MARINE RESCUE UPDATE
The last couple of weeks there have been a few incidents that highlighted just how important it is to have back up when a marine incident arises on the WA coastline. In the old days, when the Margaret River Volunteer Marine Rescue Group was first formed, around 1985, members’ boats were used to conduct rescues. As years went by, various group vessels were purchased, but until recently, members boats were still able to be utilised as back ups when dedicated vessels were unavailable. Unfortunately, in the new world of insurance and mitigating issues, this is no longer permitted. So of course, a few weeks ago, Murphy’s Law was applied when a callout for assistance was received from a 6m Westerberg, approximately seven nautical miles out from Gracetown while the Margaret River 7.5m dedicated rescue vessel was being serviced in Bunbury. With members’ vessels unable to be used, the call went out to our northern neighbours up the coast, Naturaliste Volunteer Marine Rescue, to see if they could lend assistance and they promptly mobilised their 7.1m Oceancraft, launching from Gracetown and towed the vessel in safely. Well done to this group and if the incident had been further south of Gracetown, then we would have called on Augusta VMR to lend a hand as they have also done in the past.
Turns out the Westerberg had lost forward gear and the skipper, rightly so, was not too keen to motor in reverse for 6 nautical miles and risk sinking the vessel. For those venturing this far out, where you will be in a water depth of 45 metres plus, pays to ensure you have enough anchor line to hold your position in the event of a breakdown, which means a minimum of 150metres of anchor line even in calm conditions.
We think we do okay down south, but the marine rescue crews up north can depend on even more resources to assist when necessary, given the large number of iron ore carrier movements and infrastructure. Last week, Port Hedland VMR were notified from WA Police that an EPIRB had been activated thirty nautical miles north ( almost 60 kms ). While the members were mobilising to launch their dedicated 10 metre Air Rider vessel, ‘Iron Pride’, they had the assistance of Aviator Group, Border Force and Bristow helicopters. Once the destressed vessel was located, Bristow helicopters provided air support until the ‘Iron Pride’ was on scene and the vessel with three person on board was safely towed back to shore. Now that’s back up!
Still, with all these resources available, the skipper is ultimately responsible to ensure that they have the appropriate safety equipment, in good working condition, to communicate an incident quickly and efficiently, whether it be by flares, marine radio or EPIRB. Winter time is a good opportunity to check expiry dates on flares and EPIRB’s, as well as ensuring your two year EPIRB registration is still current. Even more important if you are taking the boat up north. For those doing so, here are the VHF marine radio repeater channels below, for key northern locations, that can provide much greater signal range if there is no response on the normal emergency channel 16. Lancelin-22, Jurien Bay-21, Geraldton-81/82, Kalbarri-80, Carnarvon-81, Warroora-80, Ningaloo Station-82, Exmouth-21/22, Port Walcott-81, Broome-22, Derby-81, Wyndham-80/81.