Summer boating focus on towing and propellor safety

9 January 2015

Towing safety on NSW waterways will be in the spotlight from tomorow with the start of a Roads and Maritime Services education and compliance campaign ‘Operation Tow Safe’.

Roads and Maritime Acting Director of Maritime Adrian Toovey said during Operation Tow Safe, boating safety officers around NSW would focus on boat operators engaged in towing activities to check awareness and compliance with safety requirements.

“Waterskiing, wakeboarding and aquaplaning are all marine towing activities and are popular water sports which generally take place at relatively high speeds,” Mr Toovey said.

“Operators are reminded there is an element of risk and it is crucial anyone involved understands what is required to ensure the safety of all participants.

“Everyone from the observer to the person driving the boat must know the rules, including key hand signals.

“The person being towed and anyone in the water near a boat also needs to be aware of the potential risk of propellor strikes.

“Unfortunately in the past five years there have been 82 incidents on NSW waters involving propeller strikes and towing.

“There were 56 towing incidents which resulted in six fatalities and 40 serious injuries and 26 propeller strike incidents which resulted in three fatalities and 21 serious injuries.”

“Of the 26 prop strike incidents, only six occurred when towing was being carried out.

Mr Toovey said many towing incidents involve falls at speed and while reasonable speed is necessary for towing activities, masters, observers and persons being towed should only travel at a speed they are confident with and modify speed appropriate to the water conditions.

“Boat operators should be aware of their surroundings and keep a proper lookout at all times for people in the water, including swimmers and divers who may be below the water’s surface,” Mr Toovey said.

“If you see a dive flag, slow down and keep well clear of the area.

“Lifejacket compliance will also be on the radar, with BSOs checking there are enough of the correct size lifejackets on board for all passengers.

“We recommend everyone wears a lifejacket throughout the day on small boats which are under way, but there are also times when lifejacket wear is required by law.

“Anyone younger than 12 must wear a lifejacket at all times on a boat less than 4.8 metres in length and in open areas of a moving vessel 4.8 metre to 8 metres in length.

“And of course, a person being towed needs to always wear a lifejacket regardless of their age, weather conditions or the size of the boat.”

Mr Toovey said towing more than three people or hanging from the back of a boat in its wake, also known as teak surfing, was prohibited for obvious safety reasons and would attract a fine.

Operation Tow Safe will run from Saturday 10 January to Sunday 18 January inclusive.

For more information on towing and general boating safety visit

CONTACT: Roads and Maritime Services Media Unit: 8588 5999

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