Oh Joy the Govenment is at it again
RYA Press Release
8 April 2004
RYA urges boaters to have their say over breath tests
The Government now has the power, under the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, to regulate alcohol limits and introduce a testing regime for private recreational boaters.
If new regulations are introduced the Government is likely to exempt certain categories of recreational craft. In order to help decide which craft shall be exempted, whether or not the regulations shall only apply to the skipper of the craft and which marine officials will have the requisite powers to detain a vessel (pending the arrival of the police), the Department of Transport (DfT) has released a consultation paper.
The RYA is urging all recreational boaters, regardless of whether or not they own a boat and where they go afloat, to voice their opinions on which craft and to whom regulations should apply. The consultation paper and response form is available on the DfT website at: www.dft.gov.uk
and responses should reach the DfT by 30 July 2004.
The RYA believes that adequate controls in the form of harbour byelaws and regulations are already in place to deal with any abuse of alcohol. We are not in favour of further legislation, which we think is unnecessary and potentially unenforceable. The RYA is not aware of any reliable or persuasive evidence to support the claim that being under the influence of alcohol on board a private recreational craft is a significant issue that has led to a large number of incidents. However, it is likely that the results of the consultation will be interpreted into additional legislation and this is why it is essential that as many boaters respond as possible, ensuring a fair outcome.
Part 4 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act introduced alcohol and drug legislation in respect of shipping, establishing an alcohol limit and a testing regime for alcohol and drugs that applies to professional or non-professional (i.e. private recreational) boaters. It gives the Secretary of State the power to order or to make regulations in Section 80 (non-professionals) and Section 84 (detention pending arrival of police). Section 80 enables exceptions to be made so that in specified circumstances recreational boaters do not commit an offence if they exceed the prescribed limit for alcohol.
The paper identifies 3 parameters by which the exceptions will be determined. These are power, size and location. Respondents are asked to comment on these and the extent to which they believe they should be used. The Act already excludes private recreational craft that are not underway.
The consultation paper also covers the detention of craft pending the arrival of police. This means that designated officials could stop and detain a recreational boater whilst waiting for the police to arrive and perform the breath test. There are obvious cost implications of these officials patrolling the waters and taking on the additional workload this responsibility creates, and the practical difficulties of detaining a vessel that may be some distance from land.
Rod Carr, RYA CEO commented: "The RYA does not condone the excessive consumption of alcohol by the skipper of a boat whilst the vessel is underway but we do not believe it to be a significant issue that has led to a large number of incidents.
Like most activities there are a small minority who behave irresponsibly on the water, but there is no reliable evidence to support the claim that being under the influence of alcohol whilst skippering a recreational boat is a widespread problem. As a responsible organisation, with a strong safety ethos, were we to be shown a reliable body of evidence that showed this to be a significant issue we would support reasonable means to address the problem.
The RYA strongly believes that the education of boaters is a more effective solution than government legislation. All our training courses emphasise the duty of care that a Skipper has as the sole person in charge of a boat. The onus on the skipper increases with the size and performance capabilities of the boat of which they have command."