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Marine safety

Marine fatalities and injuries

In 2019–20, reported marine incidents in Queensland included 18 fatalities and 32 serious injuries. The number of reported marine incidents involving at least one Queensland Regulated Ship (QRS) has remained relatively constant, while this year the number of fatalities has significantly increased as the result of an uncommon number of incidents resulting in multiple fatalities.

Figure 4 indicates the number of people who have died during the last ten financial years in a reported marine incident that involved at least one QRS (post-2013) or one Recreational Ship (pre-2013). These people have been classified as masters or passengers of boats, the masters or passengers of personal watercraft (PWC), swimmers which includes divers, snorkelers, and water skiers which includes anyone being towed by a vessel of any kind.

Marine fatalities in Queensland from 2010-11 to 2019-20 broken down by boat, personal watercraft, swimmer and water skier 
 Boat: Master  Boat: Passenger  Personal Watercraft  Swimmer  Water Skier

Figure 5 indicates the number of people who have been admitted to a hospital during the last ten financial years for the treatment of injuries sustained in a reported marine incident that involved at least one QRS. These people have been classified as the masters or passengers of boats, the masters and passengers of PWC, swimmers which includes divers, snorkels, and water skiers which includes anyone being towed by a vessel of any kind.

Figure 5: Serious injuries from maritime incidents (in Queensland)

Figure 5 Marine Safety
 Boat: Master  Boat: Passenger  Personal Watercraft  Swimmer  Water Skier

Maritime Safety Messaging

To achieve the vision of safe and clean seas and waterways, Maritime Safety Queensland utilised hard copy education materials, social media messaging, traditional media opportunities, and face-to-face engagement at targeted events for the maritime community. 

During 2019–20 the department has:

  • utilised geo-targeted messages on social media for efficient region-specific messaging
  • designed and built a Torres Strait education trailer as a pod to easily transport between islands
  • worked with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to deliver weekly radio safety campaigns
  • featured in a range of regional safety videos and distributed through social media and local events.

Keeping the water safe over Easter

Easter is one of the busiest and most dangerous times on South East Queensland waterways.

To ensure everyone's safety on the water, Maritime Safety Queensland joined forces with Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, Water Police, and the Department of Environment and Science to conduct patrols using 23 vessels across the Easter long weekend from Noosa to Nerang.

In one of the largest joint campaigns seen on Queensland waterways in recent years, shipping inspectors conducted over 600 vessel intercepts resulting in 65 COVID-19 directions and 116 formal actions for safety related non-compliance.

Maritime Enforcement Team keep waterways safe

After receiving a number of complaints regarding unsafe behaviour on the Noosa River, the newly formed Maritime Enforcement Team conducted a three week safety campaign from Tewantin to the Noosa Bar which coincided with the December holiday speed limit.

The four day campaign was extended to 12 days over three weekends to address the concerns of the local council and waterway users. Almost 200 vessels were intercepted, significantly reducing the number of complaints from river side properties and other waterway users.

Real time reminder to watch your speed

Speed Awareness Monitors, known as SAMs, are free-standing screens that display the speed you are travelling when you approach in your vehicle. They’re the signs that flash you a ‘smiley face’ if you are within the speed limit, or a ‘grumpy face’ – reminding you to slow down. SAMs have shown to reduce traffic speeds in both road and marine environments.

Maritime Safety Queensland has installed SAM signs at Manly Harbour and Urangan Harbour to reduce the incidence of boaties exceeding the six knot speed limit in marinas and other areas where creating excess wash can damage other boats and infrastructure and increase the chances of collisions in congested areas. A third sign will be installed in the Noosa River in 2020.

Trials in the Manly Boat Harbour, Moreton Bay found that 64 per cent of vessels approaching the boat harbour were detected travelling in excess of six knots. Importantly, about 41 per cent of these vessels reduced speed when approaching the SAM, showing that giving skippers immediate information about their vessel’s speed encourages them to adjust their behaviour.

SAM also provides insight into traffic density and vessel usage patterns, allowing Maritime Safety Queensland to plan safety education campaigns and learn more about traffic density and waterway usage.

War on Wrecks

In July 2018, the Queensland Government committed $20 million over four years towards removing derelict and illegally dumped vessels from Queensland waterways.

The Minister for Transport and Main Roads announced the establishment of a War on Wrecks Taskforce to investigate the causes of vessel abandonment and make recommendations to the State Government for a holistic response to these issues. The taskforce has conducted community consultation across the state and continues to explore ways to reduce derelict and abandoned vessels in the future.

As at 30 June 2020, using $7.6 million of the War on Wrecks funding, 609 derelict wrecks were removed from Queensland waters. This equates to 25 full time equivalent jobs across the state for the past two years.

The work will continue during 2020–21, with around 300 further wrecks having been identified for removal from Queensland's bays, rivers, and creeks.

MSQ Smartship launches new Check Pilot Training course

In October 2019, Smartship launched a Check Pilot training course targeted at senior pilots who are either acting as a check pilot or who are likely to act in the role. It explores the art and science of what makes a good marine check pilot before putting this into practice through practical examples drawn from real life situations and simulated exercises.

The course draws extensively from the assessment units within the Australian Qualifications Authority Certificate IV Training and Assessment package, specifically tailored for the marine check pilot role.

The course is limited to a maximum of four students, guaranteeing extensive contact time with the instructors and engagement with each other – each pilot brings their own experiences which enriches the overall learning experience.

The course has proven popular with 28 pilots successfully completing training in 2019–20.

Operation Midgee a success

The Gladstone region conducted a marine pollution response exercise on 7–8 August 2019. Operation Midgee was based around a fictious large-scale tallow spill at Port Alma.

An Incident Control Centre was set up in the Gladstone office with the testing of the new facilities and the production of an Incident Action Plan.

Day two saw the teams moved to Port Alma to set up the Forward Operating Base and deploy pollution response equipment. Several department staff from Gladstone and Mackay regions along with staff from Gladstone Ports Corporation, Gladstone Regional Council, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the Department of Environment and Science participated in the exercise.

Regular response exercises are vital to building relationships with response partners and testing the department's competence and confidence in responding to a marine environmental emergency.

Port Vessel Traffic Services Decision Support Tool Rollout Update

On 19 November 2019 the Decision Support Tool project and Australian Maritime Systems Group successfully deployed MARITIMECONTROL onto 25 consoles for use by regional Vessel Traffic Services Centres for monitoring and informing port vessel movements.

The MARITIMECONTROL has been integrated with Maritime Safety Queensland's QSHIPS system and configured to incorporate data from Automatic Identification Systems, CCTV, Radar, and Met Ocean.

A second release is scheduled to deploy further functionality necessary for supporting the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Vessel Traffic Service in 2020.

Vessel traffic services radar Brisbane upgrade

Ships entering and leaving the busy port of Brisbane have been given a safety boost after the department completed the last of a $3.8 million series of radar upgrades in February 2020. The three radar installations at Port Cartwright (Mooloolaba), Woorim (Bribie Island), and Nudgee (north of the mouth of the Brisbane River) feeding images back to the Brisbane Vessel Traffic Services Centre at Pinkenba.

Brisbane operators, ships' masters, and marine pilots are now being provided with higher resolution and a more accurate and reliable system when navigating the long shipping lanes into the port.

Sacred Seas – artwork and design from First Nations people

In 2019, Maritime Safety Queensland finalised the commission of an artwork titled Sacred Seas by artists from central Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The artwork depicts the story of the current and historical relationship between First Nations people and the sea, how waterways have provided food, travel opportunities, settings for ceremony, stories, and the passing down of culture to the next generations.

The artwork and designs will be used in:

  • apparel
  • educational materials
  • design detail on some vessels and tents
  • an artwork display with story for every Maritime Safety Queensland office.

The use of the artwork and design will be of significance when officers are working in communities enhancing interaction with seafarers and boat owners. 

Port of Mackay celebrates 80 years

On 25 August 2019, more than 3000 people gathered in Mulherin Park at Mackay Harbour to celebrate the Port of Mackay’s 80th Anniversary Carnival.

The day recreated the original opening of the port in 1939 with a pipe band, classic car display, train rides, and live performances. 

Port stakeholders North Queensland Bulk Ports, Maritime Safety Queensland, Sugar Australia, Volunteer Marine Rescue, and the Army and Navy Cadets ran information/education displays.

There were many boating enthusiasts who came up to speak with department representatives and ask many questions regarding life jackets, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon and other safety requirements.

Schooner Rock Buoy retrieved

Mackay's Seaforth put to sea on 23 December 2019 to retrieve the marker buoy that warns boaties about Schooner Rock’s location. 

The buoy had broken its mooring tackle during rough weather and went aground on St Bees Island.  The Seaforth is equipped with a deck winch and crane to allow buoy retrieval.

Once back on station it performs the important safety role of warning boaties about the existence of this rock which presents a danger to navigation in the popular boating transit area.