Left high and dry by waterway rules

Man gets conflicting advice on using his own boat in reservoir
Victoria Vaughan, Straits Times 21 Dec 09;

THE lure of Singapore's easily accessible reservoirs is making more people take up water sports.

But one family, keen to make kayaking a hobby, has been left high and dry due to conflicting rules on the use of waterways.

Earlier this month, Mr Jason Toh, 40, and his family took their own inflatable kayak to MacRitchie Reservoir.

But he was stopped and told that he needed a permit.

This began a 'wild goose chase', with national water agency PUB and the Singapore Canoe Federation (SCF) issuing different advice.

At the heart of the matter is whether a boat permit from PUB allows an individual to take his own boat out on the water. Before this permit is issued, however, an individual needs to get a proficiency certificate.

The SCF, based at MacRitchie Reservoir, issues the certificates for varying levels of proficiency, with the majority being for the entry-level one-star course, which takes 12 hours to complete and costs between $50 and $80.

No certification is needed to rent sit-on-top kayaks, but a one-star certificate is needed for one-seater kayaks. Between April and September, the federation issued about 10,000 such certificates.

When Mr Toh asked what was required to get afloat in the reservoirs, he was told by a PUB official 'that if I got a one-star certificate from the SCF, got my boat checked out and then submitted a form endorsed by SCF to PUB, I could get a permit'.

Ms Lyuina Lee, 24, a sports executive for SCF, offered the same advice, adding that she did not know many people who owned their own kayak.

However, in a statement issued to The Straits Times, Mr Tan Nguan Sen, PUB's director of catchment and waterways, said individuals are not allowed to take their own boats out on the water.

'As the safety of the reservoir user is paramount, only organised group activities and training conducted under the supervision and guidance from either the operators, national sports associations, schools and grassroots organisations are allowed at the reservoirs,' he said in the statement.

'It is also for safety reasons that we do not permit individuals to carry out water activities on their own currently.'

Reacting to this, Mr Toh said: 'This is turning into a wild goose chase as I anticipated...The advice is not consistent.

'I hope PUB keeps an open mind on this and not just say it is for safety reasons. What's the difference if I take out my kayak or rent one, I am still on my own in the reservoir?'

The PUB added that it has not encountered this issue before and is reviewing its policies before deciding on the best course of action.

In the meantime, Mr Toh is planning to take a one-star canoe course and seek a permit as advised by the PUB official he spoke to. Until then, his $200 kayak, bought in Bangkok, will be left to gather dust.

An application form for a non-motorised vessel permit is available on the PUB website. There is no cost for the permit.

Sorry, no water activities on one's own
Straits Times Forum 21 Dec 09;

PUB, the national water agency, thanks Mr Jason Toh for his feedback on kayaking at MacRitchie and Bedok reservoirs ('Family's kayaking dreams drifting in red tape', last Thursday).

Since 2005, PUB has actively promoted water activities at our reservoirs as part of our efforts to inject life and vibrancy into our reservoirs and encourage the public to bond with water.

We have worked with partners such as the People's Association (PA), Singapore Canoe Federation (SCF), Singapore Dragon Boat Association, Singapore Waterski and Wakeboard Federation, Singapore Sailing Federation as well as schools and grassroots associations to organise various water activities such as kayaking, dragon boating, rowing, wakeboarding and sailing at our water bodies.

The public can also enjoy walk-in recreational water activities at kayaking centres run by the SCF or PA at Bedok Reservoir, MacRitchie Reservoir, Marina Reservoir, Jurong Lake and Lower Seletar Reservoir.

PUB works closely with the operators to ensure that water activities are conducted in a safe and proper manner. For instance, safety briefings for members of the public and checks on the conditions of life vests and kayaks are conducted by the operators.

For safety reasons, we do not permit individuals to carry out water activities on their own.

We have contacted Mr Toh and apologised for the miscommunication. PUB will continue to review the procedures and improve our service quality.

Tan Nguan Sen
Director, Catchment and Waterways
PUB, the national water agency