VMR Gladstone Base: 07 4972 3333 Duty Controller: 0417 681 921

We’ve seen previously that two of the key reasons to abandon ship are fires and the uncontrollable ingress of water. While flooding can occur as a result of a sudden structural failure, it is far more likely to be a result of a collision or a grounding so this week we are going to look at these two emergencies together. We will simply say collisions from this point on.

Marine Safety Queensland (MSQ) has observed that most collisions are preventable and occur because of a simple lack of awareness. As always, the best defense is avoidance and the key is to be aware of where you are, what is around you, and the current water depth at all times. You should also be thinking ahead to predict possible collision risks that may occur. If at any time you find you are distracted, you should consider stopping your boat until you feel you can concentrate and maintain situational awareness again. Better to lose a few minutes than to lose a boat!

However, if despite your best efforts your boat collides with an object, including land, there are some steps you need to be ready to take immediately. The order of these steps may need to be changed as dictated by circumstances, however they are:

  • Check for injured passengers and if you have collided with another boat, you also need to check for injured passengers on the other boat.
  • Check the structural condition of your boat and if you have collided with another boat the condition of that boat.
  • If you observe the inflow of water on either boat, you need to try and stop the flow.
  • Use wooden plugs, tarps, plastic sheets, rags, cushions, anything you can find to block every hole through which water is entering the boat.
  • You also need to activate any bilge pumps if they are not automatic and start bailing out water. If there are several people on board, this can be done at the same time as the holes are being blocked.
  • If anyone is seriously injured or you cannot control the inflow of water, you need to make a May-Day call, otherwise you should consider a Pan-Pan call. Even if you believe you can get your boat safely back to your departure point, it is advisable to contact your local Marine Rescue and let them know you location, your situation, and your intentions.
  • Be mindful that if you have collided with another boat and one boat has become impaled in the other, any attempt to separate them may cause immediate and catastrophic flooding. In this case you will need to seek expert advice and assistance before attempting to separate them.
  • If you are not able to stop the inflow of water, after making a May-Day call, you will now have no choice but to follow the steps we discussed previously to abandon ship. However, wait as long as possible before you do this to increase your chances of survival.

If you have any questions about collisions, or anything else related to your boat, you can always contact Volunteer Marine Rescue Gladstone