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Major New Regulations For Water Taxi Ferries #537580
08/02/19 04:28 AM
08/02/19 04:28 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,302
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

If you traveled on any of the water taxi ferries today, you would have noticed important changes to the way these companies are now doing business.

That's because the Belize Port Authority is cracking down on monitoring and enforcement for public safety.

The need for increased safety was highlighted in a terrible way back in May. That's when a vessel at the Ocean Ferry Water terminal spontaneously exploded injuring 12 passengers and killing two sisters: 10-year-old Yamiri Yasmin Guy, and 8-year-old Kimberly Melissa Guy.

So now, safety measures which have been in the planning stage since 2015 are now being put in effect under the Water Taxi Regulations Statutory Instrument 29 of 2019.

Under this new SI, all water taxi companies will have to follow safety measures such as Issuing of Personal Flotation Devices to all passengers over one-year-old, and submitting Passenger Manifests at least 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure time. This requires passengers to provide their personal information at the ticket booth so that the operators can be held accountable for the number of passengers onboard their vessels.

Also, water taxi operators can no longer carry cargo on the same boat as passengers; only the personal effects of passengers will be allowed. Also, the boat captains can now refuse to allow a paying customer on board a boat if they are considered to be a threat to the other passengers. That person can now be criminally charged for posing that threat.

We spoke with Ports Commissioner Merlene Martinez about the changes:

Merlene Bailey Martinez, Ports Commissioner
"The genesis of the regulation is to improve safety and convenience for passengers. The regulations have from the wearing of seatbelts to ensuring that the water taxis have 2 engines to having an emergency management system. There are many provisions in there to a manifest. All of the provisions are designed to create an environment that's safer and an environment in which every water taxi passenger can be accounted for."

"What would have the most visible impact I would say on the passengers is the requirement for a passenger manifest. And I've heard the comparison made with a bus. However, if a bus has a problem and it pulls over, you can walk up to that bus and you know who is on that bus. If a water taxi has a problem, then it's a little bit trickier to account for the passengers on that water taxi. So the manifest will have the most impact I believe on passengers, but again, it's for their own purpose so we can account for them when they go. We can hold the water taxi operators accountable for that passenger being on board that water taxi, because so many things can happen and if you would allow me I would give you a couple of the provisions that are specifically for safety of the passengers. One of them is that the operators have to disseminate what we called personal floatation devices, which are life jackets. they have to distribute them at the beginning of the journey. The regulations now prohibit carrying cargo along with passengers. We have seen where water taxi operators take gas tanks, refrigerators, lumber. Somebody sent us a video with an operator loading lumber and almost hitting a passenger. Now the regulations are saying you are not allowed to take cargo along with passengers, because it poses a risk to the passenger."

2 of the more controversial changes in regulation for water taxies that is being rolled out is the requirement of a passenger manifest 15 minutes before departure time. Also, a passenger fee of $1 will be included in the purchase of a ticket. The water taxi operator can choose to absorb that cost, or he or she can pass it on to the customer.

We asked the Ports Commissioner about those changes, and here's how she explained why they are being implemented:

Merlene Bailey Martinez, Ports Commissioner
"The manifest takes effect immediately. We require the names, the date of birth, the destination which the water taxis collect anyway. basically that's the information we ask for."

"How difficult will it be for the water taxis who now have this new requirement to implement this. We've heard some concerns that they felt a little blindsided by its implementation and having it being a requirement immediately?"

Merlene Bailey Martinez, Ports Commissioner
"It is immediate to you now. The water taxis operators have had the regulations since April of year. As a matter of fact, for instance San Pedro Belize Express told me that they were expecting to have their software ready by May to be able to produce a manifest. So for them to say they are blindsided I think it's not quite correct, because they'd had this. As a matter of fact, they have been in the discussion about these regulations since 2015. This is quite a long time in coming and they were sent the first draft regulations. We received feedback, that was tweaked, we discussed at length how they would be able to capture the information for the manifest even in the first meeting. So it's kind of disingenuous to say they were blindsided by it."

"The fee which will take effect a month from today, the operators have the option of absorbing the fee. We have to as an authority that regulates these operations, we have established that we do need to increase our presence in various locations. We have received so many complaints about overcrowding of vessels and people misbehaving on vessels and things like that. So it comes at a cost and so the fee really is for us to be able to up our presence for the protection of the passengers. Its so that we can offer support to the operators to regulate water taxis."

That additional passenger fee of $1 will take effect on September 1st. Also on that day, No water operator will not be permitted to operate a water taxi unless they are the holders of a valid permit and Seaworthiness Certificate issued by the Belize Port Authority.

Channel 7

New Rules for Water Taxis and Passenger Safety

A new set of regulations came into effect today for water taxis and those changes have one industry stakeholder up in arms.  Beginning August first, all seagoing vessels operated as water taxis are required to provide a passenger manifest, as well as life jackets for all persons onboard the craft.  In the next few weeks, round trip tickets to and from San Pedro and Caye Caulker will cost an additional two dollars to cover the cost of Port Authority personnel stationed at those respective terminals.  The adjustments succeed an industry-wide consultation process undertaken ahead of the enactment of Statutory Instrument Twenty-nine of 2019. 

Merlene Martinez, Ports Commissioner

“What people do not realize is the majority of people who take these water taxis are Belizeans who are going between the cayes and mainland and we have seen where we have to look at safety issues and regulate the operations of these vessels primarily for passenger safety and convenience.  So that’s the impetus for passing water taxi regulations.  Now, with respect to the current situation, there are various measures that the regulations put in place.  We have various things in these regulations, one of them is the need for a passenger manifest and this is something that we have been looking at for quite a while.  And let me back track a while and say that maybe some four years ago we started this process.  It started with a meeting with the stakeholders; all the water taxi operators were at that meeting and proposed to them these changes.  So four years later, this is where we are.  The water taxi regulations deal with the issuance of life vests.  It deals with passenger manifests and people [are like], “Well, why do you need to know who is on a water taxi?”  How can I put this delicately?  If there is an incident in the sea, if there is an accident on the road, you can look at the people on the side of the road, in the middle of the road and you will know where they are.  If there is an incident in the sea, that makes it much more difficult, especially depending in where an incident happens.  So knowing who is aboard a water taxi is critical in responding to marine incidents.”

Other Rules to Come on Stream for Water Taxis

Additional regulations that are set to come into effect as of September sixteenth include an approved safety management and emergency response plan, as well as the outfitting of each vessel with safety and communication equipment.  They are also required to have onboard a pair of functional engines.

Merlene Martinez, Ports Commissioner

“There are various dates that these measures will take effect, not all of them are immediate.  For instance, and I am sure you will get to that passenger user fee, the passenger user fee will take effect from September first and people ask why we have a passenger user fee?  It’s for the reason that you have any fee.  We need to increase or improve on our presence on the sea, at the water taxi terminals.  Right now we are looking, we need to have a presence in Caye Caulker, you need to have a presence in Dangriga, we need to have a presence, you know, in different places where we do not have a presence at this time.  And so, these things cost.  That’s the bald truth.  So the fee is to ensure that we can employ an adequate number of persons to regulate the operations of water taxis. That’s basically it.”

Isani Cayetano

“It is being made to seem that for some operators the decision was either rolled out in an ad hoc manner considering the fact that perhaps there should have been some measure of public awareness in terms of the passengers who commute using these vessels and they are saying that essentially the Port Authority perhaps failed in creating the sensitization necessary for the public.  How do you respond to that?”

Merlene Martinez

“And we will take that criticism, hopefully in the spirit in which it is tendered.  But I can say, it would have been good to have gotten a feedback along the way rather than at this point in time where we say okay we’re good to go and you when you say we are good to go.”

Channel 5

Re: Major New Regulations For Water Taxi Ferries [Re: Marty] #537666
08/07/19 05:22 AM
08/07/19 05:22 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 73,302
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Belize Port Authority - New Regulations for Water Taxi

Sherlett Martinez - Assistant Commissioner, Belize Port Authority

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