x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Jet-ski regulations are long overdue

Authorities must ensure operators go through sufficient training or orientation before using the machines, as well as not getting close to swimmers.

The last thing a beachgoer escaping the bustling city needs to worry about is watercraft users losing control of their jet-skis, careening into the surf. And yet, not worrying about such a scenario is asking for trouble at area swimming holes.

As anyone who has ever sat in a beach chair on the Corniche can attest, it is not an uncommon sight to see jet-skier users heading towards the beach with considerable speed and suddenly swerve away to make a splash. Such antics might be fun for those at the craft's controls, but they are beyond annoying for beach patrons. Finally, swimmers and ocean-goers have an advocate.

As The National reported yesterday, Dubai authorities plan to promote safety in the usage of personal watercrafts, including introducing speed limits for jet-ski users. Dubai Maritime City Authority will likely introduce more regulations to the sport after talks with the police, municipality and companies.

"We want people to enjoy the sport but not risk their lives," said Ali Al Daboos, executive director of operations at DMCA. We couldn't agree more. The hot season is already here and such measures must not take long to be imposed. The authority has registered only eight minor violations by jet-ski users this year. But we see dangerous driving nearly every time we visit area beaches.

These measures must not be restricted to speed limits. In many countries around the world, the sport is heavily regulated because of the safety risks involved - to users and bystanders alike. Authorities must ensure operators go through sufficient training or orientation before using the machines. Moreover, jet-skiers must not be allowed to get too close to areas where people swim. And even if there are no people around, a user could lose control of the machine and crash into the shore.

Other measures to consider include regulating operating hours, imposing minimum age restrictions, requiring safety equipment and limiting use during bad weather or limited visibility.

Many people die every year in water sports accidents around the world, and many are first-timers. Dubai's promise to bring more regulation to an under-regulated activity in the UAE is long overdue. Other emirates - especially where water sports are promoted as attraction for tourists and residents - would be wise to follow suit.