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Maritime safety

Through Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ), the department manages the safe movement of vessels using Queensland’s waterways, regulates pilotage services, provides hydrographic services in support of safe port development, and promotes safe standards and practices for recreational vessels. TMR continues to educate recreational mariners and increase their awareness of responsibilities and maintain effective maritime emergency preparedness, response and recovery capability and capacity.

Safe, Clean Seas Strategy

The Safe, Clean Seas Strategy highlights the actions the department is required to take to support the achievement of key priorities around the safe movement of vessels, reducing the number of marine transport related incidents, fatalities and injuries and how the department will seek to protect the marine environment from ship sourced pollution.

The goal for Safe, Clean Seas in Queensland is described as triple zero of marine safety:

  • Zero incidents will equal safe movement of vessels in Queensland’s waters
  • Zero casualties including fatalities or serious injuries, if an incident does occur equals safe users
  • Zero ship-sourced pollution incidents will equal safe environment.

To realise the Safe, Clean Seas Strategy, TMR and its community and enforcement partners:

  • conduct greater engagement with the boating community, service providers and external agencies
  • enhance state safety standards and influence national standards on the Queensland context and needs
  • be early adopters of new proven technologies, equipment and safety systems to support the safe movement of vessels and efficient provision of maritime services
  • revise systems of capturing and analysing of all maritime related data to inform evidence-based policy, education and enforcement
  • enhance safety of our waterways.
Icons with text: Zero incidents=safe movements, Zero casualties=safe users, Zero pollution=safe environment

The compliance strategies for the Safe, Clean Seas Strategy

Compliance and enforcement strategies: Engage stakeholders, Education and communication, Understanding risks and incidents, Innovative practice and technology, Licensing and registering vessels

The goals for the Safe, Clean Seas strategy.

Marine fatalities and serious injuries

In 2018–19, reported marine incidents in Queensland included seven fatalities and 36 serious injuries. The number of reported marine incidents, involving at least one Queensland Regulated Ship, has declined over the last five years, returning to numbers not seen since 2014–15. This may be an indicator that the marine safety messaging and education, have had an effect. By continuing with efforts in marine safety education MSQ are planning for the continued downward trend of marine fatalities.

Figure 10 indicates the number of people who have died during the last ten financial years in a reported marine incident that involved at least one Queensland Regulated Ship (post-2013) or one Recreational Ship (pre-2013). These people have been classified as that masters or passengers of boats, the masters and passengers of personal watercraft (PWC), swimmers which includes divers, snorkelers and so on, and water skiers which includes anyone being towed by a vessel of any kind.

This year, has seen the lowest marine fatalities rate in four years.
Data source: Caseman Marine Incident Database and Marine Safety Intelligence Database

Figure 11 indicates the number of people who have been admitted to a hospital during the last ten financial years for the treatment of injuries sustained in a reported marine incident that involved at least one Queensland Regulated Ship. These people have been classified as the masters or passengers of boats, the masters and passengers of PWC, swimmers which includes divers, snorkels and so on, and water skiers which includes anyone being towed by a vessel of any kind.

Figure 10: Marine fatalities (in Queensland)

Graph of marine fatalities in Queensland showing fatalities by boat (master and passenger), personal watercraft, swimmer, and water skiier)

Data source: Caseman Marine Incident Database and Marine Safety Intelligence Database
Notes: Marine incident data is subject to review and amendment as additional or more detailed information becomes available. This may result in variations to historical data which have previously been published.
In July 2013, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) began implementing a new national law which results in all the domestic commercial vessels operating within the Commonwealth of Australia coming under the superintendence of a single national jurisdiction.
Data to 2012–13 All incidents occurring in Queensland waters up to 30 June 2013 that involved at least one recreational ship. Data from 2013–14 All Incidents involving at least one Queensland Regulated Ship 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2018.

Figure 11: Serious injuries from marine incidents (in Queensland)

Serious injuries from marine incidents

Data source: Caseman Marine Incident Database and Marine Safety Intelligence Database

Notes: Marine incident data is subject to review and amendment as additional or more detailed information becomes available. This may result in variations to historical data which have previously been published.
In July 2013, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) began implementing a new national law which results in all the domestic commercial vessels operating within the Commonwealth of Australia coming under the superintendence of a single national jurisdiction.
Data to 2012–13 All incidents occurring in Queensland waters up to 30 June 2013 that involved at least one recreational ship. Data from 2013–14 All Incidents involving at least one Queensland Regulated Ship 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2018.

War on Wrecks

In July 2018, in response to the growing number of unseaworthy vessels left abandoned in Queensland’s waterways by their owners to pose navigation and pollution risks, the Queensland Government announced a ‘war on wrecks’.

A four-year, $20 million fighting fund was established to finance wreck removals and appointed a taskforce to consult with Queenslanders to ascertain why vessels become derelict and abandoned and how to reduce their numbers in the future.

The department provided secretariat and research support to the taskforce in its consultation and deliberations and took compliance action on abandoned vessels to prevail upon owners to remove them. Where owners failed to discharge their responsibilities, the department engaged contractors who used everything from barges to cranes and even helicopters to remove wrecks.

By 30 June 2019, 180 derelict vessels had been removed from the waterways by TMR and compliance partners at a cost of $3.3 million and 137 vessels were either removed by their owners or made seaworthy in response to the program.

Case Study

Dickson Inlet, Port Douglas, North Queensland

Over the years, 13 illegally dumped vessels have been identified in Dickson Inlet. The vessels were in various states of decay and while not navigation hazards in normal weather, posed a risk in the event of a cyclone—blocking access to cyclone anchorage or risk of coming adrift and blocking the channel. The vessels also detracted from the local environment in an area frequented by domestic and international tourists. All avenues to determine the last registered owners were exhausted.

As no large vessel removal facilities are available in Port Douglas, these vessels were removed on to a barge and transported back to Cairns (100 kilometres) for disposal. Removal was complicated and delayed by the extreme weather events from January to March in Far North Queensland; but at the end of the financial year, all but one had been removed and progress was being made on the remaining vessel. The cost to remove the vessels to date is $380,000.

Wrecked boat lying on its side half submerged in water. Boats in the water behind wreck

Derelict wreck in Dickson Inlet.

Case Study

Vietnamese Fishing Vessel – North of Daintree River

At 8:58am on Sunday 26 August 2018, a report was received by MSQ Cairns of a fishing vessel adrift and sinking off the Daintree River. MSQ contacted Volunteer Marine Rescue Port Douglas who mobilised to attend the vessel. It quickly became obvious it was a foreign fishing vessel that had been scuttled by the crew after they made their way ashore as illegal immigrants.

MSQ Cairns assembled to the site with beach clean-up equipment and commenced operations on Monday 27 August 2018 until Monday 3 September 2018 when all traces of the vessel had been removed. In the meantime, Border Force and Queensland Police Service had rounded up the 17 crew members who were flown back to Vietnam.

The vessel had sunk in 2.5 metres of water and a salvage company from Cairns had been engaged, under instruction from Border Force, to refloat the vessel which was accomplished by Friday 31 August. The Cairns Regional Harbour Master issued a Harbourmasters Direction for the vessel to be removed from Queensland waters. Border Force then instructed the vessel to be towed to Cairns for removal and destruction to landfill which was completed Friday 7 September. After a protracted negotiation, Border Force repaid the $93,500 salvage bill to the department in June 2019.

Vietnamese vessel sinking in the water

Vietnamese vessel sinking north of the Daintree River.

Case study

Black Pearl successfully removed

In June 2018, our shipping inspectors boarded the ‘Black Pearl’ to conduct an inspection of the vessel and identify an owner to address the pollution and safety risks the vessel presented.The vessel was in very poor condition with severe metal wastage, the propulsion system in disrepair and no watertight integrity on the decks leaving the vessel at risk of flooding during Brisbane’s summer storm season.

Following continued non-compliance by the owner with directions to remove the vessel from the water, we were granted an enforcement order in the District Court. With enforcement action and costs mounting, the vessel was removed and broken up by the owner in December 2018.

The Black Pearl was a 20 metre twin masted motor sailor that was anchored in a prominent position at the Town Reach of the Brisbane River since arriving from Sydney in 2016.

Crew member looking at ship demolition on land

Black Pearl during demolition.

Vessel Traffic Services Decision Support Tool

The department is investing $36 million over the next 10 years to enhance the resilience of its ability to track and monitor ship movements in Queensland’s ports and waterways. The Vessel Traffic Services Decision Support Tool project (VTS-DST) will deliver new state-of-the-art software to provide real time ship tracking capability. At the core of the new VTS-DST will be the Saab MARTIMECONTROL™ traffic management and information system used in some of the world’s busiest ports, such as Rotterdam, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The VTS-DST will give Vessel Traffic Services operators a clear and up-to-date picture of ships passing through the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland waterways. Therefore, enhancing the ability of the operators to provide detailed information to ship captains on sea conditions, ship traffic and potential hazards. The new system will also assist operators to identify and intervene where developing situations dictate, ensuring maritime safety and the protection of the environment.

Case Study

Search and rescue of a recreational vessel

Boats mean recreation to most Queenslanders—fishing, sailing and even the odd pleasure cruise or two. But the sea can also be a treacherous place, where communication is a thin line between life and death.

Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) network of very high frequency (VHF) stations, which provides coverage of Queensland waters and the Great Barrier Reef, is frequently the only voice communications available to small vessels.

The primary role of MSQ, Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) and ReefVTS is monitoring the safety of shipping in the reef and along the Queensland coast; but it also serves a vital role in search and rescue operations along our coastline.

An excellent example of when Vessel Traffic Service Officers (VTSO) can step into a critical role in the Search and Rescue world occurred shortly after 11pm on 20 October 2018, when Townsville VTSO Carl Blucher received a mayday relay via VHF radio advising that the 10 metre recreational vessel ‘Joe’ was taking water with four people on board at Hopkinson Reef, some 49 nautical miles north east of Townsville. It was established that their EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon) had been activated and a flare was sent up. Shortly after receiving advice that they were going under, that helpless feeling of radio silence took hold. VTS maintained contact with EMQ Rescue 521 helicopter which dropped an inflatable life raft into which the mariners climbed. The survivors were rescued by Queensland Water Police vessel ‘Brett Irwin’ an hour and half later, wet but safe.

Infrared camera shots of survivors from a sunken vessel

Survivors of the ‘Joe’ located in the water by infrared camera.

New vessels making buoy services and changes out easier

The department invested in an 11.9 metre ATON class vessel to assist with the servicing and changing out of anchoring equipment of buoys in Queensland waterway. In August 2018, the vessel, ‘Seaforth’, was used to mark Schooner Rock in Mackay and its light that advises boat owners that safe navigation waters are to the north.

The boat is an excellent platform to perform Aids to Navigation (AtoN) work and provides staff with a stable, safe work platform with excellent lift capability and gets to the work areas up to half the travel time of previous vessels.

TMR currently has three of these vessels in Queensland— Brisbane, Gladstone and Mackay—with plans for another four in the near future.

Staff on an aids to navigation vessel servicing buoys

Seaforth unloading the AtoN.

Annual service and repairs of AtoNs

The efficient navigation of ships through Queensland coastal waters is assisted by a system of AtoNs which accurately and reliably indicates the safest navigable waters for mariners.

MSQ minimise the risk of marine incidents in Queensland waters, through the implementation, management and maintenance of a consistent system of AtoN in accordance with best practice, international recommendations and associated guidelines and relevant Australian Standards.

MSQ’s performance measures specify that all AtoN should be available at least 95 per cent of the time and monitor their efficiency and effectiveness through the implementation of a regular inspection and maintenance program. In line with the servicing schedules MSQ carried out routine servicing and maintenance of its AtoN and achieved 99.75 per cent availability for 2018–19, meaning that the vast majority of Queensland’s AtoN installations were fully operational for the 12 months.

Boat in the ocean servicing AtoN in the Port of Gladstone

Servicing AtoN in the Port of Gladstone.

Maritime safety messaging and education

TMR delivered marine safety and environmental messaging and activities across traditional and electronic media platforms and through face-to-face contact at targeted events attended by the maritime community.

During 2018–19, the department delivered:

  • more than 100 maritime-related posts were made on TMR’s Facebook account and many more on TMR’s Twitter account dealing with issues ranging from general maritime knowledge to emergency responses. These reached targeted reader groups that were specific to the boating community
  • more than a dozen videos and animations were posted to the MSQ website on topics such as how to understand lateral markers in navigation channels and how to correctly display navigation lights at night
  • at least monthly visits to shows and events, such as the Brisbane Boat Show, at least monthly visits to boating retailers’ information events and visits to schools and colleges as requested throughout Queensland to raise awareness about safe and environmentally sound boating
  • five special-purpose education trailers, incorporating audio-visual equipment and other features to provide a fully-equipped, mobile and engaging educational presence at boat shows and events
  • four quarterly editions of the newsletter Maritime Matters were published to external stakeholders to keep them informed of maritime issues and developments.

To subscribe to Maritime Matters

Maritime Safety Queensland information trailer attached to a parked ute

Maritime Safety Queensland’s new special-purpose educational trailer at Twin Waters.