In the wake of the most recent fatal boat accident in the North Sound, Mr. Ezzard Miller, elected representative for the district of North Side, has called on the Government, and more specifically the Minister with responsibility for the Port Authority, to act on Private Members’ Motion No. 5 of 2015/2016 passed unanimously by the Legislative Assembly on 26 October 2015.
The Motion called for the Government to introduce regulations under the Port Authority Law to require persons owning boats larger than 21 feet and powered by engines in excess of 150 horsepower to pass a required test on boat safety, rules of navigation, and the general operation of boats in Cayman waters.
Mr. Miller is now also urging Government to enact and publish comprehensive safety regulations together with penalties for infringements, and to ensure proper marking and lighting of all channels used by the boating public. He is also calling on government to assent to the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREG).
In the meantime, the 2015 Motion moved by Mr. Miller has not been actioned despite its unanimous support.
“I said during the debate on this motion in October 2015 that this was a situation waiting for accidents to happen and that introduction of these new safety regulations was urgent,” Mr. Miller said. “Unfortunately, since then there have been several fatal boating accidents and despite accepting the accolades for supporting the Motion, Government has done nothing to address the dire situation in the nearly two years since the Private Member’s Motion has been passed.”
“It is time for some action on this matter before there are any more of these tragic and most distressing accidents on the water,” Mr. Miller said.
New safety regulations should extend to requiring registration of all boats in the Cayman Islands and annual inspection similar to that for vehicles on land, Mr. Miller said, adding that commercial boats should be subject to random inspections by CIMA and the RCIPS.
“One only has to visit Rum Point or Kaibo on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to observe the flagrant disregard of rules that should obtain in cases of overtaking, passing, approaching and departing docks, navigating to and departing from anchorage at Rum Point, and transiting to canals,” Mr. Miller said.
As a launching platform from which to address the growing dangers being experienced locally in leisure boating, Mr. Miller recommended that Government takes immediate steps to assent to COLREG (Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea). The mandates and resources afforded by COLFREG would buttress the Islands’ proud maritime heritage and help to safeguard the reputation of the Cayman Islands Maritime Authority (CIMA).
“Importantly, drilling down to the impact on boating operations, the adoption of this convention would give greater authority to CIMA and the RCIPS to enforce the rules required to maintain safety on the water for all.”
Speaking to Government’s responsibility and accountability for the proper marking and lighting of all channels used by the boating public, Mr. Miller said: “It is a national disgrace that government can arrange hundreds of millions of dollars to build a cruise port that is not needed but somehow it cannot find a few thousand dollars to make sure the lights on the Rum Point channel are working properly.” The elected representative said that these lights have malfunctioned for years.
Mr. Miller said that these and other deficiencies in government’s oversight and diligence in the area of water safety have led to the current much deplored lowering of standards in the operation of leisure boats in local waters.
For example, Mr. Miller said, “It used to be that whenever you crossed a dive boat with divers in the water there was a ‘divers down’ flag flying and a lookout on the boat. Now far too often I have observed the divers down flag flying without the required accompanying lookout on the boat.”
The Member for North Side envisages that on the introduction of appropriate comprehensive water safety rules, Marine Enforcement Officers who come across such infractions would be able to issue tickets and other penalties on the spot, similar to how this is done by landside traffic officers.
The overall impact of this comprehensive approach to water safety would be heightened and broadened oversight and enhanced effectiveness of our Marine Enforcement Officers in enforcing the rules governing operations of leisure boats in Cayman waters.