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Boaties urged not to become ’summer statistic’

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There have been only three boating fatalities this year for 2018 – almost an all-time low - but already Maritime NZ is warning boaties not to become part of the usual “statistic spike” this summer.

Wellington wharf-jumper and incoming Chair of the Safer Boating Forum*, Maritime NZ Deputy Director Sharyn Forsyth, says the annual wharf jump is a reminder for boaties to “Prep, check and know” or prepare their boats, check their gear and know the rules. 

“Nineteen boaties died in 2017 and while only three boaties have died this year there is a pattern of fatalities spiking over the warmer summer months.  We know that boaties start getting in the water after Labour Weekend and we want to urge them to make sure they are ready for it."

Safer Boating Week starts this Friday with a splash when boating leaders in Wellington, Auckland and Niue put their lifejackets on and jump into their respective harbours.

 “Jumpers will be put through their paces with lifejacket checks and a comprehensive health and safety briefing before leaping into the freezing harbour,” she says.

“During Safer Boating Week we’ll also be reminding boaties to ‘Check your lifejacket’ as we know that some lifejackets are failing which is a serious safety hazard.

“Checking lifejackets is something every boatie should do each time before going out on the water. It’s too late if you discover a fault when you’ve capsized and really need your lifejacket.”

Manufacturers advise modern lifejackets will last about 10 years.

“If your lifejackets are 10 years old, check them thoroughly with an eye to replacing and destroying them,” she says. “Don’t sell them or give them away – that creates a safety problem for another family.

“Worryingly, many Kiwi boaties are still relying on kapok-filled lifejackets that are 30 to 50 years old and should be destroyed immediately.”

Research shows that two-thirds of recreational boating fatalities may have been avoided if people wore lifejackets all the time.

“If you are on the water when you discover a problem with your boat or equipment, or that you do not know an important safety rule, then it is too late and people are in danger."

More information for boaties can be found at:
Safer Boating Week
Safer Boating NZ Facebook

Prep, check, know

Safer Boating Week is traditionally the week before Labour Day weekend, which is when many boaties start getting back on the water. It uses the slogan “Prep, Check, Know,” to encourage boaties to take simple steps to get their boats and themselves ready before they get back on the water.

Prep your boat       service the engine, check and change the fuel, check the battery, and generally give the boat a good once-over.

Check your gear     make sure your lifejackets are still fit for purpose and you have enough, service any inflatable lifejackets, ensure you have two reliable forms of communication equipment – usually, marine VHF radio is best, check the marine weather forecast.

Know the rules       ensure you know the rules of the road on the water, and check your local bylaws to make sure you understand what the requirements are in your area.

A week of boating events, and news media and social media activity has been planned by councils and boating organisations all around the country, details at and on Facebook at Safer Boating NZ.

Boating by the numbers 2018

  • 1.51 million adults in New Zealand (about 42% of the adult population) took part in recreational boating last summer
  • Kayaks were again the most popular form of recreational vessel owned or used by boaties (33%), followed by power boats up to 6 metres (22%) and dinghies (11%).

Some long-term statistics:

  • 90% of fatalities are men aged about 40 and older
  • 85% of fatalities occur in boats less than six metres long
  • For 75% of fatalities in boats less than six metres capsize is a major factor; 28% for vessels over six metres
  • 2/3 of fatalities would likely be prevented if lifejackets were worn
  • For around 58% of fatalities, no effective communications is a major factor
  • 19-20 boaties, on average, die each year (based on last five years); 19 last year and three this year as at October 1.

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