed within a certain distance from shore, and that three ski zones, a minimum of 30 metres apart, will be introduced. These are: the swim zone, the non-motorised zone, and the general operating zone for motorised craft, including personal water craft/ jet skis.
“The non motorised zone would be an effective buffer for swimmers…the recommendations will be implemented on a trial basis as agreed by all parties. It is a matter of safety…this was not arrived at lightly,” he emphasised.
Dr. McNeill cited two jet ski accidents which occurred on August 17 and 21 this year, in Ocho Rios and Negril, respectively. One child died and four persons were injured as a result of the Ocho Rios incident, while one person was injured in the Negril accident.
He also noted that there are other concerns, such as solicitation, harassment, and drug peddling by illegal operators, as well as oil discharge from the jet skis, and the noise pollution associated with them.
Dr. McNeill pointed out that the concerns go as far back as 1995. The Ministry at the time responded with a moratorium agreed on by a number of agencies, to regulate commercial water sport operations along the seven-mile beach in Negril, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) beach in Ocho Rios, and the Black River.
The moratorium restricted the number of operators and the size of the fleet per operation. This was extended in 2004 to include the entire island, and since then, no new licences have been issued to jet ski operators, and no increase in existing fleets allowed.
Under the new regime, the maritime authority will introduce specialised training and certification courses for commercial operators; and ensure that all commercial jet skis have visible identification. Operators will be required to display their licences, and no person under 18 years of age will be allowed to operate commercial jet skis, without an accompanying adult.
The authorities will also be seeking to upgrade the regulations that guide the use of private jet skis.