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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Ethan Hamilton

Marine safety blitz launches over the long weekend

Marine safety blitz launches over the long weekend. File picture.

Maritime first responders are urging people to think about water safety, with the boating season launching this weekend.

"We are expecting a busy season this year and our goal is for everyone to have a great time on the water but more importantly they make it home safely at the end of the trip," NSW Maritime principal manager for the northern area Damian Logue said.

"After multiple boating seasons being interrupted from COVID and extreme weather events, we are expecting to see a large number of boaters heading out on the water."

National Safe Boating Week starts today, with lifejacket wearing the key message.

"There is a big focus on life jackets and like jacket wear. Our message is simple. That you should be taking your life jackets with you, servicing your life jackets and wearing your life jackets," he said.

"One day that could save your life.

"Of the 13 fatalities we have had in the last 12 months on our waterways, 10 of them were not wearing a life jacket."

Marine Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Alex Barrell said the last two years have been the busiest on record with more than 8000 rescue missions state-wide.

NSW Maritime are conducting compliance checks over the long weekend as part of their 'Are you boat ready?' blitz.

"Boats way have been off the water for a number of years so we need to make sure people are checking their safety gear before they get out on the water," Mr Logue said.

"Life jacket related offences represent close to 30 per cent of our offences over the past 12 months."

NSW Police Force Marine Area Commander Detective Superintendent Murray Reynolds said officers will also be patrolling waterways.

"Skippers are reminded that drug and alcohol testing, as well as compliance checks will be conducted - so look after your friends and family and act responsibly," Superintendent Reynolds said.

NSW Ambulance responded to almost 900 water-related callouts across the state last financial year and Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steve Pearce said the state saw 55 drownings on the coast, 30 per cent higher than average.

"Swim between the flags, make sure you supervise your children, wear a life jacket," Mr Pearce said.

Mr Logue said severe weather has changed the boating landscape.

"On the back of recent weather events that we have had, one of the things that we are seeing is that our waterways have changed," Mr Logue said.

"What I mean by that is that we are seeing sandbars appear in places they have never been before.

"That's why we come back to that planning and preparing. It is taking that time to make sure you stop and look at the waterways you are operating on.

"You may have been on there 12 months ago but those waterways could have changed."

Following a number of people being swept off rocks around Lake Macquarie in the last year, he said coastal marine safety goes beyond boats.

"People underestimate the dangers. Boating is fun, fishing is fun, swimming in the surf is fun. But with that comes danger. If it's not done correctly people can die," he said.

"We need to make sure people stop and take the time to plan, prepare and predict.

"Plan for the trip they are going to go on, prepare for things like the weather and predict what can happen while they are out there."

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