January 21-27, 2024: Issue 610


Marine Rescue NSW Boat rescues up 18 per cent as more people flock to waterways: remember to log on/log off this australia day long weekend

Marine Rescue Broken Bay members. Photo: A J Guesdon, 2023

Marine Rescue NSW has completed its busiest year on record with 4,786 search and rescue missions across the state in 2023, as favourable weather lures boaters onto waterways.

All six regions with Marine Rescue NSW units had a record number of rescues in 2023, including the Northern Rivers, Mid North Coast, Hunter/Central Coast, Greater Sydney, Illawarra and Monaro.

Surpassing last year’s record figure, the volunteer water rescue organisation safely returned 10,645 people to shore in an 18 per cent increase in rescue missions across the state’s coastal and inland waterways.

Lake Macquarie was the busiest area for rescue missions across NSW, while a quarter of the Botany Port Hacking unit’s 400 missions were emergency responses.

The Botany Port Hacking unit covers a challenging area including Botany Bay, Georges River, Port Hacking and 30 nautical miles offshore where a large volume of traffic and variable conditions can lead to boaters and paddlers needing assistance.

In its first Budget, the Minns Labor Government made a record $73 million commitment to support the vital work of Marine Rescue NSW and its 3,300 volunteers.

The significant four-year investment will bolster Marine Rescue NSW’s fleet, including new multi-purpose and rescue vessels and the refurbishment of other rescue vessels, as well as fund new bases at Stockton and Middle Harbour. 

More than 80,000 trips were logged with Marine Rescue NSW in 2023, almost 16,500 more than the previous year.

Marine Rescue NSW radio operators had a busy 2023, managing 258,742 radio calls – or a call every two minutes – with a large number managed by the 24/7 Marine Rescue NSW State Communications Centre at Belrose.

Marine Rescue NSW State Communications Centre at Belrose

More than half the incidents in 2023 could potentially have been avoided with better boat maintenance, with 57 per cent of calls for mechanical, battery or fuel issues.

Boat users are urged to follow these steps to stay safe this boating season:

  • Log On and Off with Marine Rescue via VHF Channel 16 or use the free Marine Rescue NSW app available for iOS and Android devices.
  • Make sure everyone on board is wearing a lifejacket.
  • Make sure your vessel’s engine and battery are working.
  • Make sure you have enough fuel and some in reserve.
  • Always check conditions and safety equipment.

Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said:

“The dedicated volunteers across the 46 Marine Rescue units answer calls night and day to keep boaters safe on our waterways, and I commend them on everything they have done over the busiest year for Marine Rescue yet.”

“After boating seasons have been impacted by wet weather brought on by La Nina, as well as Covid lockdowns, more people are now taking the opportunity to get out on our beautiful waterways and enjoy the warmer weather.”

“I encourage people to enjoy our coastline and inland waterways safely, and by logging on and off with Marine Rescue our volunteers will be in a position to respond if things don’t go to plan.”

“It is pleasing to see that over the past 12 months there has been an increase of 16,500 boaters using Marine Rescue’s free Log On service with more than 80,000 trips logged last year.”

Marine Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Darren Schott said:

“Almost a third of incidents last year were emergencies such as capsized boats, missing people, groundings and fires on vessels.”

“Response times for these incidents is reduced dramatically if a boater is logged on with Marine Rescue NSW.”

“We ask all boaters to ensure that they check their vessel’s engine and battery every time they plan to head out on the water.”

“Mechanical and fuel issues can quickly become life-threatening emergencies on the water, so make sure you have enough fuel and some in reserve.”

Breakdown of rescues across regions:

Northern Rivers – 353 search and rescue missions including 213 emergency responses with 733 people safely returned to shore. Locations of highest demand were Point Danger, Ballina and Iluka Yamba.

Mid North Coast – 390 search and rescue missions including 213 emergency responses with 907 people safely returned to shore. Locations of highest demand were Forster/Tuncurry, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.

Hunter/Central Coast – 1,511 search and rescue missions including 341 emergency responses with 3,079 people safely returned to shore. Locations of highest demand were Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens and the Central Coast.

Greater Sydney – 1,774 search and rescue missions including 285 emergency responses with 4,262 people safely returned to shore (across all seven Greater Sydney units). Locations of highest demand were Sydney (State Communications Centre), Botany Port Hacking and Port Jackson.

Illawarra – 481 search and rescue missions including 245 emergency responses with 1,091 people safely returned to shore. Locations of highest demand were Port Kembla, Jervis Bay and Shoalhaven.

Monaro – 277 search and rescue missions including 180 emergency responses with 566 people safely returned to shore. Locations of highest demand were Batemans Bay, Eden and Narooma.

Log On/ Log Off

Log On & Off with Marine Rescue. It’s quick, simple and free. Log On whenever you’re heading out on the water and Log Off when you return. We’ll stand watch. If you don’t Log Off as planned, our volunteers will start searching for you.

Download from the Apple store    Download from the Google play store

To Log On, call your Marine Rescue NSW base on VHF Channel 16 or use the free MarineRescue App. You can download the App at the App Store for Apple devices or Google Play for Androids.

You can always Log On, whether you’re out for a morning’s fishing, a day trip around your local area or cruising along the coastline. And it doesn’t matter if you’re on a tinnie, a cruiser, a yacht, a kayak, a canoe or a jet ski.

When you Log On via, our radio operator will ask you for some basic information about your vessel, your destination and contacts.

You’ll enter the same details on your smartphone or other device if you’re using the MarineRescue app. If you don’t Log Off, this information will help us find you, whether you’ve simply forgotten to Log Off when you returned to shore or you’re caught in an emergency and need help fast.

Tell us:

  • Your boat registration number
  • Where you’re leaving from
  • Where you’re heading
  • What time you plan to return
  • The number of people on board
  • Your mobile phone number

If the fish are biting and you decide to stay out longer, simply call the base on VHF Ch 16 or use the MarineRescue App to update your arrival time.

Remember to Log Off when you’re back on shore. If you haven’t let us know you’re back safely, we’ll start to look for you. We’ll try calling you first up, just in case you’ve forgotten to Log Off and headed home with your catch. That’s the best outcome. If we get no answer, we’ll step up the response.

When you Log On via the App, choose the live safety tracking option so your position is updated in our vessel tracking system every 30 minutes. This means that in an emergency, our rescue crews will have a starting point for a search operation, based on your last known position, saving valuable time when minutes can mean the difference between life and death.


If you’re travelling along the coastline, we encourage you to establish a voyage plan with Marine Rescue NSW and an offshore tracking schedule for you to check in (to ‘sked’) with our bases along your route. This lets us know that you’re travelling safely, on schedule and not in need of emergency help. We’ll keep track of your progress until you safely arrive at your destination in NSW or we hand you over to the marine rescue service in the next State if you’re travelling further north or south.

Preparing to go on the water

As the skipper, you're responsible for safety of the vessel and people on board. Be prepared to keep everyone safe and enjoy time on the water.

Carry enough lifejackets

Wearing a lifejacket can save your life. Make sure your vessel is carrying enough approved lifejackets for everyone on board. They must be in good condition and quick and easy to access.

Always wear a lifejacket while on the water. This means that you'll be more prepared for unexpected events, such as suddenly falling into the water.

The rules for wearing a lifejacket depend on your vessel, where you are and the level of risk.

Know the rules

Before you go out, make sure you know the rules and regulations for using NSW waterways. Key rules to help you stay safe and avoid collisions including:

  • keeping a proper lookout for hazards
  • knowing who you must give way to and when
  • identifying and obeying navigation marks, lights and sounds
  • travelling at a safe speed and keeping a safe distance between your vessel and other people, vessels and objects
  • staying under the legal limit for alcohol
  • knowing the rules for towing a person on the water and towing a trailer on the road.

Check the weather

Always check the weather before you head out. Be aware of warnings, marine conditions, storms, winds, waves and tides. This can make the difference between an enjoyable day and an emergency situation. If in doubt, don't go out.

Let someone know

Before you leave, contact a friend or relative or use your marine radio to log on with a coastal radio base. Tell them:

  • where you're going
  • your estimated return time
  • your vessel details
  • how many people are on board.

Take extra care to let someone know if you are going out alone.

Report in if you extend or change your trip.

You can also use the MarineRescue app to log on and log off with Marine Rescue NSW.

Know what to do in an emergency

Being on the water can be unpredictable and dangerous. Be prepared for an emergency or incident, and know what to do and who to contact if you run into trouble.

If you're involved in or witness an incident, you must always stop and give as much help as possible. Depending on the severity of the incident – for example, if someone is injured – you may need to give information to authorities.

Marine Rescue NSW provides important services, including safety education, marine radio communication, and emergency search and rescue services.

Check your vessel

Check your vessel is in good working order, including the engine and lights. Check you have all the correct equipment on board before you leave home or launch your vessel.

If your vessel is registered, check the registration has not expired.

Check your vessel is suitable for the waterways you want to travel on. For example, if the vessel is designed for enclosed waters, it may not suit open waters or along the coast where waves are larger.

Check all hatches can be opened from both the inside and outside of the vessel. Keep all hatches unlocked while the vessel is underway.

Anyone driving your vessel should have the skills and experience to handle the vessel on the waterway you're using.

Have the correct safety equipment

Check you have the correct safety equipment on board for where you're going and your vessel type.

Make sure every item is in good condition and easy to access. Everyone on board should know its location and how to use it.

Plan where you want to go

Plan where you're going and know how long the trip will take. Be aware of any special waterways or designated areas. Check the location of harbours, ports and potential refuges from bad weather.

Take extra care in cold water, especially alpine waters, where your risk of cold shock and hypothermia are increased.

Build your experience by starting out on calm, quiet waterways. Take a more experienced person with you, if possible.

Make sure you have enough fuel. Plan to use a third to get there, a third to get home, and have a third in reserve for unexpected events.

Make sure you have a compass and up-to-date chart (or map) for the waterways you will be using, especially if you're going out on open waters.

You must have a chart or map if you plan to go out on open waters.

Prepare children

If you're taking children out on your vessel:

  • Make sure they have a lifejacket and are wearing it when required.
  • Teach them emergency procedures and drills, such as what to do if they fall overboard or the vessel capsizes.
  • Show them where the safety equipment is, and teach them how to use emergency items, such as the marine radio, EPIRB and flares. Make sure they understand they must only use them in an emergency.
  • Show them how to get in and out of dinghies and small boats while keeping them stable.
  • Make sure they do not have any part of their body out of the vessel when it's underway.
  • Teach them about keeping a proper lookout and a safe distance from other vessels.
  • If you're planning to tow, make sure they know the rules for towing people aged under 16.
  • Carry everything they need to be prepared for all types of weather.
  • Consider the risk of seasickness, especially if you're going out on choppy water.
  • Teach children about lifejackets and sunscreen.

Download boating apps

Boating apps give you quick access to helpful information about waterways on your smartphone or tablet. For example, boat ramps, speed zones, navigation aids, weather, special events and safety advice.

Transport for NSW endorses Deckee, available for free via the Apple Store and Google Play. The Deckee app includes maps showing boat ramps, speed zones, navigational aids. It also has access to a live data feed from Transport for NSW that captures alerts, marine notices and campaigns.

Marine Rescue NSW

Marine Rescue NSW is the State’s official volunteer marine rescue service. The Marine Rescue App allows you to register details of your next boating trip.

Bayview boat ramp is very busy during holidays