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Speeding jet skis - more ways to deter them announced (stock pic by Justin Heap on Unsplash }
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Jet skiers: Harbour authorities get tough on anti-social users

Jet skiers who break speed limits and put other users water users at risk face a hostile reception in Brightlingsea this summer as the harbour authorities step up measures to tackle anti-social behaviour and prevent them launching

The recent warm weather has seen an increase in reports of speeding jet skis, or personal water craft (PWC), near collisions with other boat owners, jet skis coming too close to swimmers and even threatening behaviour in the creek and estuary – which are covered by four and eight-knot speed limits.

Now, jet skiers launching from Point Clear – where around 90% of those causing problems are said to launch – will find their vehicle access restricted. Plans to install bollards – paid for by the St Osyth Tower Estate Owners Society – are well advanced but until they are installed, and for some time afterwards, two security guards hired by Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners (BHC) will be on hand to deter access at peak times.

In order to make identifying law-breakers easier, BHC has installed an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera at Point Clear, which records details of vehicles towing jet skis entering and leaving the area so those law breakers that have been reported can be tracked down by police. Those launching from Brightlingsea Hard can be reminded of the rules, charged a launching fee and and more easily identified.

On Saturday July 17, Essex Police Marine Unit were on patrol in the area and handed out 12 warnings, three Community Protection Warnings and reported one user for possible court action. Brightlingsea Harbour Master James Thomas told Brightlingsea Info: "We also remonstrated with the jet skiers but we can’t always be immediately available over the whole day, but we certainly haven’t given up. Last weekend our ageing pilot boat's port engine had failed so was not available." A new pilot boat is on order.

River patrols by harbour staff will be carried out throughout July and August, match-funded by Colchester Borough Council. The Harbour Master also reported that Colchester Council, which has the statutory responsibility for the River Colne, is "nearly at the point where it can authorise the use of Public Space protection orders, so violators can be issued with an immediate fine". One prosecution from an incident last year is in the pipeline, he said, but Covid has delayed court action.

Essex Marine Police

Essex Marine Police's new RHIB will be on patrol this weekend

Marine police – who have recently been given a PWC of their own by Maldon District Council to help patrol Essex waters – will be in Brightlingsea again this weekend in a new rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB). Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable, Andy Prophet said: “We have seen reports of antisocial behaviour increase, particularly in relation to the use of personal watercraft on the River Blackwater, the River Colne, Brightlingsea and Point Clear.

ACC Prophet added: "Sadly, while most people are respectful of others and adhere to the local bylaws, there are a few individuals, whose inconsiderate and antisocial behaviour causes problems for other water users and the local community. This is unacceptable behaviour and we’ll be working alongside our local authority colleagues, who are responsible for our waterways and the implementation of bylaws, to prevent antisocial behaviour on the water and take appropriate action against those who cause a nuisance and act antisocially."

In another move to make the creek area safer, a second safe zone for swimmers – joining the buoyed-off zone already in place off Splash Point – is to be installed in the creek off the Lido and Brightlingsea Sailing Club, jointly funded by Brightlingsea Town Council, Tendring District Council and BHC.

Harbour Master Thomas said that in an emergency "it is incredibly important that someone calls 999 – that is the message from the police. Only by doing so will the resources required to police this crime be made available."

He added: We keep all our processes under review, take the dangerous use of PWCs very seriously and will always allocate resources to it."

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