Anyone using a powered watercraft, such as a jet ski, is being warned to make sure they use them safely or risk facing prison or unlimited fines.

New legislation, which came into force on Friday (31 March 2023) puts the responsibility on users, operators and owners of powered watercraft to make sure they protect not just themselves but other water users from harm.

If someone on a powered watercraft causes serious injury or death they can be prosecuted. There are also provisions allowing prosecution for other dangerous uses of a powered watercraft.

A powered watercraft sitting stationary on the sand at the beach at the edge of the water as the tide goes out

Under the new law, the parts of the Merchant Shipping Act designed to keep all those on the water safe from accidents now apply to powered watercraft as well as to fishing vessels and larger ships. The new law also mean powered watercraft must obey the ‘rules of the sea’, which are designed to prevent collisions.

Maritime Minister Baroness Vere said: “While it’s great to see more and more people enjoying our country’s coasts and waters, safety will always be our top priority.

“Our new law will help to ensure anyone using watercraft like jet skis dangerously can be more easily prosecuted, helping to prevent avoidable accidents and tragedies.

Neil Cunningham, head of Regulatory Compliance investigations, said: “This legislation is a warning to anyone who uses a powered watercraft, such as a jet ski, in UK waters to make sure they use them safely.

“They will be held accountable by the same laws that apply to ships and fishing vessels in order to help prevent accidents. Users, operators and owners of jet skis and other watercraft should make sure they are fully aware of their responsibilities under the legislation, before operating them. The MCA has powers to prosecute those responsible for serious breaches of the legislation and perpetrators could find themselves facing a fine and/or up to 2 years in prison.

You can read the marine guidance notice (MGN) in full below: 

MGN 684 (M) Safety of powered watercraft.

By Ed

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