Vig­i­lance is key to boat­ing safety

Pilbara News - - News - ■ Ali­cia Perera

The pre­vi­ous six months have seen two se­ri­ous boat­ing ac­ci­dents in Pil­bara wa­ters.

Last year, com­mer­cial fish­ing trawler the Re­turner sank in Nickol Bay off the Bur­rup Penin­sula, killing three peo­ple, and last month keen spear-fish­er­men Matt Pen­ning­ton and Lawrence Smith lost their lives when their recre­ational boat cap­sized near Mawby Is­land.

The Pil­bara Ports Au­thor­ity also recorded 23 in­ci­dents in Port Hed­land and five in­ci­dents in Dampier last year, through what are the world’s largest bulk ex­port ports.

Coro­nial in­quests into both ma­jor ac­ci­dents are on­go­ing and though there is no clear in­di­ca­tion ei­ther hap­pened be­cause of safety over­sights, they cer­tainly re­mind lo­cal skip­pers of the im­por­tance of wa­ter safety.

The North West Wa­ter po­lice mon­i­tor wa­ter ac­tiv­ity for the north­ern WA coast­line from Ca­nar­von to Wyndham. Op­er­a­tions man­ager Sergeant Scott Gil­lis said though most peo­ple do the right thing on the wa­ter, there is a lot of com­pla­cency.

“Peo­ple look at boat­ing as a recre­ation, so they think there’s less chance of ac­ci­dents hap­pen­ing and there’s not as much on the wa­ter as on the road,” he said.

West Pil­bara Vol­un­teer Sea Search and Res­cue pres­i­dent Bruce Hard­wicke has seen plenty go wrong on the wa­ter in his eight years with the team. In the past month alone the group has been in­volved in five dif­fer­ent res­cues.

He and his wife, fel­low vol­un­teer Nikki Hard­wicke, said Pil­bara wa­ters present a unique set of po­ten­tial dan­gers in­clud­ing rocky is­land out­crops and big tides. That means it is crit­i­cal peo­ple know their sur­round­ings and are es­pe­cially care­ful at night-time.

They said there is also the is­sue of zeal­ous fish­ers not telling oth­ers where they are go­ing.

“You don’t have to tell them the fish­ing spot that you’re go­ing to, but say you’re head­ing in a par­tic­u­lar area so we don’t end up some­where else look­ing for you,” Mr Hard­wicke said.

Pil­bara Ports Au­thor­ity gen­eral man­ager of op­er­a­tions John Finch said with so many com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles trav­el­ling through port, recre­ational skip­pers need to fol­low their safety pro­to­cols.

“Safety pro­to­cols are in place to min­imise the risk of an in­ci­dent hap­pen­ing and to en­sure the safety of all peo­ple nav­i­gat­ing through PPA’s har­bours,” he said.

But for all teams, the key mes­sage is that skip­pers need to have all the proper boat safety equip­ment and know how to use it.

When­ever you go out on the wa­ter, make sure you note th­ese wa­ter safety ba­sics:

■ In-date flares. Out-of-date flares of­ten fail to fire, and are now il­le­gal. The West Pil­bara Vol­un­teer Sea Res­cue holds flare-train­ing ses­sions to teach peo­ple how to use them.

■ Reg­is­tered EPIRBs. Sim­ply reg­is­ter­ing them on the Aus­tralian Marine Safety Au­thor­ity could save hours of wait­ing to be res­cued.

■ A VHF ra­dio. 27MHz ra­dios are not suf­fi­cient in the Pil­bara, and mo­bile phones can fail. “Ra­dios are ba­si­cally (our) line of sight,” said Mr Hard­wicke.

■ Life jack­ets stowed on­board in an easy-to-ac­cess lo­ca­tion. ■ Emer­gency num­bers. ■ An ac­tion plan in the event of trou­ble.

■ The right navigational equip­ment for your needs. For ex­am­ple, radars may be help­ful for night-time fish­ing.

■ An aware­ness of tides and weather. Smart­phone apps are an easy way to track th­ese.

■ A good un­der­stand­ing of the sur­round­ing area. Spend time with lo­cal skip­pers be­fore­hand and mon­i­tor navigational equip­ment on the wa­ter.

■ Stay clear of large com­mer­cial ves­sels in ports and re­mem­ber they may not be able to see you at all times.

Sgt Gil­lis said wa­ter safety largely comes down to prior prepa­ra­tion while still on solid ground.

“The key thing is it all starts at home, be­fore you back out the drive­way. You can check all that be­fore you leave,” he said.

“There’s al­ways go­ing to be that risk of some­thing hap­pen­ing out at sea, but the ma­jor­ity of is­sues would be re­solved just by check­ing.”

West Pil­bara Vol­un­teer Sea Search & Res­cue vol­un­teers Nikki and Bruce Hard­wicke in front of the team res­cue boat at Dampier’s Hamp­ton Har­bour.

Pic­tures: Ali­cia Perera

North West Wa­ter po­lice Sergeant Scott Gil­lis and Se­nior Con­sta­bles Andy John­son and David Tay­lor in front of the po­lice boat.

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