New waterway rules make waves

Photo: Blanka Černá

The introduction of a new regulation last year, which approved the return of motor vessels to most of the country’s rivers and reservoirs, considerably increased water traffic and boosted tourism along the Czech Republic’s rivers and dams. But the death of an 18-year-old girl, who was killed this weekend after a water scooter crashed into a boat on Orlik lake, has provoked a debate on whether the regulation is not too loose.

Photo: Blanka Černá
Until last April, motor vessels in the Czech Republic only had access to large rivers such as the Vltava, Labe and Morava, and most Czechs who owned a boating license had to travel abroad to be able to use it.

The new regulation introduced last year cancelled the strict rules on water transport introduced in the country back in the 1970s and allowed vessels with an output of up to 10 kW such as motor boats and inflatable dinghies access to lakes and water dams such as Máchovo Jezero, Lipno or Vranov. Scooters, which usually have a minimum output of 50 kW, can only be used on larger bodies of water, such as the rivers Labe and Vltava.

There are currently more than 14,500 recreational vessels registered in the Czech Republic. Petr Novotný of the Czech Boating Industry Association told Czech Radio earlier this year that interest in boating has grown considerably since the new regulation came into force:

“There is definitely a heightened interest from clients. Boating companies have been registering higher demand and sales of small boats, fishing punts, inflatable dinghies and small boat engines. I would say the increase is by 15 to 20 percent.”

But denser traffic on water reservoirs and rivers also brings a higher risk of collisions. Last week, the police carried out a check of boats on lakes and reservoirs across the Czech Republic. Police officers uncovered defects in every thirteenth boat and came across three intoxicated boat drivers, imposing fines to the tune of 30,000 crowns in total.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
Klára Němcová, head of the State Navigation Administration, told Czech Television said it was a question of everyone observing the safety norms:

“Boat drivers have to behave in a way that doesn’t threaten others on the river. And swimmers also have to observe certain rules, such as not crossing the trajectory of an approaching boat.”

Following the incident on Orlík lake this weekend, in which a girl was killed after a scooter crashed into a boat she was on, the State Navigation Administration announced plans to carry out more inspections on water reservoirs. It will also work on improving the system of river signs for swimmers and boat drivers.

Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Orlík nad Vltavou, a town situated right by the lake, have launched a petition calling for greater regulation of water transport.