Boat ramp safety on show

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 46, August 2014

The 2014 boat ramp survey has an updated snapshot of safety practices at boat ramps around New Zealand. The results help to build a picture of how these practices are changing over time.

The annual survey is coordinated by MNZ and carried out in January and February by MNZ’s safe boating advisors and maritime officers, New Zealand Search and Rescue, and regional council personnel. Surveyors engage with boaties at boat ramps or at sea and observe their boating practices.

This year, boat ramps from all 16 regional council areas were included in the survey, with a small number of the surveys carried out on the water.

MNZ Manager Education and Communications Pania Shingleton says, “Results from the survey allow us to get a good sense of what people are actually doing on their boats, rather than what they think they do or say they do.

“We are then able to target education and resources where they are most needed.”

Overview of results from the 2014 survey:

  • 2,077 vessels were surveyed in 2014 (down from 3,380 in 2013)
  • 74% of vessels had all of the people on board wearing a lifejacket, compared with 66% of people in 2013
  • a further 4% of vessels had some of the people on board wearing a lifejacket, compared with 1% of vessels in 2013
  • 96% of vessels carried enough lifejackets or PFDs for all on board, compared with 99% in 2013 and 2012
  • 68% of vessels carried a VHF radio (67% in 2013)
  • 19% of vessels carried a distress beacon (12% in 2013)
  • 90% of vessels carried a cellphone (89% in 2013), and 59% of those vessels had the cellphone sealed inside a plastic bag (53% in 2013)
  • 53% of vessels carried flares (55% in 2013)
  • 93% of vessel skippers checked the weather before setting out (92% in 2013).

Help – can you call for it?

In 2014, more people were carrying two or more ways to call for help (86% of those surveyed, compared with 68% in 2013), with 9% of people carrying just one means of communicating distress. Only 5% of those surveyed were carrying no way to call for help (8% in 2013).

“It’s great to see that people are getting on board with communication,” says Pania. “We know that most people carry a cellphone, so we’re asking all of those on board to put their phone in a sealed plastic bag and carry it on them. Trouble at sea happens very quickly and there’s usually not enough time to put on a lifejacket or retrieve a cellphone,” she says.

Number of communication types carried

While the numbers of boaties carrying cellphones have been similar over the past few years, more people are sealing their cellphones inside a plastic bag (59% in 2014, compared with 54% in 2013) and more people are carrying distress beacons (19% in 2014, compared with 12% in 2013).

Communication types carried

MNZ encourages boaties to carry at least two waterproof ways to call for help. Boaties on powerboats were the most likely (92%) to do this, followed by people on jetskis (82%), yachts (76%), kayaks (70%) and inflatables (56%).

People on kayaks were least likely (26%) to carry a way to call for help, followed by those on yachts (22%), inflatables (17%) and jetskis (7%). “People on powerboats seem to be leading the pack when it comes to emergency communications, with most of them having two or more ways to call for help,” says Pania.

Get on board with lifejackets

Lifejacket carriage on vessels remains high, with only a small percentage (4%) not having enough for all those on board.

Almost three-quarters (74%) of all vessels surveyed had all of the people on board wearing a lifejacket, compared with 66% of people in 2013 and 38% of people in 2012. In 2014, 79% of vessels had all children (those aged under 15 years) on board wearing a lifejacket.

Lifejacket wearing

Pania notes that when lifejackets are being worn, it’s generally all on board who are wearing them, not just some. “Skippers who role-model and promote lifejacket wearing should be congratulated,” she says. “Ultimately it’s skippers who are responsible for the safety of everyone on board and it’s great to see them stepping up.”

It is a legal requirement to carry enough lifejackets of the right size and type for all on board, and it’s the skipper’s responsibility to ensure that lifejackets are worn in situations of heightened risk, such as when crossing a bar, in rough water, during an emergency and by non-swimmers. MNZ recommends that lifejackets are worn at all times on smaller vessels.

Adult lifejacket wearing by vessel type, 2014

Jetskis were most likely (97%) to have all adults on board wearing a lifejacket, followed by those on kayaks (87%), powerboats (73%) and inflatables (71%). Yachts were least likely (36%) to have all adults on board wearing a lifejacket.

Powerboats were most likely (91%) to have all children on board wearing a lifejacket, followed by jetskis (88%) and kayaks/canoes (75%). Children on board yachts were the least likely (64%) to be wearing a lifejacket.

Check the marine weather – if in doubt, don’t go out

The number of skippers checking the weather before departure increased slightly in 2014, up from 92% to 93% (79% in 2012).

the weather before setting out. “It’s easier than ever to check the local marine weather using MetService’s Marine app, which provides marine weather for your region directly to your smartphone,” she says.

You can also use VHF radio channels and local and national radio to check the marine weather.

Weather checked before departure

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