By Orville Williams
A large group of jet ski operators has commended the professionalism of the marine authorities, following a decisive meeting last week.
The operators had been voicing their concerns for several weeks amid rumours of a ‘clamping down on jet skiing,’ following several reports of reckless behaviour on the waters. Additionally, their concerns stemmed from a call earlier this year by the Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association (ABHTA), for increased patrols and enforcement of the marine regulations, for the same reason.
According to a release from the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF), 18 members of the jet ski group – named SKIDADLI – met with commanding officer of the ABDF Coast Guard (ABDF CG), Lieutenant Commander Elroy Skerritt, and representatives of the unit, along with the director of the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Marine Services and Merchant Shipping (ADOMS), HE Ambassador Dwight Gardiner.
The ABDF CG voiced concerns on the public notion of nuisance associated with jet ski operators, and the group discussed the laws that govern the operators, as well as the expectations of them as professionals.
Observer spoke with a member of the group, Shevon, who had been vocal on the need to distinguish the “troublemakers” from the professional jet ski operators. He said that the meeting went well, that the group voiced their concerns, as well as accepted the pronouncements from the authorities.
He said that, overall, they are looking forward to a more structured system.
“As the Commander said, if it’s a case where we’re going to ride these jet skis and ride them responsibly, then he doesn’t have a problem with that, so long as we [continue to] obey the guidelines and the rules of the sea.
“It’s a matter of educating people that are using these jet skis, to do the right thing. It’s not that they’re trying to be hard on the jet ski users, if they decide that they’re going to be more responsible,” he said.
Shevon concluded by explaining that the authorities urged the group to be vigilant and to use their knowledge of the laws and guidelines, to change the behaviour of those who ride recklessly. He said, subsequent to the meeting, he personally had an interaction with a reckless rider and advised him to maintain adherence to the law, a move the authorities would approve.
The release from the ABDF added that the meeting ended with an agreement from the jet ski group to collaborate on improving the sector, an agreement that will see several initiatives put into place.
These include, training sessions to formally orient new jet ski operators in the areas of marine safety and the governing regulations, the use of a unique logo that is highly recognisable from a distance to identify and distinguish the group, informing the ABDF CG of any jet ski rallies organised by the group involving the participation of 10 or more bikes, and facilitating a safety brief before the commencement of any rally with jet skis.