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ROADS and Maritime Services Boating Safety Officers are now out in force on NSW waterways as part of Operation Blue Water - the boating safety campaign will see zero tolerance for boaters not carrying the correct safety equipment or following lifejacket laws.

A Roads and Maritime spokesperson said the offshore operation will accompany the inland water operation "You’re the Skipper, You’re Responsible" from Saturday 7 to Sunday 15 February.

“Operation Blue Water aims to reduce the likelihood and severity of offshore boating incidents by ensuring boaters are carrying the correct equipment in open waters,” the spokesperson said.

“In the past five years 256 reported incidents occurred on open waters in NSW resulting in 19 fatalities, 55 serious injuries and 60 minor injuries.

“A large proportion of these incidents occurred as boaters encountered poor weather conditions, hazardous waters or bar conditions at the time of crossing. Operation Blue Water aims to educate boaters to safely prepare, plan and operate vessels offshore.

“BSOs will carry out safety checks to educate boaters about the importance of lifejackets and other safety equipment.

“Boaters are reminded the correct size lifejacket must be provided for each person on board and lifejackets must be in good condition, easily accessible and worn when required.

“Children under 12 must wear a lifejacket at all times in vessels under 4.8 metres, or when in the open part of vessels up to eight metres.

“Other key items of equipment for operating in open waters include distress flares, a map and a marine radio.”

Inland BSOs will target safer behaviours around alcohol consumption and incidents which can occur like fires on inboard petrol engine vessels as part of operation You’re the Skipper, You’re Responsible.

“A day out on the water can turn tragic if skippers are not aware of the effects of alcohol when boating,” the spokesperson said.

“In the past two years alcohol has been a contributing factor in at least eight boating incidents resulting in three fatalities and five serious injuries.

“Roads and Maritime BSOs will support NSW Police to conduct random breath tests during standard safety checks.”

Of the 230,000 vessels registered in NSW, around 22 per cent have inboard motors which have an increased risk of explosion and fires. In the past five years, 64 incidents have occurred on NSW waters involving fire or explosions on vessels.

BSOs will also be educating vessel operators on the safe operation of inboard petrol engines as well as the dangers associated with vessel fire, including refuelling, leaving cowlings open to reduce explosive fuel and air vapour mix and regularly inspecting the bilge.

The spokesperson said authorities will have a zero tolerance approach to ignoring lifejacket rules and penalties will apply.

For more information on boating safety and lifejacket requirements, go to www.rms.nsw.gov.au/maritime or http://www.lifejacketwearit.com.au/.

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