PLP: We were voted out before we could regulate water sports


The scene of the boat fire on June 30.


Tribune Staff Reporter

THE Christie administration drafted amendments to laws governing water sport activities in the Bahamas but was voted from office before tabling the amendments in the House of Assembly.

The proposed revisions, obtained by The Tribune, take on relevance following the Bahamas Maritime Authority’s report into the deadly Exuma 4C’s accident.

The bills partially address loopholes that were highlighted by the report, though they do not solve a central problem facing the industry: the lack of resources the Port Authority requires to enforce its rules and regulations.

It is not clear whether the Minnis administration will take up the bills, which include amendments to the Commercial Recreational Watercraft Act and the Water Skiing and Motor Boat Control Act, along with their accompanying regulations.

The Commercial Recreational Watercraft Act governs the activities of boats like the 37ft 4C’s vessel, that had an onboard explosion on June 30. The PLP’s amendment to the law would have required such vessels to present a “safety case” to port officials, a “written document prepared by or on behalf of an owner to demonstrate the major hazards arising from the operation of a craft has been reduced to risk levels that are within acceptable industry standards and will be managed effectively”.

The licensing of a craft would have been partially contingent on the presentation of a safety case under the PLP’s bill.

The BMC raised concerns in its report that 4C’s did not ensure that its self-built vessel had been surveyed by a recognised organisation. The existing law already requires that applicants for craft licences submit “plans, specifications and inventories” and produce for inspection the “machinery, gear, fixtures and equipment used in connection with the craft”.

But the Christie administration’s amendment to the Commercial Recreational Watercraft Act would have gone further in specifying the requirements of owners of boats with respect to this.

Under the bills, it would be required that the safety case include “details of any significant hazards, a description of the principal features of the design of the craft machinery and systems and the particulars of its construction, outfit and inspection that are intended to ensure that hazards are minimised”.

The bills would require that the case include “results of any practical demonstration or test to determine whether the plant, systems or equipment essential for the safety of personnel or controlling the consequences of an accident, will be capable of function in conditions of fire, flooding, adverse heel, adverse trim and climatic conditions” and “any limitations in the specification of the design of the craft and its equipment in relation to the area, depth or height of operation, climatic conditions, sea state or other limit for safe operation and use” as well as the “particulars of applicable requirements of national, international or classification society standards, regulations or codes of practice.”

The safety case would also require that operators provide “proposed crewing and qualification” and “details of specific crew training requirements appropriate to the nature of the ship,” a potentially relevant issue after the BMC’s report noted that the first mate on the destroyed 4C’s vessel was a 12-year-old boy, the son of 4C’s owner Patterson Smith.

A main purpose of the PLP’s proposed amendments was to regulate under-regulated parts of the water sports industry, including novelty crafts, which are new and rare but intended for commercial use, submersible crafts, which are capable of navigation when totally submerged, and wings-in-ground crafts, which are “multimodal crafts that fly by using ground effect above the water or some other surface, without constant contact with such a surface and supported in the air mainly by an aerodynamic lift generated on a wing or wings, hull, or their parts, which are intended to utilise the ground effect action”.