3 May 2023

Illawarra Marine Rescue units among busiest in state over summer

| Katrina Condie
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Volunteers have experienced their busiest summer ever. Photo: Marine Rescue NSW.

Marine Rescue NSW has recorded a record number of rescues over summer, with 233 rescue missions carried out in the Illawarra region, which stretches from Port Kembla in the north to Kioloa in the south.

The busiest units were Port Kembla, which recorded 97 rescues, Jervis Bay with 88, and Sussex Inlet, which logged 48 rescues over the 2022-23 boating season.

Missions included the deployment of Jervis Bay 20 and JB 41 to assist the Federal Police in the search for a five-metre vessel that overturned near Point Perpendicular Jervis Bay on 4 April with six people on board and another four divers in the water. All 10 passengers were rescued, but the boat is believed to have sunk.

The Port Kembla crew rescued a man after his jet ski lost power eight kilometres off Shellharbour on 11 February. The jet skier called Marine Rescue NSW with a battery issue after logging on with the service before heading out on the water. The craft was towed back to Port Kembla harbour.

Marine Rescue volunteers across the state, from the Tweed to Eden and on the inland waterways of the Alpine Lakes and at Moama, were involved in a record 3263 rescue missions from 1 October, 2022, to Anzac Day this year.

This season’s figure was an increase of 1.3 per cent on the previous record, set during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21, while emergency missions increased by 7 per cent to 897.

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Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Alex Barrell said volunteer crews returned 7472 boaters to shore during the season.

“It’s been a really busy summer for our members and we have seen a consistent theme across a lot of our rescues,” he said.

“We continue to see a lot of boaters running out of petrol, experiencing mechanical and engine failure and our message to boaters is to continue to check your equipment, make sure your boat is in good working order before you head out, and importantly, always check the weather conditions.”

Of the rescue missions, 57 per cent were for engine problems, flat batteries or fuel issues.

Marine Rescue NSW also saw a large increase in the number of boaters logging on with the service, with 48,379 log-ons recorded over the boating season.

“On the back of our Marine Rescue crews being really busy this summer, it’s been great to see more boaters log on,” Commissioner Barrell said.

“We’ve seen an increase of around 20 per cent of boaters logging on over VHF marine radio or through the free Marine Rescue app.

“It’s really important that any boater that goes out and about, particularly in the offshore environment, takes the opportunity to log on with Marine Rescue.

“The fact that you log on and that Marine Rescue is tracking your voyage means that if you don’t return as planned, rescue services will start looking for you.”

Marine Rescue NSW radio operators managed 156,244 radio calls over the season, with a large portion answered by the Marine Rescue Sydney State Communications Centre.

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Of the calls, 53 were maydays where lives were in imminent danger, while 44 Pan Pans were received from boaters in an urgent but non-life-threatening situation.

Commissioner Barrell praised the work of volunteers across Marine Rescue’s 46 units who played an important role of keeping boaters in NSW safe.

“I want to commend all Marine Rescue NSW volunteers for their thousands of hours of dedicated service to keeping our coastline and waterways as safe as possible this summer,” he said.

Of all activities being undertaken during the season’s 3263 rescue missions, 46 per cent involved boaters either fishing or cruising.

“We’re so lucky to have great waterways in NSW, we love seeing boaters out there and enjoying them,” Commissioner Barrell said.

“We just ask that they continue to do it safely, focus on safety, focus on the weather conditions and enjoy our great waterways.”

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