Look out for that jet ski! It looks, sounds and moves like a ship, but is it?!
As the summer holidays come to a close, the British Ports Association (BPA) has welcomed the publication of a proposal to close a legal ‘definition of a ship’ loophole, which presently means that personal watercraft are outside the scope of certain rules and prosecution.
With the summer domestic tourist season seeing increased visitors as a result of international travel restrictions, more people than ever are enjoying our coasts. This includes activities in and around ports and harbours and on occasions our marine areas can be dangerous.
Indeed this summer many people have used their own or hired personal watercraft, commonly known as Jet Skis, which can be powerful and capable of high speeds. These can be exhilarating machines but they can be unregulated and not subject to the same maritime safety rules as yachts and other vessels as they fall outside the definition of what is classed as a ship.
A number of ports and harbours around the country have expressed concerns about the safety of users of personal water craft. At present many of these operators cannot be prosecuted for using their watercraft negligently, causing accidents or endangering the safety of others due to a gap in legislation. This is an important issue covering a range or ports and the safety of jet ski users themselves, as well as other users such as swimmers and larger vessels.
The BPA represents around 400 ports and harbour facilities around the UK including all the main recreational hotspots.
The proposal to introduce legislation that closes the ‘definition of a ship’ loophole is both welcome and important. The historic case on the issue, R v Goodwin, discovered this anomaly which means certain rules don’t apply craft which are powerful and common around our coastline. Some have compared to exempting bicycles and motorbikes from the Road Traffic Act. We have received many reports of jet skis being operated dangerously throughout the UK and sadly there have even been fatalities in recent years.