Watersports operators have been warned that unless they comply with regulations governing the sector, they will face sanctions by the relevant authorities.
Word of this has come from Shipping Superintendent, Walter Best, who said, over the years, Government’s??International Transport Division??has had to grapple with??various levels of?? indiscipline among??some operators, with infractions ranging from?? driving without a licence, to speeding and driving vessels into buoyed swimming areas. This conduct has posed a threat to the safety of passengers and other beach users.
Noting?? that?? enforcement agencies, namely the Barbados Coast Guard and the Royal Barbados Police Force’s marine arm, had been unrelenting in their commitment to ensuring the safety of shipping in Barbados, Mr. Best disclosed that?? joint efforts to crack down on indiscipline would be ongoing.
"Enforcement agencies have been targeting areas of concern known to have undesirable activity, and they have been reaping much success. Similar operations will continue to be carried out," he stressed, while maintaining that not all operators were the guilty parties.
"There are quite a number of law-abiding?? operators out there…, however, ??as in the case of any undertaking, one will find the undesirable elements, so one cannot paint all operators with one brush. The best form of regulation is self-regulation. We want operators to see their operations as a business and realise that some of the behaviour exhibited from time to time is not conducive to tourists wanting to come back and utilise these services," Mr. Best cautioned.
With the water sports sector being an integral part of the tourism product, the International Transport official indicated that operators needed to ply their trade in an orderly manner in an effort to ensure the safety of their clients and other beach users, as well as to protect their livelihood.
Citing the Shipping (Watersports) Regulations, 2004 governing the sector, Mr. Best underscored the need for adherence to these basic rules that include the mandatory acquisition of insurance for third party risks safety inspections of vessels, and operating watercraft in designated zones.
"Under the Shipping Watersports Order, 2004, there are areas set aside specifically for watersports; and any operation outside of them is an offence.?? One of the challenges we have had from time to time is several reports of operators taking watercraft into buoyed areas. Buoyed areas have been set aside for the protection of sea bathers and divers, and, therefore, if a vessel is driven into any of those zones it could result in the injury or even death of sea bathers," the Shipping Superintendent warned.
In the current climate, Mr. Best maintained that the main challenge was to get across the message that operators needed to comply with regulations, and function in a manner that did not impinge on the rights of others.
"In Barbados, everyone has a right to enjoy the beach. However, that right ceases to exist when it comes into conflict with other people’s rights and, therefore, common sense must prevail," he underscored.
The International Transport official also flagged the need for operators to possess ???Permits to Ply for Hire’, warning that failure to do so signified that persons were conducting business in contravention of stated rules. "It gives you the right to operate and if you do not have it then you should not be out there operating!" he admonished.
Reflecting on frequent reports from tourists claiming to have experienced "near misses" or expressing general concern about the behaviour of operators, Mr. Best described the situation as "undesirable and unwholesome".
"These are some of the things that we are concerned about, because operators have a right to ply their business and to engage in other legitimate forms of employment. However, we must encourage them to do it in an orderly manner, and in an environment that is conducive to the growth and sustainability of their businesses.
"They must be aware that they cannot bite the hand that feeds them. If they continue to operate in this manner, soon they will not have any businesses to operate, because tourists will stop using their services. And these are matters that concern us, especially as a tourist destination," he concluded.
So?? as?? the summer season approaches,?? and?? is expected to bring with it an influx of tourists, watersports operators are being encouraged to conduct their business in a responsible manner??that?? would??redound??to their economic and social benefit, as well as to Barbados’ reputation??in general.