Safe Kayaking and Personal Watercraft

By RAE DUFFY

A recent meeting at Bundeena was called to discuss water safety issues at Bonnie Vale, Port Hacking where there is concern about craft and, in particular, PWC (Personal Watercraft, often referred to as Jet Skis). The concerns relate to PWC speeding and turning dangerously close to swimmers and other craft. The meeting was attended by representatives from Roads and Maritime Services, National Parks and Wildlife Service, NSW Fisheries and NSW Police. It was clear that there is a problem, and not only in this location, with groups of PWC riders not obeying maritime regulations.

What rules are in place to ensure safety on the water?

1. Distance Off Rules – When a vessel is being driven at a speed of 10 knots or more or towing a person they must keep the vessel and person being towed a minimum distance of:
30 metres from other powered craft, moored vessel, land and structures (i.e. bridges, jetties, moorings) or if that is not possible, a safe distance.
60 metres from persons (swimmers) or non-powered craft (i.e. kayaks, yachts) that are underway or if that is not possible, a safe distance.

2. A safe distance between a vessel and a person or thing (including another vessel) is a distance that will ensure that the vessel will not cause danger or injury to the person or thing.

3. PWC are further restricted in the Sydney Basin (but not the coastline) from and including Port Hacking to Broken Bay, the Hawkesbury, Nepean and Georges River where they must be 200 metres from the shoreline before driving in an irregular manner. Irregular driving includes tight turns, weaving, circles or surfing and jumping over swells or wash. In all other NSW waterways PWC are restricted from riding in an irregular manner within 200 metres of the shoreline where there is one or more dwellings visible from the water.

4. Riding a PWC after sunset and before sunrise is prohibited in NSW and PWC are excluded from operating on Sydney Harbour, including the waters of all tidal bays, rivers and their tributaries (includes Parramatta River, Middle Harbour and the Lane Cove River).

What can we do if we encounter other craft operating in a dangerous manner?

From the meeting it is clear that the authorities need to be informed. If possible, get the registration number of the vessel (which is located on both sides at the front of PWC), the location of the incident, the date and time. Take a photo if you feel safe doing so. Reports, even anonymous, are useful. These authorities are under-resourced and need to deploy resources where the need is greatest. However even after the fact, and without clear identification, a report is still useful.

To make a report phone:
Roads and Maritime Services Info Line 13 12 56 (8.00am – 5.00pm 7 days per week)

Alternative contact numbers:
For all life threatening emergencies: 000

NSW Water Police – Operation Neptune 24 hour service: 1800 658 784

Further details are available from the website of NSW Maritime.

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