’We will not stand down’

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - SHANE NI­CHOLS

THE shire’s ma­rine res­cue vol­un­teers may be locked out, but they’re not knocked out.

They in­tend to carry on as a ma­rine res­cue ser­vice even while their ran­corous dis­pute with the Aus­tralian Vol­un­teer Coast Guard As­so­ci­a­tion (AVCGA) drags on.

An in­ci­dent at sea at the week­end and three more in the early part of this week has left the vol­un­teers frus­trated and an­gry. On Fri­day night a small boat with three lo­cal men aboard was left drift­ing off Mackay Cay due to con­tam­i­nated en­gine fuel.

On Fri­day night a small boat with three lo­cal men aboard was left drift­ing off Mackay Cay due to con­tam­i­nated en­gine fuel.

The Dou­glas district’s ma­rine res­cue flotilla, QF10, was locked out of its Dickson In­let head­quar­ters sev­eral weeks ago amid a dis­pute with the AVCGA.

QF10 vol­un­teers wish to join a dif­fer­ent or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Ma­rine Res­cue Queens­land.

Con­cerned part­ners of the three fish­er­men rang QF10 around 11 pm on Fri­day night. Deputy com­man­der Tom Patts took the call and ex­plained that the flotilla could not put to sea.

He then set about in­form­ing emer­gency ser­vices, even­tu­ally get­ting through to Wa­ter Po­lice in Cairns af­ter mid­night.

The Wa­ter Po­lice went to sea at 8am on Satur­day and lo­cated the fish­er­men, who had lost en­gine power near Mack­straight ay Cay, around 10 am and re­turned them to Port Dou­glas just be­fore mid­day. One of the men told the Gazette that they had not felt in peril but were grate­ful for the as­sis­tance. They had drifted north right to the very edge of mo­bile phone re­cep­tion.

“Port Dou­glas needs its own res­cue ser­vice,” the fish­er­man said. “If they leave Cairns away, the dis­tance is too great. The Wa­ter Po­lice were do­ing 39 knots – very fast – and it still took two hours to reach us.

“That’s no good if a boat is sink­ing. This is a safety is­sue for Port Dou­glas.

“The pub­lic need to know that they’ve got some­one who can come and get them when they have a mishap out the front.” A QF10 mem­ber told the

Gazette that “we are still op­er­a­tional even though the coast guard told us we’re not. It’s all about safety, not about what the hi­er­ar­chy think.”

He said the sea state was be­nign on Fri­day but had blown up around around 5 pm, with strong winds mak­ing con­di­tions very un­com­fort­able.

“It was too rough to hold a sea an­chor,” said the vol­un­teer, who had gone to sea pri­vately on Fri­day.

“It can’t have been very pleas­ant to drift around out there for hours wait­ing to be res­cued.”

This is a safety is­sue for Port Dou­glas. The pub­lic need to know some­one can come and get them when they have a mishap out the front

Res­cued fish­er­man

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