Authorities in Melbourne – Australia’s second-biggest city behind Sydney – have introduced tough new “irregular riding” laws that will see personal watercraft users fined $330 for dangerous behaviour in new restricted zones. The “irregular riding” laws first came into force in Sydney, where watercraft users are not permitted to jump waves (including wake), weave, or ride in an unpredictable or circular manner unless they are at least 200 metres off the shore and well away from other boats.
Maritime Safety Victoria will enforce a new “irregular riding” zone in 5-knot areas of Port Phillip Bay, a popular area for personal watercraft riders during summer. The new rules will come into force from 16 December 2019. Authorities said watercraft users must “navigate the PWC in the safest most direct course from the shore heading seaward, or from the sea towards the shore.”
Riders must “avoid any irregular riding of the PWC or freestyling within the 5-knot speed restriction zones including donuts, circles, weaving.”
The Maritime Safety authority said 67 per cent of local residents supported the new rule. “The new rule will require PWC operators to operate their craft in a predictable manner, which will provide greater certainty to other waterway users on the path they intend to take,” the media statement said.
Irregular riding includes “surfing down or jumping over or across any waves, wake or wash and … sharp turns, circular or semi-circular operation of the PWC. […] This rule brings waters around Port Phillip Bay in line with other jurisdictions, such as (Sydney) New South Wales,” the authority said.
In NSW, the fine for irregular riding is $250 and there is a $500 fine for riding negligently. NSW police also have the power to confiscate watercraft if the owner is deemed to be riding in an aggressive manner. In October 2016 the NSW Government amended the Maritime Act because, it said at the time, “unfortunately a rogue element of jet skiers believe the rules do not apply to them and they can do what they like on the water.”
Under the new laws “a vessel may be seized and impounded” when a watercraft user has “committed a reckless, dangerous, negligent offense.”
“The new sanctions allow an authorised officer to seize a vessel, including the boat trailer, used in a designated ‘hoon’ offence and move the vessel to a place where it can be impounded. Alternatively, an authorised officer may give the owner of the vessel a notice requiring the vessel to be produced at a specified time and place so that it can then be impounded,” the NSW Government said.
In NSW personal watercraft can initially be impounded for three months for the first offence and five years for a second offense.