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Wednesday, October 7, 1998 Published at 13:16 GMT 14:16 UK


Prescott tackles sea safety

Use of leisure craft is to be curbed

Measures to improve safety around the coast of the UK have been announced by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

The BBC's transport correspondent Christopher Wain reports
The new rules allow coastguards to carry out random safety inspections on fishing boats, and local councils will get wider powers to check leisure vehicles like jet-skis and speed boats.

He announced the moves at the launch of a new Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which merges the former Coastguard Agency and the Marine Safety Agency.

[ image: Mr Prescott: Fishermen must be fully trained]
Mr Prescott: Fishermen must be fully trained
The government also wants to ensure that all fishermen are fully trained in safety procedures including first aid and fire maintenance - fishing is the most dangerous profession in the UK.

While accidents involving leisure craft account for just half a per cent of those off the coast of Britain, such vehicles are becoming more popular and their use is to be regulated.

The move has been welcomed by the emergency services, who feel that too many users of jet-skis and power boats lose control of their vessels.

Six-year-old on jet-skis

On Tuesday a British woman was killed in Cyprus when her jet-ski crashed into another.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said it had been concerned for some time about the number of jet-ski accidents. It believes that there are around 10,000 owners in the UK.

"There have been some frightening examples, particularly of children driving these things and parents who have hired them out having no idea about how powerful these machines are," a spokesman said.

"We had one coastguard ring us because he had seen a six-year-old boy riding one around a harbour. His parents had no understanding that he was in danger."

[ image: Coastguards will have new powers]
Coastguards will have new powers
A review of coastal by-laws unveiled by Mr Prescott recommends safe bathing areas where all water craft are excluded, and compulsory registration, licensing and training for jet-skiers.

A voluntary code of conduct will be introduced in the summer of 1999, to be followed by legislation.

But the launch of the initiative and of the new Maritime and Coastguard Agency will be marred by a union boycott of its headquarters in Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire.

Closure protests

The action has been organised by the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents coastguards, in protest at planned station closures.

Lee-on-Solent is due to merge with Portland in Dorset by the end of 2003 and four other coastguard stations are due to close, despite strong opposition from staff.

The union said it was "appalled" at the choice of Lee-on-Solent for the launch.

Mr Prescott says, however, that the new agency will create jobs.

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