The watery world of a Port Stephens’s boating safety officer

Med NSW Roads and Maritime Services
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Growing up on the Clarence River, Paul Hearfield had a diverse career on the water before his current frontline role in boating education with Roads and Maritime Services.

Before becoming a Port Stephens based Boating Safety Officer (BSO), he worked as a first mate and bosun on superyachts, island hopping between places including Thailand and Malaysia.

He also worked on cruise ships, drove water taxis and adventure boats on Sydney Harbour, and worked in sea towing and salvage.

It is hard to imagine why BSO Hearfield gave up his posting as marine operations manager for a Thai resort or his role in production on the television show Survivor China where transferred contestants to tribal council by boat and moved film equipment and supplies.

'It was a pretty good job working on the 520 square kilometre Thousand Island Lake which is just amazing,' he said.

Although he said, with a smile, he would have enjoyed the experience if the contestants had been allowed to shower regularly.

'Becoming a BSO seemed like the next step in my career. I’ve seen many things in my time as a professional mariner and I really wanted to help educate the boating community to help keep people as safe as possible on the water,' he said.

BSO Hearfield has commercial qualifications including Master V and MED III and worked in Sydney for four years before accepting a transfer to Port Stephens two years ago.

'I couldn’t have asked for a better posting. I am able to work with the boating community in managing local aquatic events and be proactive in determining how best to get the safe boating message, like the importance of wearing a lifejacket so everyone can enjoy themselves out on the water.

'The diversity of Port Stephens is another drawcard, as is the marine community which includes a major commercial port, rivers, estuaries, creeks and lots of different activities such as fishing, scuba diving, sailing and kayaking.

'The other great thing is the people I work with and help are very approachable,' he said.

In May this year BSO Hearfield worked with a NSW Police officer in a search and rescue effort to locate a lone kayaker who had been drifting in the water for more than six hours.

BSO Hearfield is one of more than 60 BSOs who patrol NSW waterways including dams and offshore, as the face of Roads and Maritime on the water, sharing a wealth of information about boating safety requirements, marine legislation and water traffic.

BSOs conduct random safety checks to ensure licences and registrations are up to date and the correct safety equipment is being carried, manage moorings and provide education to school groups and the community at boat and lifestyle shows.

They also help with or control marine traffic for special aquatic events such as the Sydney-Hobart Race start or New Year’s Eve on Sydney Harbour.
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