Safety on the water has been occupying a lot of my time lately. Over recent months, I have attended, and made presentations to, two major industry conferences dedicated to marine safety, and have also been put through my boating paces in a power boat handling course run by Yachting Australia. In addition, it was our pleasure to present the inaugural Club Marine Safety Trophy at the 2006 AMIF Boat of the Year Awards – won by Powercat for its outstanding Powercat 2400, which is tested elsewhere in this issue.

As Australia’s largest provider of pleasure craft insurance, it is in the nature of our work to deal with boating safety issues on a daily basis. In fact, Club Marine controls the largest and most comprehensive database of marine insurance claims in Australia. The information it contains is based on our analysis of nearly 7000 marine accidents each year. So, when it comes to boating safety, we know a little about the subject.

For instance, our data tells us that if you over-indulge in alcohol when you are boating, you are not only more likely to fall overboard, but you are also more likely to drown once you hit the water. The lesson here is obvious and is adhered to by the vast majority of responsible boaties in Australia.

Not quite so cut-and-dried is the issue of Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs). Referring back to our database, it’s clear from our information that, regardless of whether you have had a drink or not, you are many times more likely to drown if you end up in the water and are not wearing a PFD. And this is especially true for children and older people, or anyone in cold water environments. Yet, despite this absolutely conclusive data, there is still an element in the boating community that resists wearing PFDs on the water.

I would like to make it clear that Club Marine fully supports the National Marine Safety Committee’s National Standard for Recreational Boat Safety Equipment as it applies to PFDs. The NMSC is currently looking at the issue of compulsory wearing of PFDs and it is inviting input from all boat users – and Club Marine readers and policyholders, of course – to help guide it as it develops a workable policy for PFD regulation; hopefully one that can be implemented as a consistent national standard. For further information, or to have your say, go to www.nmsc.gov.au.

At present, individual state regulations vary on this issue and it can only be good for everyone if a national standard is adopted.

For what it’s worth, this skipper won’t allow anyone on board unless they are prepared to follow the rules on wearing a PFD, or if they won’t commit to wearing one when I feel it is necessary. Our claims experience over many years leads us to believe that children under the age of about 10, or anyone of any age who is unable to swim very far, should be wearing their PFD whenever they are on deck or in an open area. Our data also tells us that sole occupants of any boat should be required to not only wear a PFD at all times, but also to attach the kill cord on the engine control as additional insurance.

With the summer boating season almost upon us, it’s too important an issue to ignore. We know PFDs save lives. There is absolutely no argument about that. So do yourself, your families and your boating companions a life-saving favour and make sure you ensure people are wearing PFDs out on the water, particularly when in hazardous conditions, like crossing bars or when underway at night.

As always (and this time I may live to regret this…), I welcome your feedback, so feel free to drop me a line by email to: ceo@clubmarine.com.au.

Safe boating,


Mark Bradley
Publisher and CEO
Club Marine Limited

E-mail: ceo@clubmarine.com.au