What to do in a boating emergency

Find out what to do in emergencies and incidents, such as marine transport spills, emergency situations, reporting a hazard or incident, navigation hazards and aid faults, cyclone contingency plans and tsunamis.

  Emergency situations

Types of emergency, an appropriate response

Even with the best preparation, accidents can still occur and you need to be ready to deal with them.

Skippers should know how to prevent and deal with some of the more common types of boating emergencies.

Sending a distress signal

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.

First aid

Find out about first aid training and how to treat seasickness and hypothermia.

Assess the situation

  • Assess the situation and make your passengers as safe as possible. This will almost certainly 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 parted fuel line assisting the start of a fire.
  • Check what informal means you have of easing the emergency. As an extreme example, on more than one flooding boat, skippers have put cooling water intakes into the bilge and used the engine itself as an extra pump.

Reporting suspect charter operations

Marine Safety has received many comments from charter boat operators who suspect that illegal charter operations are occurring frequently on WA waters.

To address this, Marine Safety is considering appropriate enforcement approaches and one of these involves working closely with industry to gain valuable and credible intelligence.

The Charter Vessel Intelligence Report form has been created to provide a simple and more streamlined method of reporting suspected operations.

You are encouraged to complete this form in as much detail as possible if you witness an alleged illegal charter operation taking place and submit it via email. The inclusion of photographic or other evidence would be of great assistance.

Please note that the form is designed to be completed for one vessel only and where multiple vessels are being reported a separate form should be used for each.

You may be contacted for additional information if required. Every report will be investigated and where possible and appropriate, the Investigations Unit will advise informants of the outcome of any investigation.

Marine safety complaints

Here's how to make a marine safety complaint about speeding, skiing, etc.

By phone

Call the State Marine Operations Centre. The Centre is available between am and pm Monday to Sunday.

In writing

Send written complaints to the Marine Safety Investigations Unit by downloading the Marine Safety Complaint form below.

Street address Postal address Telephone Fax Email
    (08) 9435 7827   Email
MAC_F_Charter_vessel_intelligence_report.pdf icon Charter vessel intelligence report form Kb
MAC_F_MarineNonComplianceReport.pdf icon Marine non-compliance report Kb
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.

  Reporting an accident or incident

Incident reporting for Recreational vessels

When an accident results in serious injury or death, and/or the vessel has been damaged enough to make it unseaworthy or unsafe, the owner or skipper must report full particulars of the accident to the Department of Transport within seven days.

The information collected assists DoT in delivering relevant safety education campaigns and identifying locations that could not be safe for navigation.

You can download the form by selecting the link below. Alternately, please phone the Department of Transport to request that the form be sent to you.

MAC_F_MarineIncidentReport.pdf icon Marine incident report Kb

Marine Safety Investigation Unit contact

Street address Postal address Telephone Fax Email
    (08) 9435 7827   Email

Incident reporting for Commercial Vessels

The Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessels) National Law Act 2012 (National Law) requires that both the owner and master of a domestic commercial vessel that is involved in a marine incident, forward a written report about the incident within 72 hours.

Whether you are communicating an initial report, or submitting a written report, these should be directed to your local Marine Safety Agency. For Western Australia please email the Department of Transport, Marine Safety Investigation Unit.

It is important that incidents are reported so that the incident can be analysed and, if necessary, steps taken to improve vessel safety.

For further information regarding 'what is a marine incident?', 'when do I report a marine incident?', and 'who do I report it to?' - please refer to the Incident Report Guidance Notice and Incident Report Form on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority website, link below.

Opens in a new window Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA): Domestic incident reporting

  Reporting navigation hazards and faulty aids

If you see a navigational hazard such as floating debris, an obstructed channel, a partially submerged object or anything that could affect the safety of other vessels you should report it by contacting:

Navigational Safety: Monday to Friday am to pm 13 11 56

Water Police Co-ordination Centre: (08) 9442 8600 (after hours)

When reporting a hazard please include the position, location and type of hazard.

Navigation aid fault reporting

Navigational aid faults include damaged, missing or malfunctioning lights.

If you see a navigational hazard you can report it to either the Navigational Safety or the Water Police Co-ordination Centre.

When you are reporting a fault you should include:

  • The position/location of the navigational aid.
  • Type of fault occurring (for example: topmark missing, light not working, buoy out of position).
  • Navigation aid identification number.

  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


Australian Tsunami Warning Service

Tsunami warnings are being provided by the Australian Tsunami Warning Service, which is made up of a number of Commonwealth and State government agencies.

Geoscience Australia constantly monitors for tsunami waves in open ocean using a network of special stations, called DARTs buoys (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami). The stations consist of a wave sensor anchored to the seabed and a buoy on the ocean's surface to relay data to ground stations via satellite.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) uses this information and data from coastal tide gauges and seismometers to determine if a tsunami has been generated. If there is a positive identification, BoM is also responsible for issuing alerts to emergency agencies, media and the public.

Upon advice from BoM, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services activates the State arrangements so the emergency services will response to assist the Western Australian community to reduce 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


Page last updated: Thu Dec 21 2017 3:13:30 PM