Legislation from the Department for Transport (DfT) to bring some previously unregulated activities within the scope of the Merchant Shipping Act (MSA) 1995 was yesterday (18 January) laid before Parliament.
DfT have confirmed that the new law, the Merchant Shipping (Watercraft) Order, will come into force on 31 March 2023, before the busy summer period. It will apply existing ship operator rules to personal watercraft (PWCs), and other powered recreational craft, and will enable watercraft users to be prosecuted for dangerous and negligent use.
The new law introduces a definition for watercraft which applies to any craft capable of moving under its own mechanical power. It is intended to act as a deterrent to those who might otherwise use watercraft in a reckless and inappropriate manner and aims to reduce accidents resulting in personal injury or damage to property.
Mel Hide, RYA Director of External Affairs, commented: “The RYA welcomes the intent of the new legislation, safe enjoyable boating remains our top priority and the new Merchant Shipping (Watercraft) Order will be an important part of safety on the water. We look forward to working with the Department for Transport and supporting them with the on-going development of legislation to maintain the current high safety standards.”
You can find further details about the Merchant Shipping (Watercraft) Order on the GOV.UK website.
When does this become law?
The Merchant Shipping (Watercraft) Order 2023 was laid before Parliament on 18 January and comes into force on 31 March 2023.
Where does the Merchant Shipping (Watercraft) Order 2023 apply?
This Order extends and applies to the whole of the United Kingdom.
Does the Merchant Shipping (Watercraft) Order 2023 only apply to PWCs?
The Order applies to any craft which is capable of moving under its own mechanical power. This would include PWCs, tenders and sailing dinghies powered by motors, powerboats, RIBS and any yacht that has an engine.
The Order does not apply to any craft which is not capable of moving under its own mechanical power and therefore would exclude such things as pedalos, canoes, rowing boats, SUPs, windsurfers, kite surfers, wing surfers, unpowered surf boards, sailing dinghies.
Are there length limits within the definition of ‘watercraft’?
No, the Order applies to any craft which is capable of moving under its own mechanical power regardless of size.
Who can be prosecuted?
Individuals that do something leading to their watercraft being lost, destroyed or seriously damaged; the loss, destruction or serious damage to any other watercraft, ship or structure; the death of or serious injury to any person.
Individuals that omit to do anything required to: preserve their watercraft from being lost, destroyed or seriously damaged and any person in or on the watercraft from death or serious injury; prevent the watercraft from causing the loss or destruction of or serious damage to any other watercraft, ship or structure or the death of or serious injury to any person not on or in the watercraft.
Imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine, or both.
Does the legislation change where I am permitted to use PWCs?
In short, no. The current controls and restrictions that are in place remain.
Where can I go to find out the specific rules now in place that I need to follow?
We are working on a guide that will provide information on the new rules and how these might affect you. In the meantime you can read the new Order on the GOV.UK website.
For more information on PWC courses and advice visit the PWC training course hub page.
If you are an RYA Member and have a question regarding the new legislation, you can email the RYA Cruising team.