Cllr Aengus O’Rourke has called on Waterways Ireland and other stakeholders to work together to combat the continuing nuisance of jet-skis on the River Shannon.
The Athlone-based county councillor has hit out this week at inconsiderate jet-ski users, who he said are causing disruption for other people using local amenities as well as residents living close to the river.
“On one of the fine August days recently I saw eight jet-skis in the water in and around the Hodson Bay public amenity,” he said. “They totally dominated the water given their high speed and the huge wash they create.
“However, the first thing that struck me as I parked my car was the sheer volume of noise generated by these high-powered machines, clearly being pushed to their limits. I thought to myself, on so many levels this is wrong and something needs to be done. I understand that on the same day there were up to six jet-skis flying around the water at Coosan Point.”
Cllr O’Rourke, who is also chairman of Athlone River Safety Awareness, said that the use of these machines needs to be regulated.
“The unbelievable situation that prevails at present is that you can own and operate a jet-ski without training, without a licence, registration, or insurance,” he added. “These are 1600cc vehicles, and travel at 70kmph.
“I strongly believe that they need to be regulated and some sensible order needs to be put on them. I have myself seen juveniles driving these high-powered machines, and also adults with toddlers holding on for dear life at the back.
“Currently, buying a jet-ski is like buying a bicycle. You can go online, do the deal and next day you are going 70kmph down on a busy navigation lane on the River Shannon. This is a crazy situation. It should be more like buying a motorbike where you need a licence, insurance, and training.
“It was also reported to me that recently two jet-skis raced at speed from the White Bridge to the town bridge, again no regard for the boat owners tied up at the marina.
“These jet-skis and their thrill-seeking owners are causing a lot of upset and frustration to boat users, swimmers, anglers and to residents living close to our waterways.”
He called on Waterways Ireland to work with other stakeholders to address the problem, which has given rise to numerous complaints over the summer months.
“Waterways Ireland are the agency with responsibility for our navigable waterways,” Cllr O’Rourke continued. “Waterways Ireland already have a 5km speed limit in place around Coosan Point for all boat users. However, jet-ski owners by and large pay no attention to speed limits - raising the question of safety for all water users and risk of damage to property. A jet-ski at speed throws up a lot of wash which results in moored boats crashing against piers, etc.
“Many jet-ski owners are new to the water, they have little or no regard for other boat users or for those out enjoying our public amenities. A lot of these individuals have no experience and therefore are a danger to themselves and to others.
“This summer I have been inundated with complaints from members of the public and residents living close to our waterways because of the noise issue caused by jet-skis. And, many of these thrill-seeking jet-ski operators have been seen out until 11.30 at night on the water with engines at full throttle.
“I’ve also had numerous complaints from local angling groups, Athlone Boat Club, private boat owners, and swimmers at Coosan Point about the dangers and lack of respect being shown to all water users.
“I am sure there are a percentage of jet-ski owners who are responsible and who are experienced on the water, but the general consensus is that the vast majority are inconsiderate to others and at times are reckless.
“As chairman of Athlone River Safety Awareness, I feel a strong obligation and responsibility to highlight the dangers and concerns relating to these machines and their use.
“I would like to see a coming together of all the stakeholders mentioned above along with Waterways Ireland to discuss these concerns. And, then we can work with Waterways Ireland to come up with a set of proposals to deal with the dangers and nuisance associated with jet-skis.”