Call for govt to control jet skis

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ONE of the many jet skis at Safety Beach last Friday afternoon. Picture: Gary Sissons

IT is the height of the summer holidays and the roar of jet skis is the background noise at many Mornington Peninsula beaches.

Rye and Safety Beach are two of the main launching places for what are officially known as personal water craft (PWCs), although their use extends well beyond these two areas.

On some days the water traffic from Safety Beach to The Pillars cliff jumping site at Mt Martha rivals that along the cliff top Esplanade roadway.

Although it has been frequently criticised for adding an extra boat ramp at Rye to the benefit of jet skiers, Mornington Peninsula Shire wants to reign in their behaviour.

Transport Safety Victoria says jet skis are covered by “hoon” legislation “which means owners and/or operators can be prosecuted for operating an unsafe vessel, or dangerously, and [jet skis] can be seized, impounded and embargoed”.

The mayor Cr David Gill says enforcement of the laws is “not satisfactory or effective in addressing public safety concerns”.

“We have heard [at public meetings] from the community and now need action from the state government and other authorities to protect the amenity and safety of all users of our coastline,” he said.

“In order to do this we need increased surveillance, patrolling and enforcement of personal water craft along the peninsula coastline.

“Relevant authorities should not ignore this problem any longer. We need a solution so that children and others feel safe and also to protect dolphins and other wildlife”.

Transport Safety Victoria says stunts and manoeuvres must be done “well away from other people, other vessels and the shore”.

Jet skis must not travel faster than five knots (9 kph, the equivalent of a fast walking pace) if they are within 50 metres of a person, vessel, wharf, jetty, slipway, diving platform or boat ramp.

Jet skis must also observe the speed limit if within 100m of a dive flag. Yellow poles off beaches show where jet skis must be kept at five knots or below.

Water Police issued 120 infringements of up to $806 for marine safety offences in the eight days from 27 December.

Part of Operation Jetwash, included patrols focussing on jet skis between St Kilda and Safety Beach.

Infringements included operating within no boating zones, speeding and other safety based offences.

“Jet-skis are heavy pieces of machinery operated in the water environment and are capable of reaching high speeds. Their safe operation is completely within the hands of the user,” Senior Sergeant Alistair Nisbet said.

“Users need to ensure they obey No Boating Zones or Swimming Only Zones, with both exclusions and reduced speed limits applying to particular areas around Victoria.”

An internet site run by the legal firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers says people aged between 12 and 16 can no longer get a restricted marine licence and ride a jet ski.

“From age 16, jet ski drivers require a marine licence with a PWC endorsement, which requires an additional test,” the lawyers state.

Jet ski owners can also be fined for not reporting any injuries or accidents to Maritime Safety Victoria. Failure to do so could lead to that particular vessel being stopped from operating in Victorian waters.

“It’s also important to keep a clear distance from other jet ski operators, motorboats and vessels such as yachts and kayaks,” Maurice Blackburn states.

“In a recent case, a jet ski operator was having such a good time he didn’t notice a boat reversing in his direction. Unfortunately, the jet ski driver ended up losing a leg, and both he and the owner of the boat are now caught in a legal battle over damages.”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 8 January 2019

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