Jet ski rental operations remain unchanged in face of government fines

Despite strict warnings and fines from authorities, jetski operators flout watercraft rules blatantly.

ABU DHABI // The threat of fines or jail is not enough to deter jet ski operators from leasing the machines in areas where they are outlawed.

Operators continue to hire out the jet skis at the Al Maqta Canal, where it seems the money is simply too good to pass up.

Hasan Noor, a jet ski operator at Al Maqta, said he was fined by the municipality a couple of times but the money he invested meant he had to continue.

“Sometimes municipality officials come and ask us to shut the business and give us fines,” Mr Noor said. “Last year, I got a Dh2,000 fine then later another Dh1,000 fine.”

Jet skis are banned along Al Bateen beach and between the two bridges at Al Maqta. They are also banned in the Al Raha Beach area, Al Maqta, opposite Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi Corniche, Al Bateen area and north Saadiyat Island.

The Department of Transport said jet skiers must be over the age of 18 and users must be able to swim – a rule commonly ignored.

“Swimming is not important,” said the Bangladeshi, who has been in the jet ski business for 12 years. “We give them a life jacket. If they fall they wouldn’t drown.”

At Mina Zayed jet ski rental station, operators have to pay Dh50 to Abu Dhabi Fishermen’s Cooperative Society each time someone wants to use the water. “We don’t pay anything for this place, Al Maqta Canal, while those who operate from authorised locations like in Mina Zayed, pay Dh50 for each jet ski which enters the water,” Mr Noor said.

“[And] if you bring your child and take to the water, it’s your responsibility.”

While those leasing jet skis seem to believe their practice is safe, there have been incidents.

“If they are less than 18 years old we don’t give [them a jet ski],” said Mohammed Jafer, who has been working with jet skis for five years.

“A father last year took two jet skis on his Emirates ID and gave one to his son who later lost control and fell in the sea and was rammed by his father,” said Mr Jafer.

The youngster was killed.

“The jet ski operator was jailed for giving two jet skis on a single ID, while father was held responsible for letting his son ride the machine,” he said.

“The operators just take the Emirates ID card and rest is your responsibility.”

Another operator at Al Maqta area – Musharraf, who gave his first name only – admitted that many people came and submitted their IDs and later gave the machines to youngsters.

“What can we do?” he said. “Now it’s their responsibility.”

Officials from the Department of Transport were not available for comment.