Changes to NSW PFD laws proposed

NSW Ports and Waterways Minister Joe Tripodi has called for public comment on proposals that would see the most sweeping reforms to lifejacket rules in more than 30 years.

Launching a discussion paper this week on compulsory wearing of lifejackets, Tripodi said the reforms are aimed at recreational boaters in situations of heightened risk, especially children and boaters in tinnies.

“We are not looking at making the wearing of lifejackets compulsory at all times because not all boating activity has a similar risk,” Tripodi said.
“For example, taking a tinnie offshore has a significantly higher risk than sitting inside a motor cruiser in a quiet bay.

“We’re not about taking the fun out of boating. However we want boating to be enjoyable but safe and we know if there is an accident a lifejacket can dramatically increase your chance of survival.”

Of the 174 boating fatalities in NSW in the last 10 years, just over half resulted from a person falling overboard or a vessel capsizing. Drowning has been the primary cause of death and only 7 per cent of victims were known to have been wearing a lifejacket.
Currently in NSW it is compulsory to wear a lifejacket when:
• crossing a coastal bar;
• riding on a personal watercraft (eg. jet ski);
• engaged in tow-in surfing; or
• on a canoe, kayak, windsurfer or kitesurfer when 400m or more from shore.

Under proposed changes the minimum requirement would be for a lifejacket to be worn:
• by children less than 10 years old in a vessel less than 4.8 metres in length;
• by children less than 10 years old when underway in the open area of a boat less than 8 metres;
• when waterskiing or wakeboarding;
• when in a vessel less than 4.8 metres in heightened risk situations such as at night, when alone, and on ocean waters;
• when operating an off-the-beach sail craft in ocean waters;
• on small recreational craft such as kayaks and sailboards, at all times in ocean waters and when more than 100 metres from shore in sheltered waters;
• when in a vessel less than 4.8m on alpine lakes; and
• at times of “Skipper Judgement and Direction” – this approach would give a skipper the right to require passengers to wear a lifejacket if, for example, a change in the weather heightened the risk of a routine boating trip.

The proposals represent the biggest changes to boating safety since the Boating Safety (Equipment) Regulations were introduced in 1975.

The Discussion Paper and online feedback form can be downloaded here.

More information is available at or from NSW Maritime offices. Comments close on Friday 8 January 2010.


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