In the new role, Khun Phuripat becomes responsible for marine safety and everything that happens on Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi, Trang, Ranong and Satun below the high-tide mark.
He has complained in the past of never having enough staff to enforce regulations governing jet-skis especially on Phuket.
It's understood that jet-ski operators all pay hefty annual registration fees, but very small amounts to maintain a partial insurance covering tourists.
Here's a replay of an interview given by Khun Phuripat to Phuketwan journalists in 2010, headlined: Phuket Jet-Skis and the Seven Year Ditch
Softly spoken but capable of wielding a big stick, Phuripat Theerakulpisut was on Phuket when a Governor announced the solution to the jet-ski problem: phase them out. Khun Phuripat, once captain of a merchant ship that visited 40 countries, recently returned to Phuket as Chief of Marine Office 5, overseeing registration of the jet-skis. And just in time for the jet-ski deadline, seven years on.
Big ships still come to Phuket, mostly tankers for PTT. Phuket also exports rubber liquid. Then there are cruise ships, and US warships As a sailing hub, everything is here on Phuket. Nowadays we have some problems with the environment but we have to develop as well. I explain to so many groups that the activities of marinas do not destroy the environment. If Phuket wants to be the marina hub, you will have to build some more. There is one planned for Phang Nga but I think it does not yet have an Environmental Impact Assessment. Regulations can be a problem for yachts in the region. Many authorities require documents. Nowadays we try to work together with Customs and others to provide a one-stop service. It's not easy. For security and safety, we have to have checks.
Jet-skis have to register but we have so many problems. The law is 100 percent. I try to talk with the leaders of the jet-ski group in gentle language, do not make any problems. If I get no trouble, you get no trouble. We have to look at both sides. Sometimes tourists do not always tell the whole story. If you know the deep story, you will know what is going on. Some tourists are good, some not so good. There are many jet-ski groups, Bang Tao, Patong, I talk with them already. I want to inform them that it is their occupation, I want to keep their occupation for them and their families.
It is up to the policy of the Phuket province. They have the order from a former governor that the jet-skis have to finish in March next year. No more jet-skis on Phuket. This order was by Governor Udomsak. Too many problems with the tourists on jet-skis, we had to negotiate with the jet-ski groups. They could not stop immediately. We talked at a meeting, 'What about a period to phase them out?' I was involved in those meetings. This is the order and I talked with the leader of the jet-ski groups. The order is still there. The plan now is I will try to talk to Governor Tri Augkaradacha to see whether we have to comply with this order or not. If we cannot comply with the law 100 percent, we have to meet. Under Governor Udomsak, they said at a meeting at that time that actually the jet-ski's life is about seven years. That is why the time was chosen.
When we work with people sometimes we have to talk in gentle language to help each other. If no problems, there will be no change. Before March I will ask the governor if he wants to stop the jet-skis. This is a good order, good for me to control them. Not easy, but it's possible. I think it's not easy, but we will make everything better. We can make a solution for the future so that they do not make any problems again. In my opinion, it's not a problem if they have good management.
If someone is in trouble, jet-skis always help. The good thing is never carried in the media. The good thing is never offered. It's like a coin, there are always two sides. The main thing is proper management. Insurance is not covered by regulations so we cannot press them to comply. Actually jet-skis have to register for a licence from my office. Jet-skis sometimes register at other marine offices in other provinces. The nature of the jet-ski, we cannot comply with the law 100 percent because when someone wants to ride a jet-ski, they cannot get certification to ride. In the future I think, tourists will have to learn for 30 minutes or an hour how to ride jet-skis.
It's a good occupation, that's why it's not easy. A jet-ski costs about 300,000 baht. When a jet-ski flips, the engine does not get damaged easy. I think damages claims should not happen. They made a story called 'Big Trouble' for the tv. I think that was not the real whole story. I looked on the television already: the tourists make trouble. The government tried to stop jet-skis by regulations a long time ago, but it's not easy. You remember sea walkers? The National Park Authority stopped them, but if you left them to stay for three years or five years, such things are harder to stop.
The diving business is 90 percent owned by foreigners. The diving market is worth a lot of money. The last period, we tried to take them to a better system, but we cannot. The foreigners mostly come by booking through the Internet. What does Thailand get? I talk to so many people. The natural resources will not stay forever, what is the balance? What about the business? What can Thailand gain? Nowadays, the big problem is that if you want to change any regulations, we have to study the whole thing, what is the solution? For me, Thailand should get something from the foreigners in the industry.
Nowadays we cannot say 100 percent but I think it's at 90 percent, better than in the past. People wear lifejackets always. There are few drownings. I pray every Wednesday that there will be no accidents. Licences, insurance, they are important.
Instead of insurance, maybe a cooperative could be a good idea for jet-skis. It's not easy to talk about these topics. Next step, before March I will write a letter to the governor and ask him what he decides for the future. Nowadays, the number of jet-skis is not growing. But we have to decide whether they stop or not. The coin has two sides. If there is no problem, why stop them? But we cannot say the problems will not occur. Jet-ski income is not small money for them. Every activity, we cannot solve the problem by stopping them. How they are controlled is the key. Jet-ski are not only bad. If we just stopped and kicked them out, that would be easy. The hard part is how to keep them on our side, and follow regulations. If they will get kicked out, they will go to other occupations and maybe make trouble. Corruption begins when people are not earning enough. The existing problems can be solved by good management. Everything we have to solve together.