by Ken McManus
Tomorrow, in a double celebration, Marine Rescue Port Kembla will officially commission its $130,000 rescue vessel and open its new $120,000 harbour side base.
Port Kembla 20 on Lake Illawarra
Member for Wollongong Noreen Hay and Marine Rescue NSW Directors Doug Musker and Bob Wilson, Commissioner Stacey Tannos and Illawarra Regional Controller Bruce Mitchell will join volunteers from the unit at the event.
Commissioner Tannos said the $123,500 Cobia Enforcer RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) on a $7,250 trailer, was based on Lake Illawarra, forming a valuable addition to the region’s inshore marine search and rescue resources.
'The 6.25m Cobia provides Port Kembla members with the flexibility of operating on both the main body of Lake Illawarra, as well as the capability to trailer around to the popular Windang Channel when low tides or bad weather cut off direct access from the main lake,' he said.
'It is one of more than 30 new and refurbished vessels delivered to date, at a cost of $nine million, as part of our ongoing project to upgrade our rescue fleet through the financial support of the NSW Government and the boating community.'
Port Kembla Unit Commander Peter Purnell said Port Kembla 20 was a great asset for the unit and for boaters needing help in an emergency.
'This is a splendid boat with excellent handling and response. It has significantly increased our ability to come to the rescue, even in very shallow water,' he said.
'The Cobia’s shallow draft is ideal for the lake’s shallow waters, which contribute to many boats grounding and needing a tow to deeper water. Waters on the lake can turn ugly in strong winds that raise a short, steep chop that can cause smaller craft to capsize and frequent calls for help.'
The boat, powered by twin Suzuki 90HP motors, is fitted with sophisticated navigation, communications and first aid equipment, including a defibrillator, to ensure that the volunteers can work efficiently, safely and swiftly to help boaters in trouble.
The unit’s offshore operations crew moved from their former Wollongong Harbour unit to their new base near the Port Kembla Outer Harbour boat ramp, one of the Illawarra’s busiest, late last year. Their vessel, Port Kembla 30, is moored nearby, significantly improving response times.
The new $120,000 base provides members with more room, improved amenities and a training room. The unit contributed $105,000 through its fundraising activities, with a State-Commonwealth Emergency Volunteer Support Scheme grant for $15,000 providing air conditioning, a new roof and training equipment.
The unit is also funding the refurbishment of its radio tower at Hill 60, where the Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (SARCC) for local units is located.
Volunteers from Marine Rescue Port Kembla provide a vital safety net for Illawarra boaters. In 2012, its volunteers Logged On 6,235 boats, ensuring someone responsible knew when they headed out and were due back, and took 21,345 radio calls.
Throughout the year, the SARCC coordinated 152 operations to rescue or assist boaters in trouble: 99 offshore, 28 on Lake Illawarra and 25 by MR Shellharbour.
Commissioner Tannos paid tribute to the unit’s volunteers for their dedication to serving the area’s large boating community.
'The Port Kembla members are committed to saving lives on the water, giving their time to respond to emergencies, attend regular training and, as their new base demonstrates, to actively raise funds,' he said.
Commissioner Tannos acknowledged the vital support of the State Government and the boating community for Marine Rescue’s essential services.
'The financial support we receive from the Government and through boaters’ registration and licence fees provides about 50 per cent of the annual budget we need to provide NSW with a world-class marine search and rescue, radio network and education service for safer boating,' he said.
Commissioner Tannos reminded boaters to always wear their lifejackets and to Log On and Off with their local Marine Rescue radio base whenever they were on the water. To find your local base, visit website