Maritime Safety Victoria (MSV) is pleading with boaters to be more safety conscious as the peak boating season begins amid an increase in recreational boating fatalities.

Adrian Mnew, Deputy Director, Maritime Safety, said the six boating fatalities already reported this financial year represented a disturbing trend.

“It is not yet the height of the summer boating season but we reached the annual average number of boating fatalities last month, being 6.8 for the past five years.”

MSV incident statistics reveal that kayaker fatalities represent a third of deaths across all vessel types.

“Unfortunately, Victoria has the highest number of kayak fatalities in Australia and New Zealand – 30 per cent of overall boating fatalities in the last five years compared with 13 per cent,” Mr Mnew said.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg. All the near misses and the rescues by other boaters that could so nearly have been fatalities are not reported to us or other authorities.”

Paddle craft, including kayaks, are experiencing a boom in popularity across the State that is contributing to the incident rate and outpacing the safety awareness and preparations of paddling operators.

Paddling has also changed from just being an outdoor sport performed in a club or group structure to a recreation undertaken alone, on any waterway and for a number of purposes.

“Summer and the holiday season are when most boating incidents and fatalities occur, and any incident or fatality is one too many”, Mr Mnew said.

Our advice is to:

  • Always wear a lifejacket
  • Carry communication so you can raise the alarm
  • Practice capsize and self-rescue skills
  • Learn what the weather forecast means
  • Use a paddle leash and wear high visibility clothing
  • Tell someone your plans.

“In an effort to curb the rising incident statistics, MSV will launch its major summer boating safety campaign on 1 December 2015. The key focus is on lifejackets and, for paddlers, there will be additional safety tips,” Mr Mnew added.

The paddle craft section of our website has more information about what kayakers, canoeists and rowers can do to reduce risk.