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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:
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).
There are on record eight (8) licensed PWC operators in total.
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 to measures effected October 15, 2013, Cabinet on February 10, 2014 tabled the following additional measures.
Other measures approved by Cabinet were:
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.
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:
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