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Phuket's Uninsured Jet-Skis Outnumber Insured

Phuket's Uninsured Jet-Skis Outnumber Insured

Saturday, December 4, 2010
News Analysis

FIGURES obtained by Phuketwan indicate that Phuket's ''world-first'' jet-ski insurance scheme, introduced last year to prevent jet-ski scams, is failing. More urgent questions are also being asked about jet-ski safety after two deaths in a Patong crash this week.

Just one day later, the jet-ski being ridden by a 13-year-old Irish tourist that crashed into a boat off another Phuket beach has proven to be among many Phuket jet-skis that are now not insured. Only 89 of Phuket's 219 registered jet-skis are covered by insurance, Phuketwan has learned.

Since the new insurance scheme was introduced late last year, about 200 claims have been made, totalling almost one million baht.

Phuket authorities will now have to consider alternatives - including a co-op where jet-ski operators pay for jet-ski damage claims - to reassure tourists that their safety and security is of greatest concern.

Safety considerations are now an urgent priority, with three tourist deaths on jet-skis off Patong beach this year, including the young couple from China who were killed instantly when they crashed into a catamaran on Wednesday.

The danger presented by allowing immovable objects such as boats and vulnerable, hard-to-see swimmers in the same waters as jet-skis raises the important issue of where or even whether any jet-skis should be permitted to continue to operate off Phuket.

Added to that danger now is the apparent reluctance of jet-ski operators to conform to the compulsory insurance scheme.

If the serious intention of the national government is to make Thailand a ''green'' destination, as the Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand said last week, then there should be no place for jet-skis.

On the other hand, if Phuket and Pattaya lose their jet-skis, then the two destinations will also become less attractive to tourists who are more interested in having fun at high speed than protecting the environment.

Over the past few months, it has also become evident that the jet-ski scamsters are back in action on Phuket, demanding excessive sums if they think tourist riders are gullible.

The clarity offered by the insurance scheme has been made murky by unscrupulous operators.

It's hard to figure, though, why the scams are necessary when the figures stack up well for jet-ski operators.

The 350,000 baht jet-skis are rented out at 1500 baht for 30 minutes. That 1500 baht fee for 30 minutes is the average amount that visitors pay to hire a motorcar that often costs twice as much, and for an entire day.

Divisions are now becoming evident within the jet-ski operators over the insurance scheme. All 36 operators in the Kata-Karon region have paid for a second year's insurance. Further up Phuket's west coast, none of the operators at five-star Bang Tao beach have paid.

And that leaves a mixture of payers and non-payers among the largest group of about 160 jet-ski operators at Patong beach . . . .

Pressure is likely to be applied from next week by honorary consuls and other envoys for Phuket's authorities to implement proper controls on Patong and other beaches to prevent more needless jet-ski deaths, and to either stop the scamming, or stop the jet-skis entirely.
Teen Survives Phuket Jet-Ski Deaths 'Replay'
Latest A teenager is believed to have been at the controls of a Phuket jetski when it crashed into a boat off a Phuket resort near Patong, where a couple died in a similar crash only 24 hours earlier.
Teen Survives Phuket Jet-Ski Deaths 'Replay'

Two Tourists Killed as Phuket Jet-Ski Hits Catamaran
Photo Album Two tourists have been killed when their jetski crashed into a catamaran off Patong around 11.15am. The deaths are likely to bring instant action on controls over jet skis.
Two Tourists Killed as Phuket Jet-Ski Hits Catamaran

Patong Tourists 'Deliberately Crashed' Jet-Skis
Latest A pair of Australian tourists admitted deliberately crashing two jet skis but were not prepared to pay the 250,000 baht asking price for repairs. They settled on 80,000 baht.
Patong Tourists 'Deliberately Crashed' Jet-Skis

Riled Phuket Tourist Pays Extra Jet-Ski Charge
UPDATE A Phuketwan journalist in Patong encounters JJ Naiman engaged in a mediation debate with a Russian tourist at Kathu Police Station. After a lengthy mediation, the tourist pays up.
Riled Phuket Tourist Pays Extra Jet-Ski Charge

Fresh Rip-Off Claim in Phuket Jet-Ski Turmoil
Latest A tourist from South Africa claims to have paid an extra 69,000 baht to a jet ski operator at Patong despite having an insurance policy covering damage.
Fresh Rip-Off Claim in Phuket Jet-Ski Turmoil

Phuket Jet-Ski Man 'Free, Back in Singapore'
Latest A Singapore tourist who had surrendered his passport to police after a fatal jet ski collision is back home, says a Singapore newspaper.
Phuket Jet-Ski Man 'Free, Back in Singapore'


Comments have been disabled for this article.


"On the other hand, if Phuket and Pattaya lose their jet-skis, then the two destinations will also become less attractive to tourists who are more interested in having fun at high speed than protecting the environment".

Come on Ed, you cannot be serious. Do you honestly think banning them will adversely affect tourism? Surely it will have the reverse affect, attracting more families.

Support the call to ban the machines - please.

Posted by Pete on December 4, 2010 15:38

Editor Comment:

I am not a fan of jet-skis but I wouldn't call for a ban unless I had an answer to what to do with the jobs such a ban would cost. And that's the hard part.


editor. give us a report when the thai officials are really going to do something. other then that same same different day.

Posted by john s on December 4, 2010 15:47


COMMENT: "On the other hand, if Phuket and Pattaya lose their jet-skis, then the two destinations will also become less attractive to tourists who are more interested in having fun at high speed than protecting the environment."

This is the most silly, ignorant and selfish statement for any educated person who understands tourism!!

Just enforce the law!!! The problem is law enforcement!

Posted by Mr. K on December 4, 2010 17:12

Editor Comment:

''Silly, ignorant and selfish,'' or just accurately projecting what some people want when they go on holidays? You're attacking the author, rather than addressing the point. If holidaymakers did not enjoy jet-skiing, the operators would not have customers.

Over-simplifying the issue won't make it go away, either. The problem is partly how to find more than 200 alternative jobs. The problem is also lack of law enforcement.


Dear Editor.
My comment stand!

I am not to so familiar with the 'prediction' business, but rather focus on facts considering what happen to other destinations when jet skies have been banned!

The internet is a great source to learn more about this this if you wish.

If we have to worry about those illegal 200 jobs, maybe we should also worry about the jobs of any criminal who who we like to put out of business. (thief, drug-dealers, scam artists etc...)

Please accept my apologies for my sarcasm, i admire your website a lot, but in no way should any illegal and danger job or activity be justified!

That what we have laws which should be enforced!

Posted by MR. K on December 4, 2010 18:17

Editor Comment:

Some of those jet-ski operators are probably as honest as you are. I am not sure there are any places where jet-skis have been permitted for so long before being banned. Doesn't this make the honest operators - and their families - victims of the system, not criminals?


Is there somebody who seriously believe that a total ban of jet-skis will result in fewer tourists?

Posted by Hotel owner in Patong on December 4, 2010 20:04


Dear editor,

do you really think killing tourists are better than a few people have to find another job?

Posted by Hotel owner in Patong on December 4, 2010 20:14

Editor Comment:

That's your imagination working overtime. Are you now blaming the jet-ski operators for deaths that are not of their making?

There are holiday destinations where jet-skis operate and tourists are considered safe. Only someone who doesn't fully understand the issues would attempt to link the twin problems of safety and jobs.


'On the other hand, if Phuket and Pattaya lose their jet-skis, then the two destinations will also become less attractive to tourists who are more interested in having fun at high speed than protecting the environment'

Less attractive to a minority, who ruin it for the majority. They are a noisy, smelly dangerous threat to everybody on the beach. The operators can be extremely aggressive. They should go home and get a proper job or an education.

There is no doubt that the Chinese people were instrumental in their own deaths, the bottom line is, if there were no jet-skis, they would still be alive. There may be some 'honest' operators, they are in a minority and probably would not last under peer pressure.

I have lived in Patong for a long time and seen to much of the operators bad behavior, including removing RED no swimming flags, because it is bad for business. Start a petition, I will sign it, as will many, many more.

Posted by Safety before profit on December 4, 2010 21:44

Editor Comment:

We are journalists, not activists. Petitions have their place, but in this case, I suspect the authorities already recognise that there has been pressure for the removal of jet-skis. What you say is true about the Chinese couple probably being alive if there were no jet-skis: just imagine how many people would still be alive if there were no motorcycles. At the very least, much, much tighter controls are needed. The idea of phasing them out over seven years was a good one. No real effort seems to have been made by the operators to find other roles. The apparent decision to make Thailand a ''green'' destination, coupled with the continuing dangers, put the argument for a cessation or controls more strongly than any petition could at this stage.


There is no such thing as an honest Jet-Ski operator renting out to tourists.

Thai law states that to operate a Jet-Ski, the driver must have a Thai Captain's license. Has anybody ever seen a tourist who has one ?

The whole Jet-Ski business is thus illegal.

If the local authorities do not enforce the law, as they have time and time again failed to do, then the operators should be sued and the relevant authorities with them for dereliction of duty.

Allowing an illegal business to run unabated for many years does not make it legal. Neither do I have any sympathy for those who would lose their jobs.

They've had countless fat years to rip off unsuspecting tourists (even at gunpoint, only to get off scotch free )and it's time it comes to an end.

As to the tourists who yearn for a Jet-Ski ride, just tell them it's illegal in Thailand and end of discussion.

BTW, just to let you know, I used to own a Jet-Ski back home and love using them but they have no place in Phuket.

Posted by Chris on December 4, 2010 22:44

Editor Comment:

Being in breach of a poorly enforced law does not make a person dishonest. The pity of it is that the law has been overlooked for so long that the operators have a case to make for unfair treatment if it is enforced now. If Phuket becomes a mass tourism destination, severe controls are required. If Phuket sincerely goes ''green,'' then jet-skis are a no-no . . .


If the law would have been enforced, Jet-skis would have faded out in the meantime. And these 200 jobs are available for people wanting to work, I am pretty sure, over the period of seven years it should be possible to find 200 working places.

Posted by Fritz Pinguin on December 4, 2010 23:57

Editor Comment:

Anyone who was thrown out of work after a decade in the jet-ski business could probably mount a strong case for unfair treatment, another reason why there is no easy fix, and why the phase-out made sense. Had the people who oppose jet-skis applied consistent pressure over the past seven years, things might be different now.


I understand your reasoning and I'm sure that'll be the point Jet-Ski operators will be making but for me it has no validity.

Breaking the law DOES make a person dishonest.

If I happen to look the other way and you use the opportunity to steal from me, it would certainly make you dishonest in my books. I may not catch you but YOU would still know what you did was wrong.

Having been allowed to do so for a very long time is no excuse.

If anyone, then it's the tourists who have a solid case for unfair treatment, not the Jet-Ski operators.

That aside, applying pressure to local authorities is not an easy task. The HCs are not the solution - they work hard on far more important issues and without compensation.

They try their best but they just simply don't have the time for all our problems and it's not in their job description either.

First challenge is to find the right authorities. Second is to find a common language to communicate with. The biggest hurdle is however to make the somehow care about what you have to say.

I have tried on several occasions and have had no luck.

This is why I say expats should organize and form an association. Work out the basic modus operandi how to get socially active and how to make our voice heard.

I hear what you said earlier about you nod being activists and I'm not about to advocate this idea through your media. I was merely responding to what you said and laying out both the difficulties in being active and possible solutions to it.

Posted by Chris on December 5, 2010 09:37

Editor Comment:

If you asked the honorary consuls, they'd tell you that the safety and security of their citizens is the most important issue - and that puts jet-skis right at the very top. You'll remember that it was at the top of everyone's list about this time last year, too, but for different reasons. The quarterly meetings between the envoys and Phuket's leaders have become the proper channel for these kinds of issues, and I would be very surprised if the present Governor did not act to ensure the safety and security of tourists before the next meeting in February. Phuket's reputation depends on it.
By all means, form an association. But to me, the 'Phuket Parliament' already gives expats a proper time and a place to be heard, and it does not prevent more immediate action in specific cases by ambassadors or honorary consuls. Phuket's leaders are keen to listen to what Phuket's international supporters have to say, and for the international supporters to listen in return, too. More support for the existing channel of communications would strengthen it.


@Editor: I fully agree with you, maybe I should have chosen other words to say what I mean (I am not a native speaker of English). The chance to save some lives has passed, sad sad.

Posted by Fritz Pinguin on December 5, 2010 10:34


The police should simply notify every jet ski operator to show proof of insurance. It should not be any more difficult than showing proof of insurance with a motorbike; in fact I think that it would be easier. Those without insurance should be seized - why not?

Posted by peter rawai on December 5, 2010 13:21


Editor Comment:

Some of those jet-ski operators are probably as honest as you are. I am not sure there are any places where jet-skis have been permitted for so long before being banned. Doesn't this make the honest operators - and their families - victims of the system, not criminals?

... I see your point but, isn't it illegal to operate a jet-ski without a proper licence? Therefore, none of the 200 families is operating a legitimate business. On top of that you have compulsory insurance initiated by government officials, which in turn ignores the laws of operation. Thailand is on a slippery slope, flouting laws, or ignoring them altogether just for financial gain.

Posted by Graham on December 5, 2010 14:10


#ED. You say Phuket's leaders are keen to listen and this may be so, but are they keen to act, especially on law enforcement. The answer here is a definite 'NO'. Buck passing is the game here and where it stops, nobody knows.

The Governor, the police chief, the 'Phuket Parliament' seem powerless to act on anything. Is it because they are not at the head of a defined pecking order? Are they not answerable to the elite and the rich and powerful with their vested interests?

Compulsory jet ski insurance? You've just printed it: it doesn't exist. Why?

Posted by Pete on December 5, 2010 14:30


I wonder how much a fake insurance decal costs these days.

I would think no insurance company would insure jet skis, given what goes on with all the scams.

Posted by Mikey on December 6, 2010 00:39


In some destinations, like British Virgin Islands, jet-skis are banned, and guess what? BVI are full of tourists still.

Posted by TT on December 10, 2010 00:42


And I have noticed quite a large number of new jet-skis that are decidedly younger than 7 years meaning that these operators have no intention to follow through on the 7 year limit...I can almost guarantee that come next year, all will be forgotten and that more deaths will follow and the cycle will continue unabated.

Posted by Ian on December 13, 2010 07:18

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