New watercraft legislation comes into force

31 Mar 2023

New legislation has been introduced to crack down on the dangerous misuse of watercraft such as jet skis, with enforcement authorities being granted more powers to prosecute perpetrators of accidents.

The new law which came into force today, 31 March 2023, will enable watercraft users to be prosecuted and bound by the same laws that apply to ships in order to help to prevent accidents.

Watercraft are not currently covered by wider maritime safety legislation. The new law will mean those found guilty of using their watercraft in a dangerous manner could receive an unlimited fine and/or up to 2 years in prison.

For those who cause accidents involving loss of life, the new offences could be used to better prosecute perpetrators alongside wider manslaughter charges.

Personal and recreational watercraft will also be bound by the ‘Highway Code of the sea’ – international regulations which require users to act safely by maintaining a lookout, driving at safe speeds and outlining their responsibilities to other vessels.

Speaking on behalf of the Harbour Authorities Liaison committee (HALC) Captain Richard Allan, Harbour Master and CEO, Cattewater Harbour Commissioners said:

“In Plymouth we proactively enforce the regulations in place to make our waters safer for all, but this additional change in legislation will be welcome by Harbour Authorities regionally and nationally.”

Throughout last year Plymouth Magistrates’ Court fined four people for excess speed in the Cattewater, with fines and costs totalling nearly £16,000.

The Port of Plymouth operates a Personal Water Craft Registration scheme.