From 31 March 2023, anyone caught driving jet skis, speed boats and other recreational and personal watercraft dangerously could face up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine

Tighter laws governing the driving of jet skis, speed boats and other recreational and personal watercraft (PWC) in the waters around the UK will come into effect from 31 March 2023.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has been given new powers to prosecute those who dangerously misuse watercraft; anyone caught riding or driving recklessly could now face a prison sentence of up to two years and an unlimited fine.

a rider on a green and black jets skis driving past a moored motor boat

Riders who drive recklessly can now face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison if found guilty

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

It will mean those who operate personal watercraft will be subject to the same laws and safety obligations that apply to ships, including the requirement to maintain a lookout, drive at safe speeds and outline their responsibilities to other vessels.

The RYA says the new law – the Merchant Shipping (Watercraft) Order – also introduces a definition for watercraft which applies to any craft capable of moving under its own mechanical power.

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The new legislation was bought in following the increase in the number, size, power and use of recreational and personal watercraft in UK waters.

Many harbour masters around the UK have reported a rise in the use of jet skis in local waters over the last few years; some even banned the launching and use of jet skis in harbour limits, due to concerns about safety.

Hampshire’s Marine Support Unit launched Operation Wavebreaker in 2020 due to a surge in reports of anti-social behaviour on the waters around Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, including speeding jet skiers.

An aerial view of Poole Harbour

Poole Harbour Commissioners increased patrols to clamp down on those riding personal watercraft recklessly. Credit: Getty

Poole Harbour Commissioners also reported a rise in anti-social behaviour, and increased patrols in Poole Harbour as well as successfully fining two people for speeding on their jet skis within the harbour limits.

The RYA backed the change in the law, saying it shared the Government’s desire ‘to frame legislation that will help to address the minority of PWC users who behave irresponsibly and create issues,’

Commenting on the new legislation, the  Maritime Minister, Baroness Vere said: “The watercraft industry is thriving and it’s great to see more and more people enjoying leisure activities. However, they must do so safely. ”

“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,” she added.

NOTE: This article was updated to provide details of the name of the new law

Enjoyed reading Riders of jet skis who drive recklessly could face a two year jail term under new laws?

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