NSW Maritime is to stage a statewide boating safety campaign called Operation Cold Water this long weekend.

South Region Manager Craig Whitmore said Boating Safety Officers of NSW Maritime would be out in force on State waters with an emphasis in alpine areas.

“Boating Safety Officers will conduct on-water safety checks and will be checking vessel Safety Labels which carry safety information and indicate the maximum number of people to be carried aboard.”

“The Safety Label also reminds people of the need to carry a lifejacket for each person.

“In the cooler months, a lifejacket not only provides buoyancy if needed but can help insulate against the cold.”

Operation Cold Water aims to raise awareness of danger of hypothermia.
Exposure to cold air or water temperatures can lead to hypothermia which is the condition of low body-core temperature. This results from prolonged heat loss due to immersion or inappropriate clothing or protection in cold, wet and windy conditions.

The onset of hypothermia can be rapid and if not recognised by the victim or others, a critical medical condition can follow in as little as 30 minutes.

Signs of Hypothermia include exhaustion, reluctance to do anything, difficult to reason with and slowed mental and physical reactions. Sense of touch is poor, speech may be slurred and lips, hands and feet may swell.


Hypothermia: Cold Water Kills

Boaters have a greater exposure to the elements than most and boating in the cooler weather means a higher risk of developing hypothermia from wind-chill, capsize and damp and wet clothes.

Hypothermia is the effect of heat loss from the body.

Immersion in cold water causes the body to lose heat up to 25 times faster than normal and the shock of sudden immersion in cold water can be a serious threat to survivors of accidents, especially people who are older, unfit or under stress from falling overboard or abandoning ship.


Take precautions, always remember:

  • The best way to avoid getting hypothermia is not to put yourself in the situation where you have an increased risk of capsize or swamping. That means checking the weather before you go, and throughout the voyage. If in doubt don’t go out.
  • To wear warm thermal clothing, including a beanie and add wet weather gear over your warm clothes to provide wind proofing.
  • Children and poor swimmers should wear a lifejacket at all times and this goes for everyone if conditions get rough. Wear your lifejacket. This will keep you afloat if you are forced into the water.
  • Fit buoyancy to your boat to keep it afloat when capsized. Remain with your craft - this will increase your chances of being located quickly after a capsize or swamping.
  • If you are forced into the water, resist the temptation to swim. Swimming increases the amount of body heat loss. It is best to adopt the Heat Escape Lessening Posture (H.E.L.P) or HUDDLE position.
  • Boaters should be wary of using gumboots and waders as these make it difficult to swim should you fall into the water.

  • Alcohol increases the body’s heat loss by increasing the flow of blood to the surface areas of the body where it is quickly dissipated.
  • Stay under your designated alcohol limit.
  • For recreational vessel operators over 18 years the limit is under .05.
  • For commercial vessel operators the limit is under .02.
  • A nil alcohol limit is in force for recreational vessel operators under 18 years.
Signs of Hypothermia

Immersion in cold water can quickly affect the brain. This creates a dangerous situation because a person may not realise they are in danger.

Obvious signs are:

  • intense shivering;
  • slurred speech;
  • confusion;
  • slowing pulse; and
  • dilated eye pupils.

Eventually a hypothermic person will lose consciousness and may drown if not wearing a type 1 lifejacket.

Treatment of Hypothermia

The aim should be to reduce any further heat loss and try to commence rewarming slowly. Consider the following:

  • Avoid rough handling and exercising of the victim;
  • Wet clothing should be removed and dry clothes blankets and other warm materials applied (body heat can also be used);
  • Remember to warm the person slowly, never put them close to a fire or in a hot bath;
  • If conscious, give warm drinks (never alcohol); and
  • Commence artificial respiration if necessary.

Click here for more information on hypothermia in the Boating Handbook.


For further information call our infoline on 13 12 56 or go to www.maritime.nsw.gov.au



Boating at night - "Be Bright at Night"

Navigating at night requires special care and attention.  Vessels operating at night, whether at anchor or underway must carry and exhibit the correct lights.  It is crucial the lights on vessels are placed and displayed appropriate to the size and class of the vessel.

The objectives of this campaign are to conduct compliance checks of vessels throughout the State to ensure:

  • correctly displayed navigation lights on vessels
  • safety equipment, in particular lifejackets, are on board, are in good condition and are readily accessible in the case of an emergency
  • skippers have the required licence and/or certificate of competency
  • vessels meet registration/survey requirements