A rise in jet-ski use and illegal and irregular riding of the craft along the Murray River has resulted in more water police patrols with a warning to operators that “if you break the law you will be caught”.
Roads and Maritime Principal Manager South Operations, Mike Hammond told The Free Press NSW Maritime Boating Safety Officers (BSOs) have seen an increase in personal water craft (PWC) use across the entire NSW this summer.
“With an increase in PWC use, Roads and Maritime staff have increased patrols across the state and will continue to do so. If you break the law, you will be caught,” Mr Hammond said.
“Since the beginning of October 2018 in Lake Mulwala alone, BSOs have issued nine penalty notices and 16 official cautions to PWC users.
“PWC users are reminded a licence is required to operate a PWC in NSW at any speed and the licence must be carried at all times.
Mr Hammond highlighted concerns about PWC use in the evening and illegal irregular riding of craft close to residential areas.
“PWC’s may only operate on NSW waters during daylight hours and irregular riding, such as turns and jumps, may not be conducted within 200m of residential areas or other built-up foreshore areas,” Mr Hammond said.
“Visitors from Victoria should check NSW rules before heading out on the Murray River as there are some differences in laws between states.
“In NSW use of PWCs by young adult licence holders may not exceed 10 knots unless an adult licence holder is on the PWC with them, and young adults are not permitted to tow anyone.”
Corowa Rowing Club President Robert O’Halloran said jet skiers and ski boats seem to obey the eight-knot zone through Corowa and believes the aim should be to keep people “educated on the water way rules and to use common courtesy”.
In Victoria the increased jet-ski use prompted water police to target users in an operation targeting unsafe behaviour on Melbourne’s coastline in January. Across the six days of the operation police issued a total of 390 infringement notices.
“Water police conducted approximately 700 vessel inspections during Operation Jetwash and it is alarming that over half of these have resulted in infringement notices being issued,” Senior Sergeant Alistair Nisbet said.
“What these results show is that all water users need to lift their game when it comes to safety.
“This operation targeted jet-ski use and behaviour and in too many cases riders have failed their safety tests.
“The amount of offences we detected for speeding and operating too close to other vessels is of a real concern to police. Jet-skis are not toys. They’re large, heavy, fast-moving machines and the results of a collision, be it with a swimmer or another vessel, can be catastrophic.
“Jet-ski users need to know the rules of the water and adhere to them or, as this operation shows, police will catch up with you,” Sergeant Nisbet said.
Key safety messages before operating a PWC include:
Ensure you have and carry a current PWC licence
Ensure your PWC is registered
Ensure correct lifejacket is worn by all on board
Wear your safety lanyard
Ensure the PWC Behaviour Label is displayed
Know where you can ride
Do the right thing and be courteous to other water users
Maintain a safe distance and speed
Some of the more relevant NSW PWC rules from the RMS handbook for local waterways.
A PWC must be 60 metres from people in the water or if that is not possible, a safe distance and speed.
People ages 12-16 who carry a PWC licence must not drive at a speed greater than 20 knots (37.04kmph).
When driving a PWC at a speed of six knots or more (including when towing a person or people) you must keep the vessel, any towing equipment and anyone being towed, a minimum distance of 30 metres from any other vessel, land, structures (including jetties, bridges and navigation markers), moored or anchored vessels, or if that it is not possible, a safe distance and safe speed.
Avoid travelling directly in the wake of another craft.
PWC are not permitted to be driven in an irregular manner in within 200 metres of the shoreline where one or more dwellings are located within 200 metres of the shoreline and visible from the water. Examples of driving in an irregular manner include, but are not limited to: • Driving in a circle or other pattern • Weaving or diverting • Surfing down or jumping over or across any swell, wave or wash. This means that PWC are required to be operated generally in a straight line within 200 metres of the shoreline.
When towing on a PWC the observer must hold a PWC driving licence or a general boat driving licence or be 16 years of age or older.
For more detailed information on PWC rules go to www.rms.nsw.gov.au/maritime/safety-rules/other-boating/personal-watercraft.html.