Tauranga commercial jet boat operator Kaituna River Jet is welcoming the new driver licence requirement for commercial jet boat drivers.
The new licence announced today comes into effect on August 2 and requires all commercial jet boat drivers working on rivers to have a driver licence and operators required to establish programmes of regular driver competency checks.
Kaituna River Jet operator Dave Rayner says the changes are a good thing that will provide for more control.
“We spoke to Maritime New Zealand last week and we are all geared up ready to go for it. From now on, any new drivers that we employ have to do a written, oral and practical test with the boat.
“Up until now it’s been pretty much, give them 50 hours training and if we are happy let them go, sort of thing. But now it’s a little bit more controlled.”
Dave says there are advantages for drivers with any driver coming from another operator will be able to prove they are a licenced driver.
River jet boat drivers now have to carry their own log books, so they hold a record of their jet boat driving hours and employment history in the industry.
Up until now the records remained with the actual jet boat log book. Drivers do not have a personal record of hours driven, or a licence or any proof they could do the job.
“We’ve had drivers come to us and say they have worked for this company, and they have so many thousands of hours,” says Dave.
“Can you prove it? ‘Well, not really’.
“Now you actually have something to prove it.”
The new licence, as well as on-going competency checks for all drivers, is part of the Maritime Rule Part 82: Commercial Jet Boat Operations – River.
Associate Transport Minister and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says it adds a further level of safety assurance for one of New Zealand’s iconic outdoor adventure activities.
“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 gives passengers and the public added assurance that these risks are being managed appropriately.
The industry’s 42 operators carry more than 370,000 passengers a year, and on the whole manages risk extremely well, with safety of passengers a paramount consideration. There have been two deaths since 1999.
“The overwhelming level of support for this new rule from operators is an indication of how seriously the wellbeing of passengers is taken,” says Simon.
These rule changes, including the jet boat driver licence and competency checks, essentially formalise the sound practices that are already in place in the industry, says Simon.
Simon says given the profile of tourism, and its importance to New Zealand’s economy, there is an expectation that safety is a top priority for operators. The jet boating sector is a model for good practice in the adventure tourism industry when it comes to risk management.
Dave Rayner also operates the Tauranga Harbour Jet but the marine operation is already regulated.
“The boat had to have additional things added to it, and our drivers had to sit local launch operator’s licences, so it’s already quite licensed,” says Dave.
“It’s just rule part 80, jet boats on rivers are the ones that had no guidance.”