The pattern of water based recreational activity throughout Ireland has changed significantly in recent years. Increased leisure time, greater tourism and a more affluent domestic society have all contributed to the growth of water based recreational pursuits, including the use of pleasure craft. The demand for this activity has given rise to an increase in the number of such craft including those of the powered variety.
The Deputy will no doubt be aware that the Final Report of the Action Group on Small Powered Recreational Craft, including personal watercraft, was presented to me in April 2000. This report included a number of recommendations on the matter of the safe use of pleasure craft, and on the basis of these, the necessary legislative framework for the regulation of these craft was developed by my Department. The introduction of this legislative framework was achieved through the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act, 2000, which amended the Merchant Shipping Act, 1992. The result of these amendments is that the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources is now empowered to introduce statutory regulations to take account not only of the safety of pleasure craft and their occupants, but also the safety of other persons resulting from the use of the craft.
In this regard I will shortly be introducing an initial phase of regulations which will contain national provisions governing the safe use of personal watercraft, jet skis, fast power craft and other mechanically propelled pleasure craft. These will include,inter alia, provisions relating to age restrictions, the carriage and use of lifejackets, restrictions on the use of alcohol and drugs as well as provisions relating to the careless and dangerous driving of such craft.
The Action Group on Small Powered Recreational Craft made other recommendations relating to issues such as insurance and registration of pleasure craft as well as training and competence of users. These will now be addressed in greater detail by my Department, in full consultation with those in the sector, in order to design legislative provisions which are reasonable and practical, following the successful introduction and implementation of the initial phase of regulations.