JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) is reminding jet skis owners to register their water craft by the March 31 deadline.
  • So far, the Authority has registered approximately 100 jet skis under an island-wide inspection and registration drive.
  • Tourism and Entertainment Minister, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill in February noted that there were only eight licensed jet ski operators on record.

The Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) is reminding jet skis owners to register their water craft by the March 31 deadline.

So far, the Authority has registered approximately 100 jet skis under an island-wide inspection and registration drive, which seeks to account for, and regulate the operations of these water craft.

Tourism and Entertainment Minister, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill in February noted that there were only eight licensed jet ski operators on record.

Speaking at a JIS Think Tank on Wednesday, March 26, Director General of the MAJ, Rear Admiral Peter Brady explained that the aim is to have proper documentation “so that every jet ski owner in Jamaica is registered with the MAJ…this will bring them into the regulatory net of the Authority and it will help us to determine the legality of their operations”.

The MAJ is a part of a special Task Force that is implementing changes in the regulation of jet skis. The Director General explained that the Authority is therefore putting in place control measures, such as the identification of duly registered jet skis, as this will form part of a framework for enforcement.

Another critical aspect of the control measures is the zoning of the operational area for jet skis, so that they will only be able to operate at high speeds at 200 meters or more, from the shoreline. This is to protect swimmers and non-motorised water craft.

Already, three zones have been demarked in each resort area. These include the first 30 metres, which is is a swim zone; 170 metres, which is a buffer zone; and the operational zone which is 200 metres from the shore, and beyond.

Rear Admiral Brady further explained that the jet skis will be required to transit to and from the operational zone at a speed not exceeding three knots (3.2miles per hour), along a corridor, which is at a right angle to the beach.

He informed that another control measure that has been introduced is colour coded identification, which will be highly visible on each jet ski.

Yellow labels will be used for private operations, and red for commercial operations.

Rear Admiral Brady explained that each area has a “carrying capacity”, which places limitations on the number of water craft that can operate in specific areas.

Registration of jet skis will also help the Authority to manage this process.

Meanwhile, he noted that the monitoring provided by the Marine Police will be significantly boosted through the purchase of surface craft and jet skis. This will be financed by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).

The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) will also be beefing up its beach, and afloat surveillance.

The Director General emphasised that jet ski operators have an important role to play in ensuring the safety of swimmers, those who use the beach, and themselves.

“One of most important things we are asking for is the conscience of the operators themselves. Self regulate, form yourselves into an association, police yourselves because it’s your living that’s in jeopardy and we know we are going to see improvement,” he stated.

The Government in October 2013, moved to reduce jet skiing accidents at marine recreational areas, and clamp down on illegal commercial operators, with a six-month suspension on the importation of all water craft for commercial use.

The Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment consulted with the marine police, and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard, to conduct enforcement activities to seize and detain the illegal vessels.

The decision followed accidents involving jet skis on August 17 and 21, 2013.

Announcing the ban, in the House of Representatives at that time, Minister McNeill informed that the regulations would also be strengthened 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,” he stated.

In February 2014, the Government announced a further ban of six months on the importation of all jet skis for commercial or private use, until October 15.

This latest decision came after another accident, which resulted in a visitor being killed by a jet ski, while swimming in Negril, on January 28.

Under the new regime, the Maritime Authority is introducing specialised training and certification courses for commercial operators. Operators are 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 Task Force also comprises: the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Jamaica Customs, Jamaica Defence Force, Tourist Board, Maritime Authority of Jamaica, Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, National Environment and Planning Agency, Port Authority of Jamaica and the TPDCo.