Sweden Considers Mandatory Boat Licences

Damage from fishing boat collision - would licences have helped?
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In a move that could be raising a flag for the rest of the world to salute, Sweden is considering the introduction of mandatory boat licences for boats of all sizes.

In a world of increasingly busy waterways, and increasingly busy rescue organisations, boating is the only remaining largely unregulated environment.

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According to Reuters, you need a license to drive a car or fly a plane, but in Sweden just about anyone can take the helm of a 200 horsepower speedboat that zips along at speeds up to 70 km (44 miles) an hour.

That could change now if a plan to make ALL boaters apply for licenses becomes law. The result, boaters say, could be a more bureaucratic, rule-bound sea around Sweden's rugged coasts -- but also a safer one. The licence requirements are planned to vary according to the length and/or the speed capability of each boat.

Boasting 3,218 km (2,000 miles) of coastline, an affluent population and a history rich with sailing tradition, it is easy to see why Sweden is so crazy about seacraft.

According to industry figures, Swedes own some 750,000 boats, or one for every 12 of the country's nine million people.

'Something like around 35-40 people get killed in pleasure boat accidents or disappear every year,' said Lars Hogdahl of Sweden's Ministry of Enterprise. 'Some just never get found.'

He is the man behind a proposal on licenses that could be in place by next summer. The idea has been mooted for more than a decade, but always met opposition among Swedes who think of boats as a 'last freedom'.

Now, even though many boaters resent restrictions, support for his plan is building in a community fed up with fellow boatera who are ignorant, reckless or drunk.

'It's a very good idea,' said Oscar Lagerberg, 26, a sailing enthusiast from Sweden's west coast. 'Just today we had to give way and even honk at a powerboater who didn't keep to starboard in a channel.'

For more detail on Sweden's plans, click here