Marina safety

Liliana Engelhardt | VOLUME 30, ISSUE 2

More and more boat owners are using marinas. Safety and security are paramount.

Along Australian and New Zealand coastlines, countless boat owners welcome the safety and familiarity of a marina, whether for long-term berthing or as an overnight safe haven while cruising. And as more and more people choose boating as their preferred means of escape from the daily grind, the option to leave their boat in the caring hands of marina staff has become increasingly attractive.

To help make each marina stay a safe one and boats safe while their owners are absent, most marina operators install accident- and theft-prevention measures such as locked gates, secure pier access, monitored or secure parking, and video surveillance.

Marina members are often considered the ‘eyes and ears’ of a marina and are encouraged to speak to staff if they notice something untoward. Similarly, should a stroll around the premises reveal safety hazards such as broken cleats, unrepaired gates or walkways, outdoor lighting that doesn’t work, or damage from storms, users are encouraged to notify a marina attendant before an easy-to-fix job becomes an issue.

SAFE HAVENS

Marinas are generally located in protected waters, but while your boat may be safe during prevailing weather conditions, it’s worth checking what measures are in place to secure vessels during adverse conditions, especially in coastal locations with strong shifting winds or in areas prone to cyclones or flooding.

And if severe weather is heading your way, it’s advisable to check the mooring lines and batten down the hatches by removing anything that can be blown away or damaged. It’s also important to ensure batteries are fully charged to operate automatic bilge pumps.

Speaking of strong winds, docking can be tricky work even in favourable conditions, so take extra care when breeze and currents are strong or difficult to gauge. New boat owners and those needing a little assistance when getting in and out of a berth can ask marina staff for help … it’s a great way to avoid unnecessary knocks and bumps to your and other’s boats.

Moreover, should you come in to the dock too quickly, don’t try to fend the boat by hand. Club Marine National Claims Technical Manager, Phil Johnson says the danger in doing so is generally underestimated. “The momentum a boat can have when you’re coming in to a dock can be a lot more than you’d think and can be impossible to stop by fending with hands or feet. The risk of injury is very high, but easily avoided,” says Johnson, adding: “We see numerous incidents every year where people have tried to stop a boat by pushing against the dock and injured themselves badly.”

Once in the pen or alongside the pier, Johnson recommends checking the ropework if others have tied up for you. Also, check the tide fluctuations before tying up to a fixed dock, which requires different ropework to a floating one.

Some berths will be better suited to your boat and docking skills than others – consider which side of the boat is the preferred docking side, whether there’s enough water for the keel or draft, and if the boat can be docked stern- or bow-first. Also check whether the hook-ups for freshwater and shore power are suitable. Factoring this in will make a marina stay more convenient and help reduce the risk of personal injury or damage to vessels.

Johnson says inexperienced people stepping on or off boats is another area of concern, “especially where there might be a gap between the pier and the boat or a larger height discrepancy. Step on and off in a safe and organised manner and get someone with more experience to give you a hand.”

A word on clutter: dock lines and ropes, boat equipment, sail bags, fishing equipment and other items can all present tripping hazards. Keep them tidy and stored away from traffic areas on the boat and dock. To safely transport gear and supplies to and from the boat, use a trolley (many marinas supply these free of charge) and remember that paths and gangways can be wet, so wear non-slip shoes and ensure children are wearing PFDs at all times.

FIRE HAZARDS

While you might do everything possible to minimise the risk of fire on your own vessel, your neighbours may not. It’s a good idea to know what fire protective measures are in place at the marina and have staff walk you through their fire emergency drill. Keep in mind that remote locations may mean longer response times for emergency crews.

Most onboard fires are electrical in nature. Johnson says the causes are many and varied and advises boat operators to be vigilant at all times.

“Regular testing of all onboard electrics is important and should be done by a qualified electrician,” says Johnson. “We suggest having the power leads and all electrical equipment regularly tested and tagged to ensure they’re safe. If in any doubt, immediately switch off all electrics on the boat and safely disconnect from the shore power. And, most importantly, have a professional check for possible faults.”

Unsafe or incorrect use of shore power is another concern. Continuous use of shore power can cause electrical components, such as battery chargers and inverters, to overheat if they’re left on, which Johnson says has caused fires on several vessels in recent months. It’s recommended to always unplug safely if leaving the boat unattended or when shore power isn’t necessary.

Before connecting to shore power, ensure the power lead and the connection points on the boat and pier are in good condition. Always plug in the boat end of the lead first to avoid carrying an electrically charged lead across the water. When unplugging, disconnect the pier end first. To unplug safely, check the boat’s safety instructions and follow the instructions on the shore power unit.

If unsure or new to boating, always ask for advice. Marina staff or a marine electrician will know what to do and can help spot potential dangers on the pier and the boat.

And keep in mind that stray electric currents can occur wherever electricity is provided near water, especially in freshwater environments, so it’s best not to go for a dip in the marina.

Refuelling or filling portable fuel tanks is riddled with potential hazards. Generally, have everyone leave the boat and ensure your boat is securely tied to the fuel wharf. Don’t smoke at any stage and turn off all sources of flame and heat


Unsafe or incorrect use of shore power is another concern. Continuous use of shore power can cause electrical components, such as battery chargers and inverters, to overheat if they’re left on, which Johnson says has caused fires on several vessels in recent months. It’s recommended to always unplug safely if leaving the boat unattended or when shore power isn’t necessary.

Before connecting to shore power, ensure the power lead and the connection points on the boat and pier are in good condition. Always plug in the boat end of the lead first to avoid carrying an electrically charged lead across the water. When unplugging, disconnect the pier end first. To unplug safely, check the boat’s safety instructions and follow the instructions on the shore power unit.

If unsure or new to boating, always ask for advice. Marina staff or a marine electrician will know what to do and can help spot potential dangers on the pier and the boat.

And keep in mind that stray electric currents can occur wherever electricity is provided near water, especially in freshwater environments, so it’s best not to go for a dip in the marina.

Refuelling or filling portable fuel tanks is riddled with potential hazards. Generally, have everyone leave the boat and ensure your boat is securely tied to the fuel wharf. Don’t smoke at any stage and turn off all sources of flame and heat such as pilot lights and electrical equipment. Close all hatches and doors to avoid fumes entering the boat and ventilate thoroughly when done. Local marine authorities provide excellent publications and advice on marine safety, including refuelling checklists. These can be printed out and kept on the boat for easy reference.

Mostly, a day on the water and a stay in a marina are experiences to enjoy and look forward to. But if something does go wrong, it’s reassuring to know someone’s there to support you. Call 1300 00 CLUB (2582) or ask about Club Marine pleasurecraft insurance at your local marina, boat dealership, or insurance broker, to discover how we can help.


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How to-Safety
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