Real rescue inspires dramatic new marine VHF ads

2 December 2018

The real life rescue of three Hawkes Bay boaties in July this year is the inspiration behind Maritime NZ’s dramatic new advertisement urging boaties to take a VHF radio and knowing how to use it.

“It’s the first time Maritime NZ has run a VHF radio TV campaign. Having a VHF radio can save your life – it really is your rescue network at sea. Basically, if you can’t call for help, then no one can find you,” says Maritime NZ Deputy Director, Sharyn Forsyth.

“The animated images in the advertisement are made up of salvaged boats and real wreckage and will run over summer, alongside messages encouraging boaties to do an online Coastguard Boating Education course.

“We know that in 59% of fatal boating accidents, there was inadequate communications and only one in four skippers are carrying a VHF radio. This is a serious safety concern for Maritime NZ and we want the public to realise that having a VHF is really important.”

Murray was the skipper of the boat that capsized and wants boaties to learn from his experience.

“We had been boating for decades and our boat was unsinkable - we never expected it to capsize,” he said. “But we ended up clinging to the upside down hull. It was July and the water was bloody cold.”

Murray and his mates had made some good decisions before they left and packed a VHF radio and were wearing their lifejackets. “I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t. It would have been hours before anyone missed us.”

It was only last year that Murray bought a VHF radio after he discovered there was no mobile coverage at his favourite fishing spot. Murray made a Mayday call after the capsize to Maritime NZ’s Maritime Radio Service.

Maritime Radio kept in contact, providing updates about progress on their rescue. This involved sending a rescue helicopter, tasking Coastguard and finally a nearby vessel who picked them up.

Ms Forsyth said boaties can get help quicker with a VHF radio. They can alert nearby boats, and the maritime distress channel 16 is monitored 24/7 by Maritime Radio.

“It’s also useful for checking the weather, talking to other boaties about local conditions and even if you run out of fuel.”

Boaties should take two waterproof ways to call for help. At sea a VHF radio is usually the best, and if VHF coverage is poor take a distress beacon, especially on inland waterways and lakes.

Summary of boating by the numbers

  • 1.5 million Kiwis were involved in recreational boating last summer
  • lifejacket wearing behaviour amongst recreational boaties is steady at about 75% wearing all or most of the time on the water
  • only one in four (25%) take a marine VHF radio
  • in 59% of fatal boating accidents inadequate communications were on board (inadequate communications cannot be said to have caused the deaths but it was an added risk that makes rescue harder)

To see the new advertisement and to learn more about the campaign visit


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