Queensland recorded an alarming increase in recreational boating deaths in 2019, sparking calls for an increased focus on water safety.
The 2019 Marine Incident Report, released yesterday, found that 18 people died in Queensland waters last year in reported marine incidents, and of those who drowned or went missing, only one was known to be wearing a lifejacket.
It also found that Maritime Safety Queensland received 332 marine incident reports in 2019. The reported incidents involved 412 Queensland registered recreational vessels and 31 Queensland registered commercial vessels, resulting in 109 injuries, including 37 people who were admitted to hospital.
The most commonly reported incidents were collisions between ships, collisions with objects, groundings and capsizes.
Transport and Main Roads Minister, Mark Bailey said the findings marked a grim milestone for the state.
“Last year was the worst in Queensland for decades, in terms of the number of lives lost on the water,” Mr Bailey said.
“One particularly tragic event saw a group of five family members and friends lost at sea in the Torres Strait.
“The number of reported marine incidents and hospitalisations last year was slightly down on the previous year, but sadly, there were four serious incidents that claimed multiple lives.
“Human factors were the significant contributor to most of these incidents, which frequently happened on smooth water, with good visibility in clear weather.”
Minister Bailey said the report showed boat users needed to pay more attention to safety messages and commit to routine use of lifejackets.
“Of the 113 people who have drowned during marine incidents in Queensland over the past 20 years, only five were known to have been wearing a lifejacket.
“The water safety message hasn’t changed over that time.
“Boat operators need to keep a proper lookout at all times and always travel at a safe speed.
“Most importantly, they must have enough lifejackets on board for everyone and make sure everyone knows how to use them.”
Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) General Manager, Angus Mitchell said MSQ had already stepped up its efforts to check safety equipment on-board and monitor the unlicensed operation of vessels.
“Late last year, MSQ established the Marine Enforcement Team to carry out on-water, education and compliance operations,” Mr Mitchell said.
“Along with Queensland Police, Boating and Fisheries Patrol, and Parks and Wildlife, they’ve conducted joint campaigns, including on the busy Easter long weekend.
“These campaigns have intercepted hundreds of boat users in targeted operations, with the aim of raising awareness of boating rules which may differ from state to state, and generally reminding people of their responsibilities on the water.”
As of May 2020, there were 264,017 recreational vessels registered in Queensland.