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NSW records lowest number of fatalities in five years

The boating community has been praised for putting safety first after a drop in deaths on New South Wales waterways in the last year.

The last twelve months saw nine boating-related fatalities on NSW waterways, which is the lowest recorded since 2018.

Acting NSW Maritime Executive Director Cherrie Ashford

Acting NSW Maritime Executive Director Cherrie Ashford said that while nine is still too many, the figure could have been much higher if it wasn’t for the coordinated efforts of maritime response agencies and other boaters.

“I’d like to thank everyone who played their part in making our waterways safer over the last 12 months. I want to acknowledge the huge efforts of our NSW Maritime officers, the Centre for Maritime Safety and marine rescue agencies who have helped us achieve the lowest number of fatalities in five years,” Ms Ashford said.

“I’d also like to commend the boating community for prioritising safety and looking out for each other. A member of the public is often first on the scene in an emergency, and several lives have been saved because of their quick thinking.”

NSW Maritime State Coordinator Damian Logue said it’s pleasing to see safety messaging is getting through to boaters, and zero fatalities remains the ultimate goal.

“Our team has worked incredibly hard this year to spotlight safety and educate the most experienced boaters on how small changes and checks can help save lives on the water,” Mr Logue said.

“We ran five targeted state-wide safety campaigns focusing on issues including crossing bars and safe towing, and it’s great to see our messaging is reaching the marine community and that behaviour is changing.

“A staple of all our messaging is the importance of lifejacket wear- but it’s still the main offence we see, accounting for around 28% of fines and official cautions this year.

“NSW Maritime officers are on the water and at boat ramps making a difference 365 days of the year. A great example is Boating Safety Officer Hayden Smith who saved 17 people from a burning catamaran which caught fire on Sydney Harbour in February this year.”

Albury couple Philip and Olivia Hanel are lucky to be alive after their 6.8 metre fishing boat capsized off Tathra in December last year. The pair, in their seventies, spent 90 minutes in frigid water before being rescued by a passing vessel.

“If anybody hops in a boat and thinks nothing is going to happen to them, they’re kidding themselves. It can happen in an instant. If we didn’t have our lifejackets on, we would have drowned, no question,” Mr Hanel said.

“We’ve been boating in Tathra for over 50 years and the conditions on the day we capsized weren’t out of the ordinary. But one wave did us in and our lifejackets saved our lives, no doubt about it.”

Earlier this year Philip and Olivia returned to Tathra and addressed the local fishing club, reliving their ordeal and stressing the importance of lifejacket wear.

“I applaud the work Philip and Olivia are doing by engaging with the boating community and sharing their story to drive home the importance of boating safety,” Transport for NSW Deputy Secretary Safety Environment and Regulation Sally Webb said.

“The boating season begins on 30 September and NSW Maritime will again be uniting with other rescue agencies to make it the safest one yet as we work towards the Maritime Safety Plan target of zero fatalities or serious injuries on our waterways by 2056.”

You can check out the Maritime Safety Plan here

For more information about lifejackets and safety equipment, visit

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