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Shipping: Merchant Shipping

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009


My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing a consultation entitled Merchant Shipping—Public Consultation on the Merchant Shipping (Watercraft) Order 200X which sets out proposals to regulate the safe use of all watercraft by bringing them into the scope of the merchant shipping legislation. The proposals also aim to clarify the process for registering them on the UK ship register.

The changes are being considered following a Court of Appeal ruling in 2005 (R v Goodwin) where an accident between two jet skis resulted in serious injuries to one of the riders. The court ruled that watercraft used simply for having fun on the water, such as jet skis (also referred to as personal watercraft), were not within the definition of “ship” in the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 (MSA). This meant that such watercraft and their users were not covered by the MSA and related legislation, including offences related to conduct endangering ships, structures or individuals.

The consultation paper has two elements:

Safe use of watercraft—at present there is no overarching power of enforcement to prosecute those who use certain watercraft neglectfully, causing accidents or endangering the safety of others.

We are committed to protecting all users of our waters so they can pursue their activities in safety. The proposal to bring all watercraft within relevant provisions of the MSA and related legislation would allow us to take action against the owners and users of watercraft who carry out reckless or dangerous activity on the water. These proposals would bring such craft within the scope of safety requirements, including alcohol and drug offences.

Clarifying the process for registering watercraft on the ship register—as a result of the Goodwin decision, there is also no power for owners of certain watercraft to register their craft on the UK ship register. We are proposing that those sections of the MSA which provide for registration and registration regulations will apply to all watercraft so that owners can register them if they choose to.

The consultation will close on 29 September 2009.

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library of the House.