Tourism Minister’s Statement on Measures to Regularize Personal Water Craft Operations

Photo: JIS Photographer Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill.

Story Highlights

  • The Honourable House will recall that following two accidents involving Personal Water Crafts (PWCs) on August 17th and 21st, 2013.
  • The impact of these incidents has been far-reaching and has triggered negative public commentary both locally and internationally.
  • The imposition of a six (6) month suspension on the importation of all PWCs for commercial purposes.

STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT BY THE MINISTER OF TOURISM AND ENTERTAINMENT,

THE HON. WYKEHAM McNEILL,

MEASURES TO REGULARIZE PERSONAL WATER CRAFTS (PWC) OPERATIONS

 

Background

The Honourable House will recall that following two accidents involving Personal Water Crafts (PWCs) on August 17th and 21st, 2013, where one child died and another person was severely injured, in Ocho Rios and Negril, respectively, that Cabinet approved implementation of short term measures for a six month duration effective October 15, 2013.

These measures were:

i.            The imposition of a six (6) month suspension on the importation of all PWCs for commercial purposes.

ii.          More effective enforcement from all regulatory agencies to clamp down on illegal operators.

iii.            The application and monitoring of safety rules in harbours and bays by the Maritime Authority of Jamaica.

iv.            The strengthening of the enforcement capacity of the Marine Police Outposts in the North East Region (Ocho Rios, Falmouth, Montego Bay and Negril).

 

During this period of implementation while there has been some positive steps taken towards compliance primarily at the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) beach in Ocho Rios, for the most part there has been limited success elsewhere. This limited success, was subsequently evidenced by another accident in which an American visitor was killed by a PWC while swimming in Negril on January 28, 2014.

The impact of these incidents has been far-reaching and has triggered negative public commentary both locally and internationally, particularly from Jamaica’s largest source market in the United States of America (USA).

Current Situation

There are on record eight (8) licensed PWC operators in total.

–          Six (6) operating in Ocho Rios (UDC beach)

–          Two (2) in Negril (Not currently in operation)

There are no licensed commercial PWC operators in other locations.

While we have seen deficiencies in commercial operations, the regulatory framework that governs private PWCs is also insufficient.

We have also found in consultations with operators that one of the outcomes of the moratorium imposed on licensing of new commercial operators in 1997 in Negril, Ocho Rios and Black River and subsequently islandwide in 2004, has been a prolific expansion of persons operating illegally, especially in resort areas.

The fact that commercial PWC operations can be a lucrative business and many persons see it as an important source of livelihood, has also contributed to the proliferation of illegal commercial operators.

Interestingly, what we have found is that the licensed operators have often tended to comply with the Jamaica Tourist Board licence requirements.

Further Measures

Further to measures effected October 15, 2013, Cabinet on February 10, 2014 tabled the following additional measures.

Effective Immediately

  1. A ban on the importation of all PWCs for a further six months.  However, this ban will be on all PWCs and not just commercial ones.  The ban would therefore be extended to October 15 2014.
  2. Temporary suspension of the operations of ALL PWCs across the island.
  3. Cabinet has approved the lifting of the moratorium on licensing new commercial operators in order to allow for the regularisation of the commercial operations
  4. The Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) will take steps to register all PWCs in the island.  Upon registration, PWC operators will be issued with registration certificates and decals. (Decals, provided in two colour codes, are expected to be available within a week).

Other measures approved by Cabinet were:

  1. Issuing of drafting instructions to the Chief Parliamentary Council for the amendment of :

a)      The Tourist Board Act (1955) to allow fines to be increased from the present maximum of $20,000 to $500,000 for breaches of the act.

b)      The Tourist Board (Water Sports) Regulations (1985) :

i.            To give the Crown the power to dispose of water sport vessels seized.

ii.            To prohibit a child under 17 years of age from operating commercial jet skis without an accompanying adult.

  1. Support for the formation of a Task Force from the relevant Ministries and their agencies to effect the changes.  (The Jamaica Constabulary Force, Jamaica Customs, Jamaica Defence Force, Jamaica Tourist Board, Maritime Authority of Jamaica, Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, National Environment and Planning Agency, Port Authority of Jamaica and the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) are members of the Task Force).

 

Given the urgency of the concerns at hand, and the impact on the tourism industry and livelihoods of many, the Ministry and Task Force will actively proceed with the implementation of critical measures needed to streamline both private and commercial PWC operations across the island as quickly as possible.

It is intended that guided by the Task Force, the suspension on the operations will be lifted in each area as the relevant measures identified and regulations put in place are implemented and persons become compliant.  For example, based on the state of readiness of the Ocho Rios Bay (UDC Beach), they should be able to come on stream as soon as they re-apply and obtain their decals from the Maritime Authority of Jamaica.  But this process can only move as quickly as persons in the industry conform and comply with requirements. 

Next Steps

The Task Force will provide information on the requirements for licensing for all persons operating presently.

However, amongst measures being implemented to bring these locations on stream will be the enforcement of a number of regulations.  These will include but are not limited to:

–          Identification of specific launch zones determined by the Task Force

–          Prohibition  of PWCs operating within 200m of the shore

–          Adherence to no wake zones within 200m

–          All PWCs will have to be licensed and possess decals

–          All commercial operators will be required to undergo training

–          All commercial operators will provide minimum training to persons accessing their services

Whilst we have stopped the importation of PWCs, we are asking TPDCo and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to formalise carrying capacity requirements, particularly in resort areas where motorised watersports activity is more prevalent.

The Task Force will further determine specific timelines for this process.  A team of specialised persons will be put in place under the egis of TPDCo to assist with the monitoring and evaluation. 

The Honourable House is asked to note the foregoing.

K. Wykeham McNeill, MD, MP

Minister of Tourism and Entertainment

February 18, 2014

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