$15,000 fine- Highest ever for boating offences

24 May 2012

The largest fine to date for offences under NSW marine legislation was issued in a Wyong Court today.

Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) Acting General Manager Maritime Operations Trevor Williams said a 22-year-old Buff Point man, who failed to appear before the court, was sentenced to $15,000 and $852 in costs for a number of marine safety offences relating to a boating incident on Tuggerah Lakes in which he was the master on 25 February this year.

The 3.6 metre vessel capsized with four adult males and a seven-year-old boy on board about 2.30pm.

The boat was overloaded, unregistered and had a stolen engine. There were not enough lifejackets on board, and the child was not wearing a lifejacket, as required by law for anyone under the age of 12.

“This is the largest fine to date for offences under marine legislation – sending a strong message in terms of overloading and safety equipment,” Mr Williams said.

“It reflects the fact that there were potentially five fatalities.”

Mr Williams said the RMS investigation found three of the five on board spent more than five hours in the water before being rescued in a search and rescue effort which included two helicopters.

“Three, including the boy, received fuel burns from fuel leaking from the tank, and all three were treated in Gosford Hospital for exposure,” Mr Williams said.

“After capsizing, all five entered the water wearing no lifejackets.”

“Three were not good swimmers and were forced to use debris including the fuel tank to remain afloat.

“The boy in particular was panicking and making it difficult for others to swim.”

Mr Williams said the five divided into two groups with one good swimmer towing a poor swimmer who used an esky lid to help him float. They eventually made it to shore and raised the alarm.

The master of the vessel was also a good swimmer and towed the remaining adult and the child who used the fuel tank to stay afloat, which in turn left all three with fuel burns.

The second group made it to shore hours later but could not get through dense bushland as the boy was exhausted.

They began wading along the shoreline when they were spotted by a helicopter.

The sentence included:

  • $5000 fine + $81 court costs + $528 professional costs for being the master of an unregistered vessel
  • $5000 fine +$81 court costs own vessel with no safety label
  • $2500 fine + $81 costs for being the operator of a vessel not carrying specified safety equipment
  • $2500 fine +$81 costs for being the operator of a vessel with a child less than 12 not wearing a lifejacket.

RMS investigated the incident together with NSW Police.

The investigation found:

  • The vessel was unregistered
  • There was no safety label (which would normally show that the boat was overloaded)
  • There was insufficient safety equipment (only one lifejacket was carried, when five would have been required)
  • The child was not wearing a lifejacket
  • The outboard motor attached to the vessel was reported as stolen.

The first four matters were dealt with by RMS. The Buff Point man was charged separately by Newcastle Water Police for possession of a stolen motor.

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