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  • Writer's pictureIsland Boat Club

Drink driving laws extended to water

New laws to outlaw drink driving on the water have been approved by the House of Assembly.

The new requirements for private boats also included stricter blood alcohol limits for the operators of recreational vessels.

Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, said the changes would “bring marine operations in line with road safety when it comes to impaired driving”.

The legal limit for the skipper of a private boat be will 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood – the same level applied to road users.

But the limit will be lower – 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood – for operators of an “island boat”, defined as a vessel operated for “hire or reward” in Bermuda waters.

Michael Weeks, a Government back bencher and the chairman of the Water Safety Council, welcomed the move.

He added: “To get a pleasure craft, all one has to have the funds to purchase it.

“Competency has never been an issue. I hope this bill goes a long way in addressing that.”

Mr Weeks added: “Accidents are increasing, and they will increase because the traffic on our waters is increasing, so I commend the minister for taking this step.”

He said: “People that drive under the influence is a real issue in Bermuda.

“One of the biggest issues we have to address is drinking and boating around our shores.”

Mr Weeks added: “The more people we see on the water, the more issues we will have with those under the influence.”

Mr Scott said in the House of Assembly last Friday that Bermuda’s maritime regulations had to be updated before an audit next February by the International Maritime Organisation, a United Nations body set up to regulate shipping around the world.

Mr Scott said some shortcomings had been found in the island’s 58-year-old maritime legislation, which covered areas such as oil pollution, and search and rescue.

He added he Marine and Ports Service Bill was designed to bring “modern practices in Bermuda’s territorial waters” and will require international standards to be met by Bermudian boats.

Mr Scott said the 1962 Act required “extensive modernisation” before the IMO audit.

Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs and Transport, said it was “important and commendable that Bermuda stay at the forefront”.

But he added there was “an apparent tendency of this particular Government to seek to place greater power in the hands of ministers”.

Mr Scott said the legislation did not cover Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone, which will be patrolled by the Bermuda Coastguard.

He added the legislation did not give more power to the minister, but that it made it clear that the minister was ultimately responsible.

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