Sea time - not certificates - will help prevent marine deaths

The deaths of six people in a boating accident last month has prompted Australia’s New South Wales government to propose a dramatic tightening of boating safety regulations in that state. The state minister proposing the legislation said that it would ensure that “skippers put safety first.”

“This is the biggest overhaul of marine safety rules and practices in a decade,” said Joe Tripoldi, Minister for Ports and Waterways, in a statement.

NSW boaters were previously required to pass a written test to gain a license. But they will now have to show practical boat-handling skills. The legislation will also increase patrols in Sydney Harbour and other waterways in the state. Boaters will also face jail terms or fines for overloading vessels.

The legislation will also allow police to suspend boating licenses and registrations for those breaking the law. “This includes vessels operating at night with insufficient lighting,” said Tripoldi.

The six fatalities on May 1, considered the worst boating accident in recent history, renewed calls for tighter regulations of licenses on Sydney Harbour, where 11 people have died in boating accidents in the last 14 months. Tripoldi said the May 1 accident did not prompt the proposed changes, but it did give them more urgency.