Ports and Waterways Minister Paul McLeay this week announced Operation ‘Blue Water’, a month-long safety campaign throughout February, aimed at improving awareness of the safety requirements for boats on coastal waters.
McLeay said during 2009, there were 30 incidents involving vessels operating offshore.
These included capsizing, collision with a submerged object or another vessel, grounding, sinking and fire or explosion.
“Last year, five people died in offshore boating accidents and four suffered serious injuries,” McLeay said.
“In an effort to reduce this number, throughout February, up and down the coast of NSW, Boating Safety Officers will conduct spot checks on vessels. This campaign aims to educate recreational boaters on the dangers and safety requirements of offshore boating.”
McLeay said the campaign was also focused on educating boaters about the dangers of crossing sand bars at the mouths of coastal rivers, which can be notorious places for vessels capsizing.
“It is vital that the skipper carries the correct safety gear, has fully functioning communications equipment and logs into the coastal radio network so the alarm can be raised if the boat fails to return.” McLeay said.
Rules and advice for offshore vessel operators
• Check the weather before leaving, and do not go out if the weather is not suitable.
• Make sure the vessel is in good working order and is appropriate for the conditions.
• Ensure you have the required skills to operate a vessel offshore.
• Check the vessel has enough clean fuel for the journey and, if possible, have some in reserve.
• Ensure you have two litres of fresh drinking water per person onboard.
• Make sure there is a marine band radio onboard the vessel when more than two nautical miles from shore, and you have logged into the coastal radio network advising of voyage plans, including estimated time of return.
• Keep the required safety equipment onboard, including Type 1 lifejackets, 460MHz EPIRB, or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, bilge pump or bucket depending on the size of the vessel, compass and chart, two red hand flares and two orange smoke flares (for night or day use), oars or paddles on vessels less than 8m in length unless a second means of propulsion is fitted.
• Keep a waterproof torch, which is a valuable devise for signalling or when working on the engine, and a fluorescent orange-red sheet with a large black V printed in the middle to spread over the deck of the boat to indicate you are in trouble.
• Never overload the vessel.
• Go easy on the drink and keep your blood alcohol level below 0.05.
Crossing coastal bars
• Check the web cameras on NSW Maritime’s website.
• Ensure all persons onboard a recreational vessel are wearing Type 1 lifejackets when crossing a coastal bar (a legal requirement).
• Ensure all crew and passengers have a secure hold when crossing.
• Assess the bar conditions – watch, as long as it takes, to predict wave sets.
• Be aware that an outgoing (ebb) or low tide can be more dangerous for crossing coastal bars.
• If it’s too rough – don’t risk it, don’t go out, be safe.
Information, boating maps and navigational tools are available at: www.maritime.nsw.gov.au