Officials look to Phuket insurance program as model to resolve Pattaya jet ski scams

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Pattaya officials plan to require jet ski operators to carry insurance that, they hope, will end the extortion scams that have ravaged the city’s image.

At a Sept. 17 meeting of the emergency committee formed to resolve the long-running issue, Chonburi Gov. Khomsan Ekachai said Thaisri Insurance plc has been signed to provide insurance cover for the 452 jet skis operating in Pattaya, Jomtien Beach and Koh Larn.

Combined with other regulatory changes, Khomsan said, tourists no longer would be victimized and forced to pay tens of thousands of baht in compensation for alleged damage to the watercraft.

Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome inspects a jet ski and talks with the vendors on Pattaya Beach. Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome inspects a jet ski and talks with the vendors on Pattaya Beach.

The governor told the more than 100 jet ski operators in attendance that their premiums would cost less than operators pay in Phuket, which local officials looked to as a model solution. However, Phuket’s local police commander recently called the island’s compulsory insurance program a failure and foreign embassies are complaining tourists are still being ripped off.

Phuripat Theerakulpisut, chief of Phuket’s Marine Office 5, insisted to foreign embassy counsels Sept. 17 that tourists need not pay any money to jet ski operators even if they are involved in accidents. The diplomats disagreed, however, saying rogue jet ski vendors still are charging victims up to 16,000 baht for alleged damage, with some even making customers sign rental contracts promising to pay 3,000 baht a day for each day a boat is out of the water.

In July, Phuket Police Deputy Commander Colonel Pirayut Karajedi told the media the compulsory insurance program was an outright “failure.”

Pattaya’s program would not only be less expensive for vendors, but cover far less for tourists. Unlike Phuket’s program, which covers full damage and personal injury, the deal Chonburi officials inked with Thaisri offers maximum payouts of just 2,000 baht. By comparison, scamming jet ski vendors have been trying to extort as much as 150,000 baht out of victims.

Khomsan said the Thaisri deal was the best the province could get because none of the other insurance companies approached would cover jet skis.

Under Thaisri’s policies, jet skis would only be insurable if they are less than three years old. Victims of accidents would not be covered at all for injury or death and jet ski owners would only be compensated up to 2,000 baht. Premiums – which were not specified – would be paid annually.

Other regulatory changes are also planned, the governor said. The city will freeze the number of jet skis allowed to operate on area beaches at the current level of 452. By comparison, only 278 jet skis are allowed to operate on the entire island of Phuket.

The boats would be rented only in designated areas on Pattaya, Jomtien and Koh Larn beaches and a representative of the jet ski association would have to be present to keep order. While not mentioned in the latest meeting, officials said previously that a city representative would run each rental station.

The governor said final details on the insurance plan still must be resolved, but he expects to present the complete imitative to the committee before Oct. 15.