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Fatal boat crash raises safety questions -

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Fatal boat crash raises safety questions

Reporter: Ashley Hall

ELEANOR HALL: Last night's deadly boat accident has sparked calls for better education for boat
users all over Australia.

Twenty-two people have now been killed just on Sydney Harbour in the last seven years. And a marine
safety expert says that while the number of people on the harbour increases every day, most of them
are not well enough trained to handle the traffic. Ashley Hall has our report.

ASHLEY HALL: Like many of the nation's waterways, Sydney Harbour is playing host to an increasing
volume of traffic, both leisure boaties and commercial operators.

And Graeme Taylor from the lobby group, Action for Public Transport has told ABC local radio it's
becoming a much more dangerous place.

GRAEME TAYLOR: Sydney Harbour is becoming an increasingly busy place with more and more boats on
the Harbour and increasingly dangerous.

From small runabouts, people in small yachts who don't know where the shipping channels are on the
harbour, to even the other end of the spectrum, commercial boats like the jet boats which we see
racing around the areas around the Opera House at speed of up to 40 knots.

ASHLEY HALL: Twenty-two people have died in boating mishaps on the harbour since 2000.

In January, a man was killed when his speedboat crashed. Last year, four people died when a harbour
ferry ran into a launch under the Harbour Bridge. Two months earlier, a river-cat ferry collided
with a dinghy. An elderly man had a heart attack and his leg amputated before dying eight days
later. And then, last night, five people were killed off Bradley's Head.

Brad Bishop sells marine safety equipment and is a recreational sailor.

BRAD BISHOP: Boats do not have breaks. They don't have as much control as you do on the road,
therefore skippers need to be a lot more diligent in relation to how they handle their boats.

And boat handling I think is an issue. I think people who have these larger, high-powered boats
don't really have an understanding on how they operate and how to control them.

ASHLEY HALL: He says the casualty list is so long because many boat operators don't have enough
training.

BRAD BISHOP: The recreational boating community are not out on the water all the time. They're not
using their boats on a day to day basis and I would say after they've received their driver's
license for their vessels, which in some cases, can go up to 50km/h, they don't really know the
rules other than what they've had to sit for their boat license exam, which in some cases, you
would say is a fairly simple exam.

ASHLEY HALL: Watercraft are subject to an internationally agreed set of rules which require a
boat's crew to travel at a safe speed, keep a look out for other vessels, and keep an appropriate
distance away from other water users.

Brad Bishop says many skippers quickly forget.

BRAD BISHOP: You could go out there at any point on a Saturday afternoon and pull up a few of the
recreational skippers and ask them the rules of the road, and you'd probably find that they're not
really up to speed on them.

ASHLEY HALL: Whose fault is that?

BRAD BISHOP: I think it's probably, it's a fairly low entry point to get your driver's license for
some of these larger cruising vessels.

I'm a recreational sailor and I sail competitively on the harbour every weekend and it's amazing
how close some of the larger and high powered cruisers come past you.

ASHLEY HALL: Neil Patchett is a spokesman for the NSW Maritime Authority.

He says there is already plenty of focus on educating boat users about the rules of the sea, and
their responsibilities.

NEIL PATCHETT: A lot of work has been done over the last couple of years to ramp up that education
effort, not just of the more mature boaters, by putting in place a far more robust and stringent
licensing process, which now has a compulsory education component.

But we've also introduced in the last 12 months effect or input into the school systems of New
South Wales, not just senior but primary schools and senior schools as well, pushing education.

ASHLEY HALL: After last year's crash between a ferry and a launch beneath the Harbour Bridge, the
Office of Transport Safety Investigations made nine recommendations to improve safety and
supervision on the harbour.

Neil Patchett says maritime authorities are working to implement them all.

NEIL PATCHETT: And they covered things from extra patrols on the harbour, through to the code of
conduct in the cove area, around Circular Quay in particular, where you've got commercial traffic,
through to the lighting on vessels and licensing of vessels.

ASHLEY HALL: But Mr Patchett says the best way to stay safe on the water is to stick to the basic
principles - slow down, keep a look out, and stay away from other vessels.

ELEANOR HALL: Ashley Hall reporting.