THE Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) is urging boaters to be vigilant and to take precautionary measures when traversing the waterways this Heroes' weekend.
“The Maritime Authority of Jamaica takes the safety and protection of life at sea very seriously,” said Rear Admiral (ret'd) Peter Brady, director general of the MAJ.
“Passengers must be watchful for possible danger and boat owners and drivers alike, must consider highly enough their own safety and that of their passengers, and take every precaution when transporting passengers,” added Brady, as he outlined some guidelines with which individuals steering passenger- carrying vessels (coxswains) must comply.
These include that the vessels must be registered and licensed by the MAJ to carry passengers, and the coxswains must engage in a safety brief before the start of a voyage.
Brady said the coxswain must also ensure that life jackets are properly fitted and worn by all passengers; display the licence of the skipper; show on demand by the travelling public or law enforcement, the safety certificate of the vessel; and operate the vessel in accordance with the conditions listed on the safety certificate.
Coxswains have also been warned that the vessel should not carry more passengers than the complement that is stated. The MAJ head also encouraged individuals going out on boats to ensure that they also follow the guidelines, and if a coxswain does not comply, they should put their safety first and not board such a vessel.
“Additionally, passengers must pay keen attention to the weather. If the seas are rough and waves are high, do not proceed on boat rides,” said Brady.
The MAJ, which is responsible for the country's maritime administration, has among its roles obligations to provide for the safety of life at sea and the prevention of marine pollution from vessel sources.
In one of the island's most recent boating tragedies, two women drowned when the boat they were in capsized near Lime Cay off Port Royal in Kingston.
They were identified as Edith Betsha, 45, of Mandeville, Manchester, and Jannella Dacessers, 35, of a Kingston address. Eleven other passengers, including the captain of the boat, were rescued by a Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard vessel.
The boat's captain, Herbert Dowie, was later charged under the 1971 Harbours Act, with failing to comply with the load line; failing to keep bilge free of water; operating an unlicensed vessel; and having more persons in the vessel. He was subsequently fined $400 after pleading guilty.
Months earlier, a boat owned by St Catherine South Western Member of Parliament Everald Warmington capsized while transporting individuals to Pigeon Island for a fun day. There were no fatalities in that incident.