5 July 2023

Late-night rescue for two fishermen stranded off Wollongong coast

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NSW Marine Rescue crew help a boat in distress.

NSW Marine Rescue had its busiest year on record in 2022/23, helping to save fishermen and boaties. Photos: NSW Marine Rescue.

Two fishermen were rescued on Tuesday night after their boat’s steering broke, stranding the pair 65 km off the Wollongong coast.

Volunteers on board Marine Rescue NSW vessel Port Kembla 31 worked with NSW Police Marine Area Command to return the two fishermen and their disabled boat safely to shore about eight hours after their initial distress call.

The fishermen radioed Marine Rescue Port Kembla just after 3 pm on Tuesday after the steering broke on their 6.5-metre boat.

Marine Rescue NSW Inspector Stuart Massey said the disabled vessel was a long way off the coast.

“Water Police Nemesis collected the fishermen and towed the disabled vessel back to approximately 1.5 nautical miles off Wollongong where they were met by Port Kembla 31, which completed the tow by taking the vessel to Wollongong Harbour,” he said.

Insp Massey said the disabled vessel was safely returned to harbour at 11:30 pm.

“Rescue crews were fortunate that conditions were benign, allowing the response to run smoothly and safely,” he said.

“The distance involved and disappearing light made the initial part of the rescue challenging.”

Marine rescue boat on the water

Marine Rescue NSW is warning boaters to be well-prepared before venturing out.

The rescue comes as Marine Rescue NSW revealed it had a record month of missions in June, including 11 conducted by the Port Kembla unit.

Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Alex Barrell said the service also conducted a record number of rescues and emergency responses in the past 12 months.

He said the service’s 3300 volunteers were involved in 4567 rescue missions between 1 July 2022 and 30 June this year, compared to 4251 in 2020/21. Port Kembla conducted 160 rescues in this time and the Shoalhaven unit 68.

Rescues for the past 12 months were up about 7.5 per cent on the previous busiest record in 2020/2021, and volunteers returned more than 10,000 boaters to shore.

Fishing was the main activity at the time of the incidents, while mechanical failure, flat batteries and running out of fuel were the most common reasons for assistance.

“Boaters need to remember that mechanical and fuel issues can lead to dangerous situations becoming life-threatening. It is vital that boaters check and service their vessels often,” Commissioner Barrell said.

NSW Marine Rescue operator.

Marine Rescue NSW radio operators managed 250,123 radio calls in the past year.

One-third of the 315 rescues carried out by Marine Rescue in June were emergencies.

The most active unit during June was Hunter/Central Coast’s Lake Macquarie, with 41 rescue missions.

Marine Rescue has warned winter can be a deadly time for ill-prepared boaters.

READ ALSO Port Kembla’s emergency capabilities tested with a massive multi-agency response exercise

Deputy Commissioner Darren Schott said it was vitally important that boaters knew the risks associated with cold water boating.

“Don’t be fooled,” he warned.

“Water can be dangerously cold on sunny days, and conditions can change quickly, leaving boaters with less time if things go wrong,” he said.

The drop in water temperatures during winter increases the risk of hypothermia, which develops when the body temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius.

“The bottom line is, cold shock and hypothermia can take hold fast and in some instances be life-threatening,” Dep Comm Schott said.

He said preparation was crucial before going boating, particularly in cold weather.

“Check your vessel, have it serviced and regularly maintained because fluids can thicken when the vessel is used in cold conditions,” he said.

“It is vitally important to check your safety equipment whenever you go boating. Lifejackets are an important item and in cold weather, dress warmly and carry extra clothing in case you get wet.

“Log On and Log Off with Marine Rescue NSW via VHF Channel 16 or by the Marine Rescue app.”

Marine Rescue NSW is a volunteer-based, not-for-profit professional organisation dedicated to keeping boaters safe on the water and supporting local communities.

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