SOME watersport operators in Batu Ferringhi, Penang, are now operating with winch boats to enhance safety for tourists.
Parasailors are attached by a towline to a winch on the boat as they take off and at the end of the activity, they land onto a platform at the stern of the boat.
A parasailor taking off from a winch boat 250m from the shoreline.
The activity is carried out some 250m away from the shoreline to prevent mishaps like parasailors being caught in the trees along the beach.
A total of 14 parasailing accidents were reported last year.
Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail said they had issued parasailing permits to operators of five winch boats licensed by the Marine Department (North Zone).
During Patahiyah’s visit to the beach yesterday, beach boys demonstrated how parasailing could be carried out using winch boats.
At the moment, parasailors towed by speedboats are allowed to take off and land on the beach.
Patahiyah said that last October, it was ruled that parasailing operators should use winch boats to launch riders into the air without needing them to land or take off from the beach from Jan 1.
She said the decision on the winch boat requirement was made at a meeting with representatives of the council, marine police, Civil Defence Department, police, Penang Watercraft Operators Association, Penang Hoteliers’ Association, Fisheries Department, northeast district office and Penang Institute.
But the operators, she said, asked for a reprieve as a winch boat would be costlier than a speedboat.
“They insisted that speedboats should be allowed with the condition that anyone who wants to parasail has to be strapped together with an experienced instructor.
“We accepted that and since Dec 13, no parasailing accidents have been reported.
“Still, we encourage operators to use winch boats.
“We hope the number of such boats will be increased from five to 12 by the end of the year,” she said after sticking permit stickers onto the winch boats.
There are 23 watersport operators who are members of Penang Watercraft Operators Association. The association is registered with the council.
State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow, who was also present, said he was happy with the efforts to give added value to watersports activities.
“We have seen tourists getting caught in trees or closed circuit television (CCTV) camera poles and sometimes, they get injured during landing.
Boat owner I. Balaguru, 57, (front left) and his workers showing the permit sticker issued for parasailing activities using a winch boat.
“Tourists are not used to handling the equipment, especially when there are strong winds.
“The rope used during parasailing has also injured beachgoers in the past.
“We will have a review at the end of the year on whether the winch boat requirement should be imposed.
“For the time being, either a speedboat or a winch boat is okay with us,” he said, adding that a winch boat cost RM200,000.
Chow said the council had also installed 24 CCTVs along the beach to monitor watersports activities.
During the event, Patahiyah also said the council’s ‘Penang Beach Makeover Integration of Beach Activities along Batu Ferringhi’ project had been given a certificate of distinction.
The accolade was given by the Commonwealth Association of Public Administration and Management last year.