Guardia Civil craft coming alongside a party boat. | Interior Ministry

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Revellers on party boats may well have been taken by surprise when they found Guardia Civil patrol craft coming alongside at the weekend. There were more surprises in store when Guardia officers went on board the boats.

The operation by the Guardia Civil will continue this month, there having been twenty inspections of party boats up till now. These are in accordance with a regional government decree that was issued in April 2015 and enforced provisions under the 2012 tourism law. Essentially, this obliged operators to act in line with minimum standards expected of a tourist establishment on land.

Under this decree, boats had to be registered and norms of consumer protection applied. The government had started the process of bringing party boats into line in 2013, acting in part through motives to guarantee maximum safety but aware also of the numerous complaints that boats were generating (and still do) because of noise. The then director-general for ports, Antonio Deudero, identified 33 requirements that would be made of boats' operators. At the time, in June 2013, it was said that there were 46 companies running 84 boats.

The current inspection campaign is checking on noise levels, on safety conditions, on the status of crew members and on documentation required for boats' activities. As part of this, captains and crew are being breathalyzed. Boats' owners have been told that they are responsible for ensuring that alcohol and drugs are not taken by boat crews, while the inspections by the Guardia are also looking into possession or dealing of drugs.

During July, the Guardia were adopting a policy of informing boat operators about requirements. The active phase of the campaign has, therefore, now started.

The operation involves different Guardia units - the marine and air services, the Seprona environmental police and the Pafif division. This is the tax and borders patrol, and it is the one with the principal responsibility for controlling party boats. Last year, for example, the Pafif patrol in Ibiza intercepted a party boat that was operating illegally. The boat in question, Saga had been responsible for generating numerous complaints because of noise, and when officers intervened they found the number of people on board to be excessive as well as the documentation not to be in order.