Karrie Williams, Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:Stakeholders in Negril have intensified their calls for the regulation of jet skis in the resort town's coastal areas.
The calls follow on the heels of a recent accident in Negril that resulted in serious injury to a visitor to the island. Arising from that incident, one man is now before the court for illegally operating a jet ski.
"We, the police, now need to pay more attention to the concerns and operational aspects of jet ski operators within our territorial waters," Commanding Officer of the Westmoreland Police Division, Superintendent Carol McKenzie, told Western Focus.
At the same time, McKenzie said that he would be ordering a re-investigation into the accident involving the tourist as he was unhappy with how the initial investigation was carried out and the charges that were made.
"I am very unhappy and dissatisfied with how it was dealt with as no actions were brought to bear against the operator for injury to the tourist. Someone must be held accountable. I am very adamant about that, and so I will also be seeking the advice of the court," he said.
several calls of complaint
Subsequent checks with senior marine personnel at the Negril Police Station reveal that since the start of the month, several more complaints concerning the unlawful operation of jet skis had come in to the police.
"We have been called several times by hoteliers and other stakeholders who complain to us that jet skis are encroaching on the swimming areas of the beach.
"Currently, we have an operator before the courts on charges of illegally operating a jet ski and causing an accident by colliding with a guest on the beach. There are also complaints of guests being harassed by operators who compete with each other for their business," a source at the Negril Police Station told Western Focus.
Under the Beach Control (Safety Measures) Regulations of 2006, any person who operates a vessel (including jet skis) exceeding three knots (3.5 miles per hour) within a buffer area commits an offence, and if convicted, could be fined up to $250,000 and/or face a prison term of up to 12 months.
Western Focus first highlighted this problem in July as a result of numerous complaints from stakeholders. In that publication, Dave Etzler, a yearly vacationer to Negril, said that jet ski operations in the resort town were out of control and better enforcement was necessary to ensure that operations conformed to regulations.
"I've had the employees ride full speed through the middle of a group of swimmers and grin back at them just to amuse themselves by putting others at risk," Etzler had commented.
unlicensed jet skis
In a recent meeting of the Negril Resort Board, Chairman of the Board, Cliff Reynolds, said 90 per cent of the jet skis in Negril were not licensed. He said there was a great deal of corruption as it related to jet ski licensing and that the police were trying to catch up with perpetrators. He further stated that there was a black market being operated on the beach.
At the same meeting, it was revealed that the Jamaica Tourist Board was aware of the serious concerns resulting from unregulated jets skis in Negril and that some jet ski owners were operating without Tourist Board licences.
Just recently, a jet ski accident, which occurred on a beach in St Ann, resulted in the death of a six-year-old girl and life-threatening injuries to her two sisters.