by Penny Robins
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) state-wide campaign 'Operation Hire and Drive' starts Friday and the spotlight will be on people providing and hiring boats.
NSW Transport Roads and Maritime services
Maritime Director Tony Middleton said Operation: Hire and Drive, which will run until the end of May, will see Boating Safety Officers randomly approach hire and drive licensees and hire and drive hirers to ensure conditions, instructions and legislative obligations are being maintained.
'Hire and drive vessels are commercial vessels hired for recreational use, under a survey certificate or a hire and drive licence,' Mr Middleton said. 'These can include anything from houseboats to kayaks.
'These vessels are often used by inexperienced boaters and there are a range of safety conditions which are designed for the protection of the new boater.'
The objectives of the campaign will be threefold:
• To ensure hire and drive operators are adhering to the safety conditions of their hire and drive licences
• To ensure hire and drive operators are educated on the need to provide a safety briefing and instructions to the hirer
• To educate hire and drive customers of their obligations with safety equipment and lifejacket requirements.
Hire and drive licence holders must also keep a register of all vessel hirings for 12 months.
Mr Middleton said from 1 January 2006 to 31 November 2011, 2206 vessel incidents were reported to RMS. Of these, 78 incidents involved hire and drive vessels, representing 3.5 per cent of total incidents.
The 78 reported incidents resulted in six fatalities, nine serious injuries and 15 minor injuries. More than half of these incidents involved houseboats with the other incidents involving a range of vessels including kayaks/canoes, open runabouts and punts.
The main cause of incident was collision, mainly between vessels. There were also a large number of incidents involving collisions with fixed objects.
'The highest proportion of incidents occurred on the Murray River, which is not surprising given the greater number of houseboats in this area and their high frequency of use,' Mr Middleton said.
Percentage of hire and drive incidents by region (1 January 2006 to 31 November 2011):
• Murray/Inland – 38 per cent
• Hawkesbury/Broken Bay – 24 per cent
• Hunter/Inland – 17 per cent
• Sydney – 12 per cent
• North Coast – 5 per cent
• South Coast – 4 per cent.
Mr Middleton said the education and compliance campaign was in addition to the roving independent auditors employed by RMS who conduct spot checks of hire and drive businesses throughout the State.
Roads and Maritime Services website