Reckless jet skiers to face prison and unlimited fines after law change

jetski with boat in background

The UK is introducing new legislation to crack down on the dangerous misuse of watercraft such as jet skis, with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) being granted more powers to prosecute perpetrators of accidents.

The new law will come into force on March 31 2023, before the busy summer period, and will enable watercraft users to be prosecuted and bound by the same laws that apply to ships to help to prevent accidents.

This follows a boom in the watercraft industry during the pandemic, with the number, size, power and availability of watercraft like jet skis increasing, and their use in UK waters rising.

The government says today’s move (18 January 2023) will help ensure the UK continues to have some of the safest waters in the world.

Personal and recreational watercraft will be bound by the “highway code of the sea”

“The watercraft industry is thriving and it’s great to see more and more people enjoying leisure activities. However, they must do so safely,” says maritime minister, Baroness Vere.

“That’s why we’re introducing a new law to crack down on any dangerous misuse of watercraft like jet skis. It will give the Maritime and Coastguard Agency greater power to prosecute those responsible for causing accidents or entirely avoidable tragedies.

“We’ll continue working to ensure our country’s coasts and waters are safe for everyone.”

Watercraft are not currently covered by wider maritime safety legislation. The new law will mean those found guilty of using their watercraft in a dangerous manner could receive an unlimited fine and/or up to two years in prison.

For those who cause accidents involving loss of life, the new offences could be used to better prosecute perpetrators alongside wider manslaughter charges.

Personal and recreational watercraft will also be bound by the “highway code of the sea” — international regulations which require users to act safely by maintaining a lookout, driving at safe speeds and outlining their responsibilities to other vessels.

5 responses to “Reckless jet skiers to face prison and unlimited fines after law change”

  1. Chris Waller says:

    Great – long awaited safety legislation! Monitoring compliance of the “highway code of the sea” could be a problem and will require evidential documentation that jet ski users are competent to operate in our busy water-space. Will local MCA and Harbour Master have the recourses to monitor compliance?
    Local community should also have a say in any proposal to operate jet skis in our water-space?

  2. Toni hodgkins says:

    Good start
    Queenborough will be pleased, and who will be on standby with a rib on the river to persue said naughty jet skis and reprimand them with what a caution a fine,
    It’s all very well having the rules, but without the people to enforce those rules and by that I mean not some white Hall cleerk sitting in westminster, but officers on the river, like the USA have dedicated river officers who carry out those rules, it will be just another underfunded understaffed undervalued scheme that will be words only.

  3. Alan Gardiner says:

    About time we had laws to safeguard all users of our waters….Some Jet skiers have complete disregard for bathers / anglers etc, especially in river settings….Maybe enclosed waterways should have more stringent legislation other than general to cover all waters.

  4. Toni hodgkins says:

    No doubt as it’s peel ports river and they charge for moorings in the mud and conservancy charges, they are also going to provide patrols in the daylight hours February to October and the obvious areas of the swale, Gillingham, Ridham dock, queenborough, halling to name a few, or is this just another set of rules, underderfunded & understaffed, as unafordable, the popular word of government,

  5. Nick Ardley says:

    The misuse of jet skis in the Lower Thames (Sea Reach), River Medway and Swale has been an ongoing and increasingly dangerous problem for many years.
    During the Covid-19 pandemic many people new to water borne activities purchased personal watercraft (jet skis) and when we were all released after the first lockdown (April-May 2020) to go afloat, the water became at times a night-mare place to be.
    I would add that not all operators acted thus.
    Police were called to the Leigh-on-Sea waterfront due to adverse activities on one particular day. My wife and I were ‘cut up’, circled and suffered close passes too – which was written about at the time.
    The Times newspaper even picked up on it – subsequently the MCA stated they would act, and so they have. Brilliant.
    But, beware: the same regulation will surely cover all craft.
    Keep a log.
    Take pictures, etc…
    Happy sailing.

This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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