Jet skiers face tough new rules on safety and behaviour

Jet skis must be registered by their owners or rental companies after passing a safety test under tough new laws being brought in to prevent accidents.

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DUBAI // Jet skis must be registered by their owners or rental companies after passing a safety test under tough new laws being brought in to prevent accidents. The new legislation, introduced by the Marine Agency of the Roads and Transport Authority, also requires jet skiers to stay within a cordoned-off zone next to Dubai Offshore Sailing Club's harbour. Jet ski laws have come under scrutiny after a number of deaths and serious injuries in coastal waters.

Anyone caught flouting the new legislation faces a fine of up to Dh1,500 (US$408) and confiscation of the jet ski for one month. The rules came into force last Wednesday. "It is a new service and until now we have registered three jet skis," said the director of registration and licensing at the Marine Agency, Sultan al Kitbi. More zones were planned, in addition to the 5.7 sq km area by the sailing club, where the registration and licensing offices are also located, which at the moment "is the only place you can launch a jet ski", said Mr al Kitbi.

Another zone off Al Mamzar Park, next to the Sharjah border, was being considered. "It is still under study but it will be in the Al Mamzar area." The new laws stipulate that jet ski drivers must be no younger than 14 unless they are in the presence of a parent or a qualified coach. A life jacket must be worn at all times - anyone not wearing one risks a Dh200 fine if caught, rising to a maximum of Dh600 for the third offence.

"We are taking into consideration the safety issues where people swim and the port area where there are cables underneath," added Mr al Kitbi. Additionally, there were construction projects along much of Dubai's coastline and the law would protect jet ski users from straying into such areas. To register their jet skis, owners will have to produce the official purchase invoice, customer clearance certificate, copy of passport and medical certificate of fitness for the driver, who must pass a technical test and have comprehensive insurance for 13 months.

It will cost Dh500 to register or renew the two-year registration for a jet ski. Rental companies will pay Dh3,000 per jet ski, and those will also have to pass a technical test, which will include checks for a chassis number, an air filter with a fire trap and a locked-in battery. The propeller must be covered and the steering will be also checked. Once out on the water, jet ski owners are subject to a maximum Dh1,500 fine if they are caught driving rashly or not paying attention to their surroundings.

As part of the safety requirements, jet ski owners are told to respect swimming areas and hotels' beaches and to avoid endangering or irritating other people in or on the water. "We are co-ordinating with Dubai Police and Dubai Coast Guard regarding this issue and we have the operations department who will have inspectors to control all these locations," said Mr al Kitbi. The most high-profile recent accident involved a British television sport presenter, Charlotte Jackson, who broke her nose while jet-skiing in Dubai Marina earlier this year.