Danger on the water: RYA has concerns over planned new laws

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has responded to the Department for Transport’s (DfT) public consultation on strengthening enforcement of the dangerous use of recreational and personal watercraft (PWC), setting out its key points and concerns.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 1:06 pm
The leisure and recreational boating sector, which is overwhelmingly safe and well conducted, says the RYA

A key concern for the RYA is the possible unintended consequences that the proposals to address a few problem areas, could lead to unnecessary regulation across the leisure and recreational boating sector, which is overwhelmingly safe and well conducted.

However, the RYA supports the aspiration to rectify the uncertainty that might place recreational and personal watercraft outside the scope of section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act (MSA) 1995 making it impossible to take action against reckless or dangerous activity on the water by people in certain circumstances. Whilst many of the drivers of these craft are responsible, respect others on the water and undertake RYA training, a small minority do not.

It is also the RYA’s belief that, at present, the proposed definition of a “watercraft” is too broad. The variety of craft that would fall within its scope would be disproportionate, for instance, it would not be appropriate for an unpowered inflatable beach toy to be considered “watercraft” under the regulation.

The RYA is aware that there is continuing uncertainty on the registration of recreational craft and PWC on the UK Ship Register. While the RYA does not support compulsory registration of such craft for use in the UK, the RYA does support the option for all boat owners to be able to voluntarily register their craft. This is particularly useful when voyaging overseas where proof of ownership and country of registration is often required.

Mel Hide, RYA Director of External Affairs, said: “Overall, RYA supports the aspirations in the proposed order to bring recreational and personal watercraft within the scope of section 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, as we did in 2009. In our view this proposal is an improvement on the last, as rather than trying to redefine “ship” for the purposes of certain merchant shipping enactments it seeks to extend specified powers to cover recreational and personal watercraft.

“However, the proposed definition of “watercraft” means a wide range of powered and unpowered craft would fall within it, so RYA recommends limiting its application to power driven vessels only. This would still achieve the main purpose of the legislation in making it possible to take enforcement action against reckless or dangerous activity on the water. There are other points in the proposed order that RYA believes are not appropriate for all watercraft and we have made this clear in our detailed response.”