A massive rise in boating numbers last year coincided with Queensland recording its highest number of marine fatalities in 20 years.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said figures released in Maritime Safety Queensland’s Marine Incident Report 2020 made for distressing reading.
“In 2020, 17 lives were needlessly lost on Queensland waterways,” Mr Bailey said.
“This was one higher than the previous year, and well above anything Queensland has experienced in the previous 20 years.
“Sadly, the tragedies we saw play out on our roads last year were echoed on our waterways too.
“Despite less cars being on the road during lockdowns, more Queenslanders took risks like speeding or drug driving, resulting in more deaths and severe injuries.
“We also saw an increase in boating activity during the COVID-19 hiatus accompanied by an alarming rise in person-overboard incidents.”
Mr Bailey said the most recent marine incidents report confirmed a significant rise in the number of new boats in 2020, with an extra 7224 recreational vessels registered.
“This was a substantial increase, more than three times the number we would expect to see in any given year,” Mr Bailey said.
“There were 33 reported incidents of people going overboard in 2020 which included 14 of the 17 fatalities, the highest in 10 years.
“Just two of those people who drowned, or were thought to have drowned, were known to have been wearing a lifejacket.”
Mr Bailey said the report showed boat users were continuing to ignore safety messages and disregarding the routine use of lifejackets.
“While the circumstances may differ over time, the water safety message hasn’t changed,” he said.
“Boat operators need to keep a proper lookout at all times and always travel at a safe speed.
“Most importantly, they must have enough lifejackets for all on board and ensure they wear them whenever there’s a heightened risk.”
Mr Bailey said Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) would continue a campaign of checks on safety equipment and unlicensed operation of vessels.
“MSQ’s Maritime Enforcement Team carries out on-water education and compliance operations in joint campaigns with Queensland Police, Boating and Fisheries Patrol, and Parks and Wildlife,” he said.
“These campaigns have intercepted hundreds of boat users in targeted operations, with the aim of raising awareness of boating rules which may differ from state to state, and generally reminding people of their responsibilities on the water.
“We just awarded a $1.9 million contract to supply MSQ with eight additional, high-speed vessels.
“Having those boats out on the water will mean our crews are able to get out there and educate the community, make sure people are travelling in safe vessels, and provide support to any incidents on the water.”
In 2020 there were 264,547 recreational vessels registered in Queensland.
In the same year, they were involved in 339 reported marine incidents – seven more than in 2019.
This included 38 collisions with objects, 39 groundings, 34 capsizes and 33 people overboard incidents.
The incidents resulted in 137 injuries with 40 requiring hospital treatment.
Sixteen incidents resulted in 17 deaths.