The Transport Ministry launched an initiative Wednesday to revise safety rules and regulations to stem the rising tide of accidents involving motorboats, yachts, ski jets and other recreational vessels.
In a comprehensive policy review aiming to make water sports safer, the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry has proposed rules that would require all operators of motorboats to hold a license and to make the use of life jackets mandatory, particularly for children.
Current regulations allow unlicensed individuals to operate recreational boats as long as a license holder is on board to supervise. That regulation is subject to change, and the ministry plans to come up with a policy by summer.
The plan includes policies to promote the recycling of abandoned pleasure boats and the construction of simple moorage facilities along rivers and seashores.
The ministry plans to set up an in-house panel in mid-May to review the rules and regulations and hammer out a new set of policies, including the introduction of a licensing system by fiscal 2002.
At present, 70 percent of the 2.7 million holders of operating licenses for small boats operate Class 4 and Class 5 motorboats weighing less than 5 tons, including ski jets.
The prevalence of such small boat operators has prompted the ministry to consider loosening up the categories of licensing requirements in order to fit the present trend of water sports while placing more emphasis on safety.
With regard to life jackets, the current safety law specifies that they must be bright in color and have a buoyancy of more than 7.5 kg.
The ministry plans to change this rule by autumn, allowing smaller life jackets with buoyancy of just over 5.8 kg. Any color will be permitted, as long as the user does not venture into the open sea.
The ministry will consider whether to make life jackets mandatory for children as well as for adults when they navigate in dangerous waters.
By easing restrictions, the ministry apparently is aiming to expand the use of safety devices ahead of summer 2002.
The policy review also is being taken up in anticipation of a law that is expected to clear the Diet requiring registration of small pleasure boats and vessels under 5 tons.
According to government data, the number of small pleasure boats has increased rapidly in recent years, totaling 455,000 at the end of March 2000.
Marine accidents involving small boats have also risen year by year. In 1997, there were 759 rescue operations involving small pleasure boats, eclipsing rescues involving fishing boats for the first time on record.
According to a government survey conducted in 1996, the latest figure available, 138,000 of 208,000 pleasure boats moored near seashores and along rivers were moored without permits.
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