Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
With jet skis set to return to centre stage on the country's shorelines tomorrow, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) has already indicated that it will be monitoring the industry like a hawk.
President of the JHTA, Evelyn Smith, signalled her association's intention at its annual general meeting at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday morning.
"The majority of our members have had serious difficulties with the operation of jet skis. Some members have even had to bear the trauma of serious injuries and deaths of their guests as a result of jet ski accidents," noted Smith, as she revealed that some hoteliers have been sued and forced to pay out large sums in settlement.
She said many of her members are strongly opposed to the very existence of the activity.
Smith's comments come days after Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill announced the reopening of the commercial operation of personal water crafts (jet skis) at the UDC beach in Ocho Rios Bay, St Ann.
The reopening follows an islandwide suspension of all jet ski operations and a ban on the importation of jet skis into the island since February. The measures were applied in the wake of three accidents involving jet skis between August 2013 and January 2014.
However, McNeill, during the Sectoral Debate last Tuesday, said it was his intention to table a water sports policy Green Paper shortly to address and provide a framework for the management of all water sports in Jamaica.
"A major part of the policy concerns motorised water sports and personal water crafts," McNeill told Parliament.
"If the Ocho Rios Bay commercial personal water crafts operations are successful, they will provide a template for guiding commercial operations in other resort areas," he stated.
Accordingly, a task force, which was established to bring jet skis activity under stronger management and enforcement, is now looking at the other areas of operation.
In the meantime, the ban on importation will remain in place until further notice, McNeil explained.
He said clear rules and regulations have been established for the operation of jet skis commercially and privately.
All jet skis must have the appropriate decals affixed or be liable for seizure by the authorities. In addition, all operators of commercial jet skis must receive training in the operation of the vessel and meet all requirements for licensing, including insurance, in order to be eligible for a Jamaica Tourist Board water sports licence.
Jet skis should enter and leave the shore using the designated launch area at a slow speed of three knots; and occupants of jet skis must operate at least 200 metres from the shore.