A licence to thrill

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 41, September 2012

Overwhelming support for the introduction of driver licences for commercial jet boats operating on rivers reflects the consultative approach to developing Maritime Rule Part 82: Commercial Jet Boat Operations – River.
Associate Minister Bridges
Maritime New Zealand ©2019
Minister Bridges and others in a post-launch thrill ride.

The new rule was announced in July by Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges, and is the result of extensive work by MNZ, the New Zealand Commercial Jet Boat Association (NZCJBA) and the industry.

It introduces a new driver licence, and driving test for new drivers, as well as ongoing competency checks for all drivers.

Associate Minister Bridges said the rule provided an additional safety assurance for passengers, with 370,000 passengers being carried each year by 49 operators.

“While the inherent risks of jet boating provide the ‘thrill’ factor that attracts passengers from all over the world, the introduction of the jet boat driver licence and competency checks give passengers and the public added assurance that these risks are being managed appropriately,” he said.

Previously drivers were required to have 50 hours experience and to complete a familiarisation period on the rivers on which they worked.

The driving test moves the focus to establishing driver competency rather than a focus on experience.

“We’re moving from a view that if a driver has spent 50 hours operating then they are competent, to one of competency-based assessment which recognises that people learn at different rates. It is essential that drivers reach a certain competency standard, as opposed to simply achieving a minimum number of operating hours.”

Existing drivers have 12 months from 2 August to apply for the new licence, which includes a requirement that they are a ‘fit and proper person’ under the Maritime Transport Act.

The rule, which addresses eight recommendations by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC), also makes driver log books mandatory, and includes design and construction changes, such as emergency exits and footrests, that provide greater passenger protection.

MNZ Deputy Director Lindsay Sturt said the rule reflects existing good practice in the industry, with a high level of voluntary take-up of the new safety measures.

“Operators are keenly aware of the importance of safety and risk management – their standards are extremely high,” he said.

NZCJBA president Jerry Hohneck said the new driver licence showed the maturity of the industry in New Zealand.

“It represents a benchmark in jet boating, not just in New Zealand but on a global level, and is the culmination of a lot of work by MNZ, the industry, and the NZCJBA.

“Commercial jet boat operators in New Zealand take risk management extremely seriously and safety is of paramount importance. We are always looking for ways of improving safety processes and the introduction of a driver licence is part of that.”

Tourism Industry Association (TIA) chief executive Martin Snedden said the new rule would further strengthen New Zealand’s adventure tourism sector.

“It’s critical that ‘adventure’ remains in adventure tourism, but the industry has a responsibility to ensure that these experiences are being delivered within a strong safety framework,” he said.

The rule came into effect on 2 August.

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