19 April 2024

Boaters urged to keep safety front of mind after record number of rescues

| Claire Sams
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Marine Rescue NSW boat

Boaters have been urged to check on conditions and to make sure they follow other safety precautions during the school holidays. Photo: Marine Rescue NSW.

Authorities are calling on boaters to be careful as they head out on the water, following a statewide boating safety campaign.

NSW Maritime Principal Manager South Deon Voyer said NSW Maritime had carried out more than 1200 vessel safety checks as part of the campaign last weekend.

The operation was part of ‘Operation Stay Afloat – Reduce the Risk’, and saw 52 fines and 145 official warnings issued.

“The top three offences were for failure to carry or wear an appropriate lifejacket representing 34 per cent of fines, failing to carry or maintain the required safety equipment at 25 per cent and licence and registration at 23 per cent,” Mr Voyer said.

“Although most people we checked this weekend were doing the right thing, a concerning number of skippers and jet ski riders were found to be operating dangerously, putting themselves and others at risk.”

Mr Voyer said the number of boating related deaths had doubled from seven in the last financial year to 14 since July 2023. Of this number, 11 were not wearing lifejackets.

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The launch of Operation Stay Afloat – Reduce the Risk followed a busy Easter long weekend for Marine Rescue NSW.

NSW crews performed 115 search and rescue missions between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, out of a record 515 missions in March. This saw 1157 people safely returned to shore.

Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Alex Barrell said 168 of March’s record 515 search and rescue missions were emergency responses.

“Unfortunately, we are still seeing too many boaters and their vessels succumb to mechanical, fuel and battery issues with 60 per cent of responses last month for these three preventable issues,” he said.

Both the Monaro and Illawarra regions also hit new records of 40 and 58 search and rescue missions, respectively.

The eight Monaro units undertook 23 emergency responses between them, with 84 people safely returned to shore.

The Batemans Bay unit carried out 14 search and rescue missions, Eden nine and Bermagui seven.

In the Illawarra, 58 search-and-rescue missions were carried out – including 35 emergency responses – with 127 people safely returned to shore. The Port Kembla unit undertook the most, with 18.

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Mr Voyer said that lifejackets were the most important item of safety equipment on any recreational vessel – but they needed to be worn.

“Make sure kids are wearing their lifejackets and that they fit properly, and lead by example by wearing yours too,” he said.

“We want to finish the boating season in the safest way possible, so please do your bit to make sure everyone comes home to their families after a day on the water.”

Further information on suggested safety protocols is available on NSW Maritime’s website.

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