Maritime, police's 'zero tolerance' to bad boating behaviour this summer

CHAT AND CHECK: NSW Maritime Boating Safety Officer Mick Cleland talking with two teens on a jet ski at Little Beach on Sunday.
CHAT AND CHECK: NSW Maritime Boating Safety Officer Mick Cleland talking with two teens on a jet ski at Little Beach on Sunday.

Water police and NSW Maritime Boating Safety Officers were active on the Port's waterways during the long weekend, stopping to speak with boaties and paddlers and checking their vessels as part of a statewide compliance and education operation.

It was the first compliance blitz in what will be a regular occurrence during the summer months as authorities look to minimise water-related deaths and injuries in what they anticipate will be a busy boating season.

"Last year we have 25 people pass away from a boating incident [statewide]. This year, to date, we've had six. It's really important that we remind people about safe boating practices, to think about vessel safety and what they're doing when they head out onto the water," Sonia McKay, NSW Maritime principal manager - north, said.

Operation Be Prepared was run across the long weekend in conjunction with the start to the boating season.

Maritime Boating Safety Officers were out in force in Port Stephens and across the state stopping recreational boaters to check they were carrying the required safety equipment, including lifejackets, on board.

Ms McKay said the operation was primarily about safety education, but warned that inspectors would be taking a 'zero tolerance' approach towards boating safety breaches including failing to wear or carry lifejackets, speeding, unsafe towing activities and personal watercraft offences throughout the summer.

With more people hitting the water this year, as indicated by the number of boat licences and registrations issued by the RMS and reported boat sales, maritime will continue its safety compliance and education operations to ensure water-craft users are "following the relevant boating laws which exist to keep us all safe while on the water".

This includes carrying, maintaining and checking equipment such as EPIRBs, flares and torches and ensuring that inflatable lifejackets have been serviced within the past 12 months.

Across NSW Maritime's northern area, which takes in Tweed River, Forster, Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie, between Friday, October 2 and Monday, October 5, inspectors checked more than 1300 vessels.

From this, 53 penalty notices and 76 official cautions were issued.

The top offences were: not carrying correct safety equipment; not wearing a lifejacket; failure to maintain lifejackets; expired safety equipment (EPIRB, flares) and; unregistered vessels.