Commercial operators voice boat sharing safety concerns

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Commercial Vessel Association warns proposed regulations pose safety threat.

The Commercial Vessel Association of NSW (CVA) which represents commercial vessel operators in NSW has raised concerns about the proposed exemption to commercial vessel regulations which will allow boat owners to rent out their boats for overnight stays.

Feedback on the proposed exemption, called Exemption 27, closed this week. In its submission to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), the CVA highlighted a number of issues about how the exemption might operate.

Although supportive of marina-based short stays in principle, the association said it is opposed to such activity being regulated via an exemption, arguing that it would prefer to see a new survey category created specifically for vessels used for short-stay accommodation at marinas. This category would be less stringent than current requirements for vessels used for regular charter hire, for instance, but would require the boats to be built and maintained to a certain standard and be inspected by a marine surveyor.

Other areas of concern raised by the association include the potential threat to the environment, a lack of operator qualifications, the need for enforcement and the commercial impact on the industry.

In terms of the environment, the association says there should be a requirement for boats to have sullage tanks installed to prevent the release of waste water into the marina environment. The association is also concerned that many owners are not suitably qualified to develop safety plans for their boats or to carry out adequate safety briefings to customers, pointing out that in Queensland, for instance, charter operators are required to undertake a course before being allowed to give a safety briefing.

From a commercial and enforcement perspective, the CVA is concerned that the exemption will open the door for more unregulated charter hires to take place. Although the exemption relates specifically to boats remaining moored at marinas, the CVA believes that, without adequate enforcement, it will lead to a 'black market' in charter hires which will impact on the commercial viability of the industry and create a potential safety issue.

In the lead-up to the submissions deadline, the Boating Industry Association (BIA) was due to hold a members' forum last week to discuss the proposed exemption. However, after meeting with representatives from the CVA, the forum was cancelled at the last moment.

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