NSW Police will begin random drug testing on waterways as part of a new marine safety enforcement program.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller was joined by Minister for Police, Troy Grant, to launch the Maritime Enhanced Enforcement Program (MEEP), which includes random alcohol and drug testing as well as a crackdown on dangerous or anti-social activity on the water.
There were three fatalities, two of them involving jet-skis, and nine serious accidents on NSW waterways in 2016/17.
Commissioner Fuller said Marine Area Command officers will conduct random breath and drug tests so the community can enjoy the waterways safely.
“We continue to see preventable boating incidents and dangerous jet-ski riding in certain hot spots so you can expect to see more police on our waterways over the summer boating season,” Commissioner Fuller said.
“Some of the worst marine fatalities have involved drugs and alcohol so having the capability to drug test on the water is another measure to reduce the risk of incidents on our waterways.
“Driving any vessel under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs puts you at greater risk of injuring or killing yourself, your friends and other innocent people,” Commissioner Fuller said.
The boating season officially kicked off on Sunday, October 1, which saw police officers from Marine Area Command as well as Roads and Maritime Boating Safety Officers patrolling the waterways to ensure the community enjoyed their on-water activities safely.
Mr Grant said the NSW Government welcomed the Maritime Enhanced Enforcement Program.
“Water safety is a key priority of this government, and we are committed to ensuring we don’t see another horror summer of drownings like we saw over the last Christmas – New Year period in NSW,” Mr Grant said.
“Too often people underestimate the conditions and overestimate their abilities on our waterways. This program is aimed at preventing those accidents that could have easily been avoided.
“We urge road users to not drink and consume drugs before getting behind the wheel, and today is a reminder for all boat users that the same rules apply to them. When you drink or do drugs on our waterways, you aren’t just risking your own life, but the lives of other innocent water enthusiasts,” Mr Grant said.
Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey said it is important that our waterways remain safe for all, and that means being responsible when operating a vessel.
“Last year NSW recorded three boating fatalities which was the lowest number in at least 40 years, and more than 80 per cent below the long-term average. But even one life lost is one too many and we must remain vigilant when it comes to safety,” Minister Pavey said.
“The vast majority of people who go boating do the right thing and have nothing to fear from this Maritime Enhanced Enforcement Program which is aimed at those who put others at risk through anti-social, hoon or dangerous behaviour.”
The Maritime Enhanced Enforcement Program has been established in collaboration with Transport for NSW through the Centre for Maritime Safety (CMS) to run over three summer boating seasons until April 2020.