Maui Discussion

LETTER: Ban on Personal Watercraft Defies Logic

September 13, 2013, 5:39 PM HST
* Updated September 24, 10:28 AM
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By Ted King, Kihei


Photo courtesy Ted King.

Personal watercraft are jet propulsion vessels under 13 feet. They go by many different manufactures names, Kawasaki the Jet Ski, Yamaha the Wave Runner, Bombardier the Seadoo, and Honda the Aqua Trax.

In Hawaii the government just calls them a “thrill craft.”

Why is this vessel banned on Maui’s west and south sides from Dec. 15 to May 15?

Is it the emissions from the PWCs engines? Or is it the noise pollution from PWCs?


Or is it the chance of a collision with a whale? Are all PWC operators are ignorant and would harass whales? Or do whales just don’t like PWCs?


4 stroke engines power the PWC. These motors have some of the highest Environmental Protection Agency ratings on any boat. The same motor in these vessels can be found in your Japanese compact cars or motorcycles.

On the other side of the spectrum we have ocean going  ships sharing the same waters, cargo ships, cruise ships, naval ships, and barge tugs that are all powered by big diesel engines.

The same engines you find in power plants and in factories. Commercial boats in the the pursuit of fish, or on snorkeling charters, sunset dinner cruise, and even whale watching use diesel engines. The same motors you find in heavy equipment such as a bull dozer, or the same as 18-wheeler trucks or big Roberts bus. Smaller personal boats are powered by a wide array of motors from inboards engines much like that you find in a midsize car to outboard engines.jet-ski-drive-diagram


Not only do the PWCs separate themselves from other vessels with low emission engines, unlike every vessel mentioned above, PWCs do not have a prop. Again: they don’t have a prop. Noise travels underwater twice as fast as in the air. Without a prop in the water the decibel readings of the jet motor is the quietest motorized vessel on the ocean.

The populations of whales have dramatically increased over the last 20 years. The numbers of vessels and whale collisions have also increased.

When a prop driven vessel and a whale collide you’re going to have a tragic injury. In the case of a collision with a jet propulsion this would not be the case. In the natural habitat of the manatees (corrected) in Florida, only vessels which are jet drive or have a prop guard are allowed to operate. What is more dangerous? Propellers blades spinning underwater going 5 miles an hour, or a jet ski skimming on the surface at 30 miles?

Here in Hawaii you must have an operators’ license to drive a PWC unless you rent one from a licensed operator in a designated area under close supervision. The PWC class is a daylong class and offered a couple times a year. Today in Hawaii, you can skipper a speedboat, or go fishing 100 mile from shore, or go on a full moon cruise without any kind of boating license, going anywhere you want. PWC are highly regulated with how close you can come to shore. Your PWC operator has been taught in this class the rules and regulations of state of Hawaii. They know the rules.

I guess that leaves us with, “whales just don’t like Jet Skis, Wave Runners, Sea Doos, Aqua Traxs,” or as the state likes to use the negative sounding name, “thrill craft.” Just like the lawmakers back in the late ’80s did when they wrote this outdated law. Science at its finest.

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