New bylaw sinks ban on boats

Photo: Blanka Černá

After a nearly 40-year ban, recreational vessels can return to most of the rivers and reservoirs around the Czech Republic. Until now, motor vessels only had access to large rivers, such as the Vltava, Labe and Morava. A new bylaw changing the rules for their use came into force on Wednesday.

Photo: Blanka Černá
There are some 200,000 Czechs in the country who own a boating license. Until this week, they usually travelled abroad, usually to Croatia or Poland, in order to be able to use it. This week, the Czech Republic at last joined a majority of EU countries which have much more open regulations applying to water transport. Petr Novotný is the head of the Czech Boating Industry Association:

“The ban was introduced in the early 1970s, during the Normalisation period, by the Communists. I think the party regarded boat ownership as a symbol of the new rich, as a symbol of the West, so they decided to prohibit it. Until then, especially in the 1960s, boating was extremely popular, and the ban raised a wave of protests.”

The bylaw applies to vessels with an output of up to 10 kW, such as motor boats and inflatable family dinghy, which can now newly access popular lakes and water dams such as Lipno, Máchovo jezero or Vranov. Scooters, which usually have a minimal output of 50kW, can only be used on large bodies of water, such as Labe or Vltava.

According to Petr Novotný, boat drivers have to observe pretty much the same rules that apply to roads:

“To put it simply, the stronger ones have to make way for the weaker. That means that a faster boat has to give way to the slower boat, a yacht or a punt. The bylaw also introduces speed limits. If you are within 25 kilometres from the shore, you can drive up to 5 km an hour, and 50 km within the shore the maximum speed is 10 km an hour.”

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
The new bylaw also brings more duties to the river police, which can now issue fines for speeding.

As for objections raised by ecologists, who warn that increased water transport will result in greater water pollution Petr Novotný says water transport in the country is too insignificant compared to the rest of Europe to have any serious negative impact.

The country’s Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, meanwhile, has welcomed the change, hoping it will boost tourism along the rivers and water reservoirs, and increase the number of jobs in the area.