x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Boat owners must fit electronic trackers or pay fine

All fishing and leisure boats under 3,000 tonnes must be fitted with the "e-passport" device or risk being fined Dh5,000.

ABU DHABI // Owners of fishing and leisure boats without electronic trackers are being fined Dh5,000. The Critical National Infrastructure Authority (CNIA) announced in June last year that all boats under 3,000 tonnes must be fitted with the "e-passport" devices. The trackers allow the coast guard to find boats that have run into trouble. Staff Col Shaq al Beshir, director of operations at CNIA, said about 75 per cent of the 6,000 registered boats had already added the device.

Those that failed to comply will be issued with fines. "By the end of this year's campaign, we expect all the boats to have it," the colonel said during the launch of CNIA's second annual maritime security campaign, Bihar, which means "seas" in Arabic. Figures of how many boats hadbeen fined so far were unavailable. Boat owners had received only warnings until September last year. "We were lenient with them - we would give one or two warnings before issuing fines," the colonel said.

"The problem is that some people try to hide their boats from us, or maybe they are not hiding them, they are just not using them." E-passports can be acquired for Dh7,000 through Abu Dhabi Coast Guard, which can also provide maintenance. If an owner stops using the boat, the device can be returned for a full refund. The Bihar campaign, which will run until December, focuses on sea-safety awareness. People will also be reminded of maritime rules and regulations, and the importance of the e-passport.

Last year's campaign helped to promote the maritime emergency number 996. The colonel said the service was most often used for minor incidents. "Accidents exist, but they are not major crashes as one would expect," he said. "They are mostly jet-ski accidents or technical issues." He said 996 received 10 to 15 calls a day. The authority will also follow other government organisations, such as Abu Dhabi Police, and launch its own Facebook page.

hdajani@thenational.ae