HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Boaters may soon have to pass a safety course in order to man the helm. The state is considering the rule change that would affect every vessel with a motor. Right now there is no rule, regulation or licensing process to operate a boat. Anyone, of any age and any skill level can buy a boat and take it out without any basic safety training. The state wants that to change.
Hawaii is fifth worst in country in boating deaths. Taxpayers also spent more than $860,000 in the last decade retrieving sunk or grounded boats.
"That's the goal to reduce the amount of accidents and fatalities," said Ed Underwood, DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.
It's not like a driver's license but boaters would need a certificate showing they passed a safety course. The course is usually about eight hours. People would only need to pass it once and never again. There are online classes offered for free.
"Basic rules of the road would be all your aids to navigation, your channel markers, basic rules of the road, seamanship like how to pass sound signals to be used all the basic things a mariner should use when operating a boat," said Underwood.
Opinions on the idea are as vast as the ocean itself.
"To me it's not going to change anything and its going to be more bureaucratic red tape boaters are going to have to deal with," said Mark Heilbron, boater. "If you're not qualified to take a boat out into the open ocean going through a few hours of a boating course is not going to make you anymore qualified."
"I think it's worth doing if it's done well and done seriously," said Dan Holden, boater. "I think in general it's a good idea. I just worry that if you do it one time after two or three years we'll forget and it won't be as effective as you might want."
"I'm okay with everybody knowing all the safety rules out there and having a class on it but I'm not too big a fan of the government getting too involved in the boating too much," said David Shipton, boater.
"I think it would be a good idea maybe to some extent, some endorsement that you took some safety course or at least know the rules of the road, the navigational rules stuff like that," said David Brodsky, boater.
"It has the pros and cons. On one hand it's a pain in the butt for people that have been doing this their whole lives and now have to go sit in a class and have someone teach them things that they've known their whole lives and have someone who is less experienced than them tell them what to do and on the flip side I think it can be really beneficial for people that are new to the boating community," said Heather Becker-Brungard, boater.
If passed there will be a two year grace period before it will be enforced in order to give boaters time to pass the course.
DLNR is holding public hearing on the issue. You can also submit written comments to the address below.
The public hearings will be held as follows:
O'ahu: May 30, 2012 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Aiea Elementary School 99-370 Moanalua Road, 'Aiea.
Kona: May 30, 5 to 7 p.m. at Honokohau Harbor Fishing Club, Honokohau
Maui: May 31, 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Maui Waena Intermediate School, 795 Onehe'e Ave, Kahului
Hilo: May 31, 2012 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the State Office Building, 75 Aupuni Street
Kaua'i: May 31, 2012, 6 to 8 p.m. at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, 4431 Nuhou Street, Lihu'e
All interested parties are invited to attend and to present their views, either orally or in writing. Written statements may be submitted at the public hearings or to the DLNR Boating Division, 33 Queen Street, Suite 300, Honolulu Hawaii 96813, attention Administrator up to one week following the hearing date. Or by e-mail to email@example.com