Holiday boaters warned to observe COVID protocol
Pleasure boat operators are being warned that any failure to observe COVID-19 protocols on the high seas, including sticking to the curfew deadlines, will result in prosecution.
This as the Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ), working in collaboration with the Marine Police and the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard, will be stepping up surveillance and monitoring activities in light of the anticipated increase in boating activities in Jamaican waters over the Emancipation Day and Independence holiday weekends.
Emancipation Day (August 1) will fall on Sunday but the public holiday will be observed on Monday, while Independence Day falls on Friday, August 6.
And the authorities will be out in force to ensure that Jamaicans who take to the sea are safe on all fronts, according to acting operations officer in charge of the Marine Police Division, Inspector Deron White.
“We will be monitoring marine vessels and ensuring that those vessels going to sea stick to the COVID-19 protocol; that they are not crowded and all vessels that go to sea are registered and operated by people with requisite certification,” he told The Gleaner.
For operators of vessels who breach any safety measure or COVID-19 protocols, Captain Steven Spence, director of Safety, Environment and Certification at MAJ, was very clear on what will happen.
“Oh, they will be turned back to dock. The Coast Guard and the Marine Police will be turning them back,” he said.
To curtail the spread of COVID-19, additional carrying rules have been implemented by the Government of Jamaica. It means that passenger-carrying vessels must observe the carrying rule of half of the present assigned capacity to a maximum of 10 persons. For small passenger vessel operators particularly, this means that the number of persons permitted by the MAJ as shown on the Safety Certificate must be cut in half.
Captain Spence, in a safety notice issued by his organisation on Friday, explained that operating vessels outside of the registration and licensing guidelines set by the MAJ poses a significant danger to the public.
“The guidelines set by the MAJ are to keep the public safe and coxswain (boat drivers) of passenger-carrying vessels must be in the business of protecting the passengers they transport. Firstly, their vessels must be registered and licensed by the MAJ to carry passengers, and the operators must engage in a safety brief prior to commencement of a voyage. They must ensure that lifejackets are properly fitted and worn by all passengers,” he said.
“Particularly as we are in the hurricane season, passengers are urged to pay keen attention to the weather. If the seas are rough and waves are high, they should not proceed on boat rides,” Captain Spence emphasised.
He called on seagoing passengers to take full responsibility for their safety and not unknowingly put themselves at risk.