Marine vessel operators, particularly those who operate small crafts and dinghies are reminded of the importance of proper boating and marine safety practices.
In a Safety Alert issued by the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry, Acting Director Captain Raman Bala is reminding mariners and boaters of the necessity of operating small crafts correctly and safely, whilst complying with all maritime regulations.
Captain Bala explained that dinghies and small crafts are quite commonly used in the waters of the Virgin Islands as tenders between ship and shore, making short runs between nearby places, water sports and for fishing.
He added that while the dinghy looks easy to handle, persons can become complacent and this may lead to hazardous situations. These crafts, he said, are small, low in water, and are difficult to spot by larger vessels.
Operators of all vessels including small crafts and dinghies are urged to comply with the Collision Regulations and the Virgin Island Maritime Regulations that require that a proper look-out be maintained by sight and hearing, using the appropriate equipment. In addition, all vessels shall proceed at a safe speed, and take effective actions to avoid collisions or stop a safe distance from any danger in water.
Vessels should steer clear of other vessels as per their responsibilities in the Collision Regulations. At night and in poor visibility, all vessels must exhibit navigational lights as required by the Collision Regulations.
Small crafts and dinghies that are less than seven metres (23 feet) in length and making less than seven knots should have an all-round white light and side lights where feasible. The use of flash-lights and lights on mobile phones is inadequate.
The Shipping Registry is strongly recommending that every person onboard an open boat wear life vests; and drivers should always be connected to the engine kill cord to stop the engine if the driver falls overboard.
It also recommends that all voyages must be planned properly, and the boat should be taken out only after informing an appropriate person about the destination and estimated time of arrival. Additionally, emergency equipment such as air horn; hand flares; and a VHF radio must be stowed onboard in a dry locker ready for use.
Captain Bala is also reminding mariners that fatigue induced by staying awake for long periods and consumption of alcohol or drugs can impair the judgment of the skipper and significantly impair navigational decisions.
Under Merchant Shipping Laws, there are penalties for any conduct endangering any person or vessel. The owner of the vessel is also liable for any unsafe operations of their vessel even if they are not onboard. The Power Craft Ordinance also states that persons who operate power boats under the influence of alcohol are guilty of an offence; and any person who operates a power craft at more than five knots within one hundred yards of low water mark is also guilty of an offence. The BVI Merchant Shipping Act, in addition to other criminal statutes, stipulates penalties for these infringements.
Operators are further reminded that operating vessels at high speed creates large wakes or waves that could travel far and endanger persons in water such as swimmers, snorkelers, kite surfers and paddle boarders. Speed must be limited to avoid creating wakes in busy areas. The BVI Ports Authority Regulations 1995 establishes a speed limit of five knots within Road Harbour Limit with penalties for contravention. The Road Harbour limit is all waters to the north of a line drawn from Hogs Valley Point to Burt Point.