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A million Queenslanders licensed to drive recreational vessels

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) has long understood how popular boating is in Queensland.

As of December 2022, one million Queenslanders held a current licence to drive a recreational boat. This shows one in every five Queenslanders are sufficiently engaged with boating and have a licence to drive a motorised vessel.

The total number of people licenced to drive recreational boats includes those who hold both Recreational Marine Driver Licences (RMDL) and Personal Watercraft Licences (PWCL).

Around four in every five licence holders are males, with females making up 18%.

A break-down of the State is as follows:

  • Brisbane maritime region has 64% of the state’s RMDL holders (41% Brisbane and surrounding areas, 14% Gold Coast and 9% Sunshine Coast)
  • Gladstone maritime region 15%
  • Mackay 5%
  • Townsville 7%, and
  • Cairns 8%.

The remaining 1% reside interstate or overseas.

One in every five Queenslanders having a licence is impressive, but there’s a bigger story.

Most licenced boaties do not go boating alone, instead taking with them family and/or friends.

There are also about 8,000 recreational vessels registered in Queensland that don’t require their owners to be licensed to drive them— although most do hold a licence.

The true ratio of Queenslanders regularly indulging in boating as a pastime—either as skipper or as passengers or crew—will almost certainly be higher than one in five.

This indicates the enthusiasm that Queenslanders hold for their coastline, their inland waterways, and fishing.

Given the high number of people involved in boating, Queenslanders can arguably be proud of their overall boating safety record, however recent years have unfortunately seen a rise in maritime fatality rates and other States have reported a similar trend.

In each of the past four years the number of fatalities resulting from marine incidents was in double figures, and in 2022 sadly 15 people lost their lives. So far in 2023, eleven further lives have been lost.

MSQ data continues to show the ‘fatal five’ are the major contributors to serious marine incidents. They are:

    • failure to keep a proper lookout
    • failure to carry or use safety equipment (mainly lifejackets)
    • speeding
    • poor trip planning
    • alcohol or drug use.

Millions of boaties can therefore expect to see enforcement officers out on the waterways and at popular boat ramps throughout 2023, seeking to raise awareness about these issues and create behavioural change where necessary.

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