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The owners of unregistered boats that are used for tours without registration stickers from Bureau of Tourism (BOT), KSG and National Marine Law will be penalized starting January as BOT is still in the first phase of educating boat owners about the new regulations.

BOT is currently in the phase of education and awareness about the new regulation and hence the enforcement of the regulation starts next year.

“The penalties are severe, for everyday they [unregistered boats] are out there, they can be fined from $500 to $2,000,” Director of Tourism Kevin Mesebeluu said.

The law in Palau allows the boat ownership to be exclusively for the locals and no foreign national is allowed to own the boat.

The Palauan boat owner who wants to transport commercial tours need to become a member of Boat Owners Association for Tourism (BOAT) by paying a fee and providing a proof of ownership.

The owners then need to register the boat and the KSG, National Marine Law and BOT will provide sticker which must be on the owners commercial tour boats as a proof of BOAT membership.

As member of BOAT it will be compulsory for the boat owners to attend two meetings every year, vote on actions, follow membership rules and regulations and retain a copy of their membership card during operations.

If the boat owner decides on selling the boat, new owner must register the boat again if they want to be a member of BOAT (commercial tours).

When buying new boat, a member must register the boat as a new asset and acquire a sticker for the new boat.

Mesebeluu added that the new regulations will empower the boat owners to Owners police themselves and if there is a violation by tour operators the boat owners can report it to the BOT which can further launch investigation if needed.

Mesebeluu stressed that current education and awareness approach is not just limited to the boat owners but extends to sunscreen and plastic.

“We want to make sure everybody is on the same page before we start enforcement early next year. We have sent out notifications to boat owner and tour operators, we went on radio and TV to really make sure no one can say that they didn’t know,” Mesebeluu said.