With snapper season now underway and Victoria’s locked down recreational boaties keen to get back to their favourite fishing spots, it’s more important than ever to remind boaties to ‘Keep Clear of Big Ships’.
Ports Victoria COO, Peter Mannion has concerns that as COVID-19 restrictions start to ease, the eager boaties will be back on the water in big numbers and need to be reminded about the dangers of putting to sea, in Port Phillip Bay, at Hastings and in Victorian waters generally.
“Snapper season has just gotten underway and that traditionally signals the start of Victoria’s boating season,” he says. “And we know how incredibly popular and plentiful the local snapper haul is, so there’s no doubt boaties will be flocking to the water as soon as they can.”
“But increased activity on our waters means an increased potential for accidents, particularly with the high number of large freight vessels which also transit Port Phillip, Western Port, Corio and other Victorian waters. Unfortunately, too often we’re seeing dangerous incidents and accidents that could have been avoided.”
Increasing popularity of boating
The popularity of boating continues to increase year on year in Victoria with 432,000 Victorians now holding a recreational boating licence and 200,000 recreational vessels registered in the state.
Maritime Safety Victoria data reveals 80 per cent of recreational craft registered in Victoria head to the waters of Port Phillip Bay and/or Western Port at least once a year.
“The problem is that too many recreational boaties don’t seem to realise that these large commercial vessels often can’t see them, are under restricted manoeuvrability, and so don’t have the ability to avoid them,” says Mr Mannion.
“So, when we have boaties fishing or anchoring in channels and transit only zones, it is a potential recipe for disaster.”
Make sure your boat is good to go
Between January 1 and March 31, 2021 there were 466 recreational marine incidents in Victoria, 80% of these incidents were disablements and breakdowns of recreational craft.
Big ships cannot simply stop or manoeuvre around small craft when they are confined to designated channels and transit only zones.
“Ensuring your boat is good to go, before you set off is essential. Typically, at the start of the season we see a spike in vessels breaking down due to a lack of maintenance and preparation,” says Mr Mannion. “Now is the time to replace stale fuel and double check all the correct safety equipment, such as lifejackets, flares and fire extinguishers, is on board, up to date and in good working condition.”
Mr Mannion says Port Victoria’s latest data showed there was an almost 10 per cent increase in on-water incidents during October, November and December in 2020 compared to the year before.
“And given we’re expecting more boaties than ever to be extremely keen to get back on the water, our key message is more important than ever.”
“Keep Clear of Big Ships. It’s simple, but it’s also a potential lifesaver.”