Should boat operators be required to complete a boating safety course to operate a power-driven vessel in state waters?
Factoring recent accidents and vessel groundings, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) may adopt this proposed new boating rule at a meeting tomorrow, Friday, July 27, in Honolulu.
"Our oceans are no longer the wide open spaces we remember," said William J. Aila Jr., DLNR chairman. "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. The department is working diligently to create an education requirement that improves safety for the entire ocean-user community, yet is simple and reasonable for all boaters to comply with."
Veteran Lahaina Harbor boaters need not worry; those possessing a valid license to operate a vessel issued for maritime personnel by the U.S. Coast Guard would be exempt.
Seasoned boaters would be able to take equivalency exams if they feel they already understand the standard rules of the road.
If the rule is approved, for new boaters, an online course approved by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators takes three to four hours of instruction to complete. One course now available is free.
To gain much more practical knowledge, new boaters can take a classroom course with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Aila commented, "Nationally, the experience many states have had is that boating education not only save lives, it also reduces accidents. And if fewer vessels run aground, that's less we expend to remove them from our nearshore areas."
For information, contact the BLNR at (808) 587-0404. Maui's member is Jerry Edlao.
"Completion of a safety education course benefits everybody, because it means improved safety and less marine debris and hazardous materials in our waters and marine life," Aila said.