With so many Australians spending their money on boats during the COVID-19 pandemic, coastguards are increasingly worried about amateur boats with all the equipment and no clue.
- Boat registrations on the rise in Australia, as are rescues at sea
- Authorities concerned about non-compliance this summer
- Deputy Commander David Finely says registering with Coast Guard could mean the difference between life and death
As the barramundi season draws to a close in North Queensland, boaters and anglers abandon their river fishing grounds and enthusiastically throw themselves onto the reefs, but they are clogging the waters along the coast and are causing an increasing number of emergency evacuations.
Fisherman Gavin Love said the pandemic has caused an explosion in the number of boats.
âWhen COVID-19 went into effect, we couldn’t travel anywhere other than Queensland,â he said.
Mr Love said a group of new members joined the Fisherman’s Landing Social Club in Balgal Beach, north of Townsville, in a trend that has spread throughout the region.
In Townsville, where one in four people have a marine license and one in 11 own a registered vessel, growth has been steady since June 2019.
“Two cartons of beer”
According to Maritime Safety Queensland, more than 1,000 additional boats were recorded during the pandemic, from humble tinnies and cruise cabins to bow riders and center consoles.
But Deputy Coast Guard Commander David Finely said many new arrivals had not registered with the Coast Guard.
âOf the 14-15,000 registered pleasure craft in the Townsville area, only 2,000 of them are on our books,â he said.
A Coast Guard registration costs around $ 100 a year, but it could mean the difference between life and death.
âThat’s the cost of about two cartons of beer,â Deputy Commander Finely said.
“If they exceed their time on the water and we look for them, the first thing we do is go to the parking lot they left from to see if their car is there – because when they register with us, they can give us the description of their towing vehicle and their trailer. “
Are you listening?
The number of medical evacuations on the water in north Queensland is increasing rapidly and the volunteer maritime services are preparing even more when border restrictions ease in mid-December.
In the Whitsundays, Volunteer Marine Rescue carried out its 100th medical evacuation in November, three times more than during the same period last year.
Deputy Commander Finely said it was crucial for boats to turn on their radios, especially when there were more boats on the water.
“I know a man who only turns on his radio when we broadcast the weather,” he said.
“What it lacks are warnings given by maritime authorities, ships in distress that might call for help.
What should be common sense is the most critical advice the Coast Guard gives to anyone using a boat this summer.
âWhenever they go fishing, contact us and let us know where they go, when they come back,â said Deputy Commander Finely.