New Maritime Enforcement Teams on the water in Queensland

Don’t be surprised when you’re out on the water this summer if you find yourself talking to the MET.

“MET” is the acronym for “Maritime Enforcement Team” – a new, highly visible flying squad of Maritime Safety Queensland enforcement officers mounted on personal watercraft.

Launched at the Gold Coast on 4 October, the MET is in part Maritime Safety Queensland’s response to an alarming surge in fatal marine incidents this year that was referenced here in the September 2019 issue of Maritime Matters.

Maritime Safety Queensland General Manager, Angus Mitchell, said the time was right for a stronger government presence on the waterways.

‘Queensland has seen a tragic run of fatalities and other serious boating incidents this year,’ Angus said. ‘While investigations into those incidents continue, what we have learned over and over again from previous incident investigations is that many of them were probably preventable had the skippers observed basic rules of good seamanship. Doing the basics right is just so important in boating, so the MET will initially focus on ensuring that is what skippers are doing’.

Angus said that, while MET officers will look to play an educational role where possible, they will also come down hard on boaties who endanger themselves and others.

‘Most skippers try to do the right things to enjoy boating safely,’ he said. ‘But there are also those who seem to think the rules regarding such things as safety equipment, speed, safe navigation and registration simply don’t apply to them.

‘The MET will work in an educative capacity with those who want to comply, or in an enforcement capacity with those who need a bit more than gentle persuasion. And those who do need a bit more than gentle persuasion could be looking at fines between $266 and $533.’

Angus said having enforcement officers on personal watercraft rather than boats was important for several reasons.

‘They will be cost-efficient, highly visible and able to access virtually all areas of water’, he said. ‘Personal watercraft are also easily transported by road, so we can deploy them almost anywhere including inland dams and streams.

‘The MET will go wherever we need them to go to enhance safety on our waterways. They’ll be supported by our compliance partners, Queensland Water Police and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol and Seqwater, on a trial that will run for twelve months’.

The MET commenced operations over the October long weekend at the Gold Coast, one of Queensland’s busiest boating destinations.

In a compliance campaign conducted over Saturday 5 October through Monday 7 October from the Nerang River through the Broadwater and connecting creeks all the way north to the Logan River, the team intercepted 98 vessels (48 personal watercraft and 50 motor boats).

They found it necessary to issue 43 infringement notices, nine formal warnings and six written directions, with speeding and safety equipment violations topping the bill.

It is worth noting the six written directions required boaties to return to shore for failing to carry prescribed safety equipment and for being unlicensed.

The Water Police and Boating and Fisheries Patrol assisted and, between them, made a further 84 intercepts during which they issued 14 Marine Infringement Notices, 10 warnings and four Fisheries Infringement Notices.

That all adds up to 86 compliance actions for the 182 vessels intercepted – almost one for every two vessels – a rate of non-compliance on Gold Coast waterways that was much too high for us to take any comfort from.

We’d very much like to see that ratio reduce wherever we go, beginning over the summer holiday period.

– Maritime Safety Queensland

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