Whitehall plans are 'misguided'

The RYA has described the Department for Transport (DfT) consultation paper regarding draft regulations for alcohol limits for yachtsmen as ‘misguided.’

The DfT consultation document proposes that alcohol limits should not apply to vessels with an overall length of less than 7 metres and a “maximum design speed” not exceeding 7 knots.

Gus Lewis, Government and Legal Affairs manager for the RYA commented: “First and foremost, the RYA does not condone being drunk whilst in charge of a boat. The RYA also supports the DfT’s proposals to exempt certain craft from the application of the legislation. However, the RYA believes that the DfT’s proposals are badly drafted in that few, if any, yachtsmen are likely to be aware of the theoretical “maximum design speed” of their craft. We want to make sure that any new rules are clear, sensible and readily understandable..

“Given the uncertainty as to who on board a vessel is likely to be subject to the prescribed alcohol limits, in our view it is all the more important that the exemption is clearly defined. ”

The DfT has also cited in support of the introduction of alcohol limits a report that suggests that a significant proportion of drowning cases and hospital admissions relating to water related transport are alcohol-related.

However, closer examination by the RYA of the report referred to by the DfT reveals that the report itself states that “no recent studies had examined the association between alcohol consumption and ? water transport accidents ? [or] drowning” and the authors of the report therefore simply estimate statistics based on research conducted over 12 years ago in Australia and Canada. There is no recent UK based research regarding alcohol related deaths at sea or on inland waters, in fact the UK has a strong track record in boating safety.

The RYA therefore maintains the view it took in 2004 that alcohol limits for recreational boaters are unnecessary because there is still no evidence of the existence of an extensive problem relating to alcohol and boating..

The RYA also has concerns regarding how these regulations will be enforced and by whom, although the DfT has indicated that these issues will be addressed in a separate consultation.

The RYA has now until the start of May to review and respond on the consultation document to the DfT.

“We acknowledge that Parliament has determined that recreational boaters should be subject to alcohol limits but we want to make sure that the proposed exemption, which we support in principle, is clear and unambiguous and gives recreational boaters a reasonable chance of being able to comply with it”, concluded Gus.