x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Unqualified skippers on tourist yachts 'are putting lives in danger'

Police warn that a number of yachts operating as tourist vessels in Dubai are being operated by unqualified captains with little or no knowledge of maritime rules and regulations.

DUBAI // Yacht captains with no qualifications and little knowledge of navigation are endangering the lives of tourists, police warned yesterday.

Twelve yachting accidents were registered in Dubai in the past two years. The majority of these involved people with no formal qualifications, according to Lt Col Abdullah Al Mazyoud, the director of the Ports Police Station.

"Many of these yachts are run by basically anyone," he said. "They sometimes get someone who is working as a cook on-board to drive it."

He warned that this not only endangered people's lives but also damaged Dubai's reputation as a tourism hub.

Lt Col Al Mazyoud added: "These practices must stop as they can have a negative impact on the tourism industry in Dubai."

He urged tourists and travel agents to be more vigilant and to check that all vessels were suitably licensed before any trip.

One of the accidents involved a captain who lost control of his yacht and hit a breakwater near the World Islands, while another captain's navigational skills failed him and led him into a collision with a rock.

Two other yachts with tourists on board collided with each other near Mina Al Seyahi, while a third was seriously damaged when it was hit awkwardly by a wave.

"The majority of these accidents occur because the captains of the yachts lack the skills and experience to deal with situations which might occur at sea," said Lt Col Al Mazyoud.

"They are ignorant of the maritime navigation rules. They do not recognise the different guidance signs and as a consequence they get themselves, and the tourists who have rented the vessel, into trouble.

"They do not know the signs which indicate a dangerous area, for example, therefore they hit rocks or get lost and find themselves in other emirates' waters."

He added that a number of the captains involved were employed illegally and were not under the sponsorship of their companies.

Some of the captains have been referred to the public prosecution on charges of damaging public property, while some of the companies were charged with violating naturalisation and residency laws.

Lt Col Al Mazyoud said that all vessels operating in the emirate's waters and all their crew must be licensed by the Dubai Maritime City Authority.

He said that officers had been surveying all tourism companies that operate yachts and lecturing them on the dangers of employing unqualified crew.

The companies are also being warned of what punishments they face if found employing someone without the necessary sponsorship papers. Any person or company found employing a person who is not under their sponsorship can be fined Dh50,000 and jailed for up to two years.

"We put these companies on the spot by contacting them and informing them of the rules and thus make it harder for them to get out of their responsibility," said Lt Col Al Mazyoud.

"These gatherings are hoped to make [companies] more committed to following the rules."