Watch as a personal watercraft and its rider twice collide with the side of an Essex Police boat
The sea around our coast and our waterways are getting busier as the weather improves.
And our Marine Unit wants to ensure that everyone using them, for work or for leisure, does so safely.
They work to reduce water-based anti-social behaviour which, in turn, can cause injuries and even pose a risk to life as well as endangering wildlife.
One of the problems which concerns regular water-users is people speeding or using vessels with which they are not familiar, such as personal watercraft (PWC) and speedboats.
“We want to keep people safe and highlight to occasional users the twin dangers of inexperience and of using personal watercraft and boats in an anti-social manner, which can both lead to accidents.” Sgt Alex Southgate
Last year, Marine Unit officers came across 84 anti-social behaviour incidents involving PWCs, down from 99 in 2020. During a busy summer, they conducted 135 stop checks – of which 73 involved PWCs – and gave 63 verbal warnings, while four PWC riders were reported for court process.
And their work was aided by Maldon District Council’s donation of a PWC which has given our officers better and faster access to areas of coastline they previously struggled to reach.
One man was handed a £200 fine plus £150 costs after riding a PWC at more than three times the speed limit along the River Blackwater and then twice colliding with an Essex Police boat in Steeple Bay when officers asked him to stop.
“We could see a PWC being driven quickly across the water. There is an eight knot (9mph) speed limit but we could see, even from some distance away, that the PWC was being driven at well over 30mph. “Our PWC was able to enter the shallow waters and approach the rider, directing him to come over to our RHIB (rigid-hull inflatable boat) where we were waiting to speak with him. “As he approached, it was clear that he was unable to control his PWC. He collided with our RHIB, snapping off one of his wing mirrors. Although he managed to turn his PWC around, he collided with us again, snapping off the second wing mirror. As I called out to him to turn the engine off, he asked ‘Where’s stop?’.” Sgt Alex Southgate
In another speeding case, a man was fined £100 with an additional £150 legal costs after being filmed in his speedboat by a member of the public travelling at more than 20 knots in the eight-knot restricted area between Tollesbury Fleet and Woodrolfe Creek. Officers were able to identify the boat from the footage and trace the owner, who admitted the offence.
“If you are lending a PWC or a speedboat to a friend or relative, or you are buying one for the first time, make sure that person has been trained to use it safely before they go out on the water on their own. “As well as being familiar with the vessel, if they are using it on the sea, they also need to be aware of the tides and local currents." Sgt Alex Southgate
Alex stresses that Marine Unit officers not out to spoil anyone’s fun but says speed limits are there for a reason.
“The speed limits are set by local harbourmasters to ensure the safety of everyone who uses the water. We have been engaging with and educating people on the water but we will take enforcement action when necessary. “We want everyone to enjoy the water but to do so safely. A PWC or a powerboat can be incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands so, if you’re thinking about buying or using one, have some training and learn how to use it properly so you’re not putting yourself or others at risk. “The same goes for if you are lending it to a friend – you aren’t doing them a favour if you don’t first make sure they are capable of operating it responsibly.” Sgt Alex Southgate