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Storm Ophelia: Should Boaters Who Disobey Coastguard Warnings be Criminalised?

18th October 2017
Red alert – Despite warnings telling people to stay inside and avoid going near the sea, there have been numerous reports of people not paying any heed to this safety advice. Red alert – Despite warnings telling people to stay inside and avoid going near the sea, there have been numerous reports of people not paying any heed to this safety advice. Photo: Courtesy Daily Express

Is it good enough that surfers, sailboarders, swimmers and yachtsmen put to sea, quite literally in the eye of a hurricane? 

The overwhelming response online seems to be a resounding 'No'. There are now calls for legislation to penalise people who disobey advice from the Coastguard.

Despite warnings telling people to stay inside and avoid going near the sea, there have been numerous reports of people not paying any heed to this safety advice.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he will consider making it a criminal offence to ignore severe weather warnings as some people did during Storm Ophelia.

'People who disobeyed the red alert and travel warnings yesterday didn’t just put themselves at risk they also put at risk the lives of other people, particularly our emergency services. But I would never rush into creating a new crime. I think it is something that we will have to consider' “It was suggested today in the Dail that we would look at it on an all party basis and that’s what I’d like to do.”

Sinn Fein Transport Spokesperson Imelda Munster said: “It’s not just foolishness it’s recklessness.

“They are not only putting their own lives at risk they are also endangering the lives of all the voluntary bodies, who give up their own free time to save lives.

“They need to learn to have respect for them.”

The most serious, status red, weather warning was in place on Monday, meaning no boats should have been at sea.

Currently, Irish boaters enjoy a regulation free life afloat without the need for licences, insurance and few regulations. But is the foolhardiness of a few going to ruin it for the rest of the sailing and boating population? 

A quarter of all RNLI call-outs in Ireland are to pleasure craft. Is there any excuse to put the lives of rescue service personnel at risk for something as basic as heeding warnings? 

In the age of the smartphone, are sailors, clubs and organisations doing enough to kerb call outs of rescue services? Is boating a bad name with the Coastguard? Is all this leading to inevitable government control, when one of the reasons we go afloat in the first place is to escape the shackles of all the land-based regulations of the nanny state.

Is boat registration, as already indicated by Vardakar, during his time as Minister for Transport in 2013, an inevitable consequence of all this?

At the end of the day common sense and good seamanship from boaters would prevent a lot of call outs.

The price of freedom afloat is eternal vigilance.

Have your say in the Afloat.ie poll below and please feel free to leave your comment via Facebook below

Should it be a criminal offence not to heed Coastguard Warnings?
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