Minister of Transport Hosts Town Hall Meeting with Jet Ski and Water Sport Operators

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Minister of Transport and Local Government, the Hon. Renward Wells, along with Port Department officials, met with stakeholders in the Jet Ski and water sport industry in a Town Meeting, Monday, April 1, at the National Training Agency. The meeting was held to address some of the issues and challenges that plague stakeholders. The Minister said that the meeting was a timely one, in response to recent complaints against the water sport industry, including a recent US Advisory.  He said his primary objective was to seek to remedy the situation in order to ensure that the Bahamian people and also visitors are safe. Minister Wells reaffirmed the government’s commitment to safety and security in the industry, and a pledge to regulate and preserve the water sport industry via acquisition of necessary resources, broad consultation with industry stakeholders, and joint law enforcement.

Minister Wells said that the recent travel advisories potentially cost the country tens of millions of dollars in revenues, as it is perceived by some that the water sport industry is ‘lawless.’   He said the government is committed to preserving law and order in the industry, and that the government will not allow a small group of persons to jeopardize the country’s economy.

Some of the concerns raised at the town meeting were:

·      The need for greater manpower on beaches, (port officers and police)

·      Need for increase in jet skis for use by the Port Department to patrol waters.

·      More intensive dialogue between hotel operators and water sport operators.

·      Steps to remove related stigma regarding the industry.

·      Inefficiency of the rotation system at Cabbage Beach.

·      How disciplinary actions should be carried out, for example — the need to issue citations in the first instance before suspension and revocation of licenses.

·      Need for more leniency towards first offenders and those found guilty of minor infractions.

A number of action plans and corrective measures were proposed to address some of the issues.

A recommendation was made to amend the water sport and recreation act to ensure that laws and regulations are in place to ensure safety and security.

Another suggestion was to implement uniforms and proper identification badges. Other ideas included the use of technology such as CCTV and drone technology; implement manned ‘look out towers’; deployment of additional patrol boats and monitoring jet skis; extension of the Cable Beach ramp as more space is needed to load and offload persons from boats; and an increase in police presence. In the concluding remarks, stakeholders were admonished to take ownership and protect their industry; and form an association.

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