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Skilled boatmen must not miss tourism boat, warns Hedge

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Highly skilled boatmen on St Helena will miss out on a future tourism boom unless the island’s maritime rules are brought up to date, yachting expert Chris “Hedge” Shuter has warned. 

He has been commissioned to help solve the problems of the island’s “unworkable” sea laws – and make sure local boatmen can get the certificates and insurance they need to fend off outside competition.

His review has been prompted partly by the 2011 wrecking of the vintage yacht Queequeg, which cost St Helena Government £228,000 in compensation. The vessel’s mooring broke and it was driven on to rocks.

The review is also intended to open up opportunities for water sports – for tourists and Saints. 

Hedge said: “We have some tremendously skilled boatmen. They have been taught down the years to do their jobs on the sea, they’re extremely proficient and knowledgeable, but a lot of them have no certification.

“So we could get the situation where outside companies will come in, with certification from wherever, and in the market against local people who have no certification.

“When it comes to gaining maritime insurance and that sort of thing, that can be a big problem.”

Fishing expert Trevor “Otto” Thomas had warned that adopted the standards of outside bodies, such as the Royal Yachting Association would disadvantage island boatmen. 

Hedge agreed: “If we let them impose their rules on us, that could have severe consequences for St Helena.

“What we’re looking at is ways that St Helena can have its own rules and regulations, relevant to its own people and its own activities, rather than somebody from outside imposing rules and regulations that perhaps some of them we won’t be able to meet.

“We want to look at ways of recognizing these skills and abilities that already exist – ways of getting them certification without fantastic costs or fees and all that sort of thing.

“So if anybody does come in from outside, it’s a level playing field and locals can compete with anybody that comes.”

He also wanted to help Saints gain qualifications to enter the marine industry.

And in a nod to concerns from fishermen, he said: “Commercial fishing is a special case and I firmly believe that commercial fishing should be separated from other commercial activities.” 

Public consultation is now under way on the marine review, with meetings on the island and an online survey. 

“It’s very important that everybody who wants a say can have a say,” said Hedge. 

“We will be on the streets for the next couple of weeks or so – just come and see us. We will be going out to people, because it’s important that whatever we do recommend at the end of this review is the view of the local people.”

The consulation ends on 8 June 2013. 

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