Power boat operators will have to pass a safety course in order to man the helm in state waters under a new rule approved Friday by the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
DLNR Chairman William Aila Jr. and long-time boaters testified in favor of the rule change, as did boating safety instructors from the Hawaii Sail and Power Squadron, according to the Land Board.
“There are more of us in the ocean today,”Aila said. “It is increasingly more crowded as people are diving and paddling farther from shore. We are experiencing more and more fatal accidents in our waters. It’s the right time to raise awareness about the growth of the number of people using our waters to recreate and make sure everyone operating a vessel understands the rules of the road.”
However, not everyone thought the rule was needed. Nearly 90 Big Island residents opposed the requirements during a Department of Land and Natural Resources hearing in May at the Hawaii Big Game Fishing Club at Honokohau Small Boat Harbor.
Under the new rule, seasoned boaters will be able to take equivalency exams if they feel they already understand the standard rules of the road. For new boaters, an online course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, which takes three to fours hours of instruction to complete, meets tha requirement. Costs for these courses vary; however, an available free course would satisfy the proposed requirement, according to DLNR.
Those wanting more detailed instruction can take a course from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or the local U.S. Power Squadron organizations. These classes require a 12-hour commitment, but provide the student with practical knowledge that can make a difference in emergency situations, DLNR stated.
Statistics have shown mandatory boating safety education has reduced recreational boating fatality rates in states that have had the requirement the longest, DLNR stated.
DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation has paid more than $860,000 in the last 10 years to remove boats that ran aground or sank in state waters. — WHT