NEWS — Australian First Boating Usage Report Released


The National Marine Safety Committee (NMSC) has released its National Boating Usage Study Preliminary Survey Report that provides statistical information on boating behaviour and attitudes to safety.

The study recruited 3800 boaters from across Australia to participate in the survey and fill-in a trip diary from October 2008 to March 31, 2010. The preliminary report is the first stage of the study and analyses survey data, which 2818 boaters opted to complete.

NMSC CEO, Margie O’Tarpey explained that this type of report on boating usage is vital, considering there are approximately one million recreational craft using Australia’s waterways.

“The large number of craft that we have in Australia increases the potential for accidents, and our data shows that 346 people lost their lives in Australian waters since 1999 and thousands more were injured,” O’Tarpey said.

“This study will better inform the NMSC and its stakeholders, such as marine safety agencies, boating industry associations, and the NMSC’s Australia New Zealand Safe Boating Education Group when developing marine safety policy and education materials,” she said.

The study found that:


* The most popular types of boats are the cuddy/half-cabin cruiser and open runabouts with 29 per cent and 26 per cent of responses.

* That 57 per cent of respondents indicated they had a boat between 5 and 9.9m in length.

* That 30 per cent of respondents indicated they operated a boat less than 5m in length.


* Fishing is the main activity for 60 per cent of participants, and other activities included cruising and waterskiing, racing, diving and liveaboard.

* Almost half of respondents mostly operate their boats in bays and sheltered waters, and almost one-third of boaters mainly operate their boats in open waters.

* Almost half of participants have a boat less than five years old.

* That 95 per cent of boaters use their boats in December and January. Only one-third of boaters use their boats in June and July.

* Almost 40 per cent of boaters use their boats two to three times per month. Almost half of respondents spend three to five hours on the water when they use their boats.


* The 95 per cent of boaters had a recreational boat licence.

* A total of 39 per cent of boaters have held their boat licence for more than 15 years.

* Almost half of respondents have owned a boat for more than 15 years.

* Half of the respondents indicated they have undertaken a boating education course.


* PFDs are worn occasionally by 62 per cent of boaters.

* Some 29 per cent of participants wear a PFD when in poor weather. A further 29 per cent of participants have children under the age of 12 wear a PFD.

* PFDs are carried on board 98 per cent of boats.

* Almost 40 per cent of boaters never test their EPIRB, while 10 per cent of boaters test their EPIRB before each trip.

* Expiry dates of safety equipment are regularly checked by 94 per cent of boaters.

* Five per cent of boaters had experienced a boating incident in the previous 12 months.

* Of these incidents 26 per cent involved a collision with another boat or object; 24 per cent of the incidents involved the boat being grounded, flooded or capsizing.

“These figures bring up a myriad of safety and usage issues and in relation to PFD usage, even though PFDs are carried by 98 per cent of boats, PFDs are only worn occasionally by the majority of boaters,” explained O’Tarpey.

“PFD wearing regulations vary from state to state, however, this may be an issue for our Australia New Zealand Safe Boating Education Group to look at in relation to PFD wearing education.

“It is also interesting to note that the information on boating incidents reported in the study as to the prevalence of collisions, groundings and capsize is similar to information that we have from our National Incident Database,” she said.

In relation to information on boaters, the NMSC found
94 per cent of boaters were males and the biggest single age group was 35 to 50 years-old with 21 per cent of participants falling in the 61 years and over age group.

To obtain a copy of the full report contact the NMSC Secretariat, phone (02) 9247 2124 or download from
and click on research and policy/manual and reports.

The NMSC says it aims to achieve nationally uniform marine safety practices and is made up of an Independent Chair and the CEOs of Australia’s marine safety agencies.