Maritime Safety Victoria, a branch of Transport Safety Victoria, has released its report into the rescue of eight kayakers and the loss of four kayaks off Anglesea in May.

Peter Corcoran, Director Maritime Safety, explained that the inquiry was conducted because of the apparent lack of appreciation of the risks associated with a school activity involving kayaks operating in ocean waters in winter.

“The people involved in this incident were lucky, the only things lost were four double kayaks and eight paddles but it could have been much worse.

“The Bureau of Meteorology had issued a warning of strong winds and high seas along the south west coast but the people in charge of this activity didn’t appreciate its significance.

“Some off-duty surf lifesavers just happened to be on the beach at the time the students lost control of the kayaks.

“Fortunately the life savers had access to, and the skills to operate, rescue boats which were used to rescue the staff and students who could not make it back to shore.

“I commend the life savers for their quick thinking and quick acting that led to a very good outcome from what was potentially the very opposite,” said Mr Corcoran.

Maritime Safety investigators found a lack of understanding of the:

  • importance of a thorough risk assessment specific to the activity
  • impact of wind strength and the ability of the kayakers to return to shore
  • meaning of terms used by the Bureau of Meteorology (in particular wind strength)
  • the importance of real time weather alerts.

The Director, Transport Safety will assist the Department of Education and Training’s review of its aquatic activity Guidelines with help from other agencies with relevant expertise.

The Report recommends that:

  • teachers and outdoor education staff receive improved training in risk management process
  • the use of DET’s Guidelines become mandatory rather than ‘for guidance’.

“Kayaking and canoeing are becoming very popular so it is important that everyone involved reads this report and learns the lessons,” Mr Corcoran added.