Boating emergencies and incidents

Find out what to do in emergencies and incidents, such as marine transport spills, emergency situations, navigation hazards and aid faults.

  Emergency situations

All emergency situations requiring immediate assistance Call OOO or contact the WA Water Police - (08) 9442 8600.

Opens in a new window Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES): Volunteer Marine Rescue Services
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Assess the situation

  • Assess the situation and make your passengers as safe as possible. This should include putting on lifejackets and may involve moving people to a different part of the vessel, or even preparing them to abandon the boat.
  • Check to make sure there is no danger of the emergency getting worse, for instance, a leaking fuel line causing a fire.

Sending a distress signal and how to use a radio during an emergency

Find out more about sending distress signals and safety calls.

Leadership and assisting others

The skipper must:

  • Think decisively and logically.
  • Keep your radio tuned to either the distress frequency or the Sea Rescue working frequency. This is because you must stay available to assist others.
  • It is a legal obligation to offer help if you hear a radio distress call or see distress signals or a burning vessel.

The skipper should also respond to urgency radio calls or other requests for assistance that fall outside the distress category. You are not obliged to offer a tow to other vessels. You can offer to stand by until Sea Rescue turns up.

Reporting

For information on reporting a marine incident, hazard, non-compliance issue or marine pollution visit the Contact Marine and Coastal page.

Opens in a new window Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES): Volunteer Marine Rescue Services

  Marine transport emergencies and oil spills

The Department of Transport manages the State Emergency Management Plan for Marine Transport Emergencies (West Plan: MTE) and the State Emergency Management Plan for Marine Oil Pollution (WestPlan: MOP).

For more information on these plans, please go to the State emergency management plan page.

The Department also acts as the Hazard Management Agency (HMA) for marine oil pollution in State Waters.

For more information, please go to the Oil spills page.

  Cyclone community information sheets: November 2017 to April 2018

The Department of Transport is responsible for the provision of cyclone community information sheet for its maritime facilities located in cyclone prone areas.

Please download our cyclone community information sheet below.

MAC_PL_CycCont_2017_18_Carnarvon.pdf icon Cyclone community information sheet: Carnarvon (2017/2018) Kb
MAC_PL_CycCont_2017_18_CoralBay.pdf icon Cyclone community information sheet: Coral Bay (2017/2018) Kb
MAC_PL_CycCont_2017_18_Denham.pdf icon Cyclone community information sheet: Denham (2017/2018) Kb
MAC_PL_CycCont_2017_18_Exmouth.pdf icon Cyclone community information sheet: Exmouth (2017/2018) Kb
MAC_PL_CycCont_2017_18_OnslowBeadonCk.pdf icon Cyclone community information sheet: Onslow (Beadon Creek) (2017/2018) Kb
MAC_PL_CycCont_2017_18_PointSamsonJohnsCk.pdf icon Cyclone community information sheet: Point Samson (Johns Creek) (2017/2018) Kb

  Breakdown

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Well-maintained motors are unlikely to break down, and most breakdowns consist of the motor refusing to start rather than simply stopping.

Outboard not starting or stopping

Not everything in this list applies to every outboard motor, but it is the basis of a simple troubleshooting routine of an outboard not starting or if the motor stops.

  • Does tank have fuel?
  • Is air vent clear?
  • Is fuel line unkinked and connected?
  • Is the fuel bulb hard? If not, squeeze continually.
  • Does choke close fully?
  • Check the carburettor air intake.
  • Is the motor cranking fast enough? Check battery connections.
  • Wait five minutes and try again.
  • Battery flat? Start with rope around flywheel.
  • Broken starter cord? Start with rope around flywheel.
  • Change spark plugs.
  • Change fuses.
  • Ensure kill switch is attached.

If you are unable to restart the motor, you should:

  • Drop anchor to hold your position (if possible).
  • Call Sea Rescue for assistance.
  • If you are drifting into danger and/or come to require emergency assistance, you should make a Pan Pan or Mayday call over the radio.
Opens in a new window Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES): Volunteer Marine Rescue Services

  Capsize

Common reasons for a capsize situation:

  • Gross overloading, or poor distribution of load.
  • Broaching when running with a following sea. This is made more likely by the boat not having the bow trimmed up.
  • Free surface effect due to water in the boat or shifting load.
  • Poor driving technique.
  • Caught by breakers on the seaward side of a reef (usually on days of bigger than normal swell).
  • Caught by wind and waves with the occupants on one side pulling pots.

Safety advice

  1. Make sure your passengers are all there.
  2. Make sure all passengers stay with the boat/vessel.
  3. If possible, turn the boat upright and bail the water out.
  4. Consider the best swimmer to dive and remove lifejackets and safety gear.
  5. Once you have your safety hear, consider the appropriate means to get help.
  6. Never swim away from a capsized boat.
  7. It is difficult to bail out a dinghy, it may well be impossible with a larger boat. If you cannot right the boat and get inside it, you should try to get as much of yourselves as possible onto the hull.

Note: Most trailable sized boats have enough flotation to keep afloat if upturned.

  Collision regulations

The Prevention of Collision at Sea Regulations 1983 comprises the rules set out in the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972.

The Prevention of Collision at Sea Regulations covers 5 Parts:

  • Part A: General.
  • Part B: Steering and sailing rules.
  • Part C: Lights and shapes.
  • Part D: Sound and light signals.
  • Part E: Exemptions.

Vessel certificated under the Western Australian Marine Act 1982 are required to conform with these rules.

Opens in a new window International Maritime Organization: Preventing collisions at sea
Opens in a new window Department of Justice: Prevention of Collisions at Sea Regulations 1983 (WA)
Opens in a new window Department of Justice: Western Australian Marine Act 1982 (WA)

  Grounding

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Grounding is very common, with results ranging from minor scratching to sinking, injuries and environmental damage. Speed and type of bottom hit are often all that cause the difference. If you do run aground, look after your passengers.

Prevention

Grounding is a thoroughly preventable type of emergency. You can avoid it by:

  • Knowing where you should be and where you actually are, and keeping a good lookout are the keys.
  • Plan your trips using a chart, and take the chart along. Ensure you will have enough water depth throughout.
  • Make sure you can identify all the navigation marks, and bear in mind that not all of them have lights at night.
  • Whenever in doubt about your position or the identity of a navigation aid, slow down.

Assess the damage and take action

  • If you are outboard or sterndrive powered, raise the leg and check for propeller damage.
  • If the boat appears serviceable, check for depth around the boat by probing with a boat hook or even getting over the side.
  • Pushing off may be the best option for getting the boat clear, although you may need to wait for the tide to rise.
  • If the boat is unseaworthy or hard aground, call for assistance over the radio.
  • Coming to a sudden stop can cause injuries. You may need to call for medical assistance.

  Fire

Some causes of fires:

  • Overheated oil on galley stove.
  • Overloaded or incorrectly wired electrical system.
  • Poor engine room housekeeping: rags in contact with turbocharger or exhaust system.
  • Leaking fuel or gas lines.
  • Poor refuelling technique.

Fires can be prevented by:

  • Correct installation.
  • Good housekeeping.
  • Regular maintenance.
  • Good fire prevention technique.

Engine

There are boats on the water powered by petrol engines with substandard conversions to marine use.

When buying a used boat with an inboard or stern-drive motor, have the motor and installation checked by a marine mechanic.

Fuel vapour is heavier than air, and will not leave a compartment without assistance. Consider having power ventilation installed.

Liquid petroleum gas (LPG)

LPG systems must be correctly installed by a qualified person. LPG vapour is heavier than air, so the cylinder must be stowed above deck in a place where vapour spills will run over the side.

When you have finished cooking with an LPG stove, turn off the gas at the cylinder and let the gas jets keep burning until they go out. Then turn them off.

Housekeeping

  • Keep your fire extinguishers where they are most accessible not near the source of a potential fire; and check and maintain them.
  • Keep the bilge and engine room clean.
  • Have the installation and maintenance of all electrical, gas, diesel and petrol equipment carried out by qualified tradesmen.
  • Frequently make your own checks for leaks in fuel and gas systems.

Technique

Develop a consistent routine for starting your engine. For in-boards and stern-drives this should always include:

  • Entering the engine room or opening the motor box.
  • Checking for leaks.
  • Sniffing as low in the bilge as you can reach. The human nose is good at detecting minute concentrations of flammable vapour.

Refuelling

When refuelling:

  • Turn off everything that uses electricity, gas or liquid fuel.
  • Send passengers ashore.
  • Take portable fuel tanks out of the boat.
  • Have a fire extinguisher near the refuelling point.
  • Know how much fuel you need to take and so reduce the chance of overfilling (leave space to allow for expansion of the fuel).
  • If your fuel tank is metal, there must be electrical continuity between the mouth of the fuel filler pipe and the tank. The hose nozzle must stay in contact with the filler mouth while the fuel is flowing.
  • Check the bilge for spillage and for the smell of fuel. Do not start the engine until all fuel smell has gone.

Fighting a fire

The most important consideration is human life, the boat is secondary.

  • Raise the alarm and make a head count.
  • Get someone to make a Pan Pan radio call.
  • Get someone to take charge of the safety gear and move the passengers as far as possible from the fire.
  • If the fire is within an enclosed space, close all openings to reduce air supply to the fire.
  • Close off fuel lines and gas lines.
  • Try to put out the fire with extinguisher, fire blanket, water buckets or whatever is appropriate.
  • The best way to deal with burning items may be simply to throw them over the side.
  • When the fire is apparently out, still keep an eye on it and on adjoining spaces; fires can restart.
  • Chemical extinguishers do not cool fires; consider using water to cool after the flames are extinguished.

  Sinking

Most trailer boats have flotation to cope with flooding, and seldom sink. Larger boats without flotation usually take some time to sink.

Be prepared for possible sinking by:

  • Having lifejackets quickly accessible.
  • Safety items and emergency provisions in a watertight drum.
  • Storing extra water in a floating container.

Before abandoning the boat:

  • Attempt to send a distress call by radio.
  • Put on more clothing if time - do not remove any.

Once in the water:

  • Activate the EPIRB.
  • Adopt the huddle position to keep everybody together and to conserve body heat.

  Tsunamis

Australian Tsunami Warning Service

Upon advice from Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services activates the State arrangements so the emergency services will assist the Western Australian community in reducing the impact of a possible tsunami.

Opens in a new window Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)
Opens in a new window Bureau of Meteorology (BOM): Australian tsunami warning service
Opens in a new window Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES)
Opens in a new window Geoscience Australia

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Page last updated: Tue Mar 27 2018 9:05:02 AM