by Ken McManus
Marine Rescue NSW volunteers will be on full operational alert during the festive season, ready to come to the aid of boaters in need of help on the water.
Port Kembla 30, one of more than 70 MRNSW rescue vessels on duty for the holidays
Commissioner Stacey Tannos said December and January were the busiest months of the year for the 3200 volunteer members of the 46 MRNSW units along the coastline and inland on the Alpine Lakes and Murray River at Moama.
'Our stunning waterways are incredibly popular playgrounds for boaters throughout summer,' he said.
'Many people will be on holidays, perhaps in a new boat and on unfamiliar waters, but our members will be on duty, ready to help when needed.
'The influx of boaters will mean a spike in the number of incidents and emergencies. Last December and January our crews responded to 834 incidents, including 243 life-threatening emergencies – up from 450 assists in the preceding two months, of which 129 were serious.
'Radio operators, boat crews and those providing other vital support roles will be rostered at our units to ensure that we have the necessary personnel available over the season.
'Units will be vigilant, mounting extra patrols on popular waterways to keep a lookout for boaters in strife over this peak season.'
Commissioner Tannos said MRNSW radio operators were gearing up for significant increases in the numbers of boaters Logging On and Off over summer.
'In December and January last summer, our units Logged On 19,128 boaters – more than twice as many as the 9,270 in October and November.
'This service is unique on NSW waterways. Boaters simply radio or phone their nearest MRNSW unit to let them know where they’re heading, how many people are on board and when they’re due back.
'This will be even easier when we launch our MRNSW smartphone app, allowing boaters to log on electronically.
'Logging On ensures someone responsible knows a boater is out on the water and can quickly start to search if they’re not back when expected.
'It’s about peace of mind, knowing someone’s watching out for them while they get on with enjoying their day on the water.'
Commissioner Tannos also urged all skippers to ensure everyone on board was wearing a lifejacket at all times.
'Nine out of 10 people who drowned while boating in NSW over the past decade were not wearing a lifejacket,' he said.
'Please don’t gamble with your safety. Our crews will be on the way as quickly as possible but wearing a lifejacket is the simplest thing you can do to help save your life in an emergency.
'Thousands of people will be out on the water over summer and it’s terrible to think that some of them might not come home simply because they couldn’t be bothered, were too proud or just didn’t think to put on their lifejacket.'
For a full list of all volunteer Marine Rescue units in NSW, visit Marine Rescue NSW