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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Boating laws changed

Boaties and jet ski operators could be tested for drugs and alcohol this summer as part of a large-scale Victoria Police water safety blitz.

December 3, 2012 12:12am

Boaties and jet ski operators could be tested for drugs and alcohol this summer as part of a large-scale Victoria Police water safety blitz.

The Marine Drug and Alcohol Reforms came into effect on Saturday and include popular swimming spots such as Lake Nagambie, Lake Eildon, Lake Hume and the Waranga Basin.

North-East water police Leading Senior Constable Brett Tanian said there had been several incidents last year requiring people to be airlifted to hospital.

Leading Sen Const Tanian encouraged people to ensure their crafts were serviced, with appropriate safety equipment on board and to avoid congesting areas of water.

‘‘Before you leave home, check the safety equipment, the condition of the equipment and the accessibility of it,’’ he said.

For the first time, police have the power to test ship, boat and jet ski operators for illegal drugs such as speed, ice, ecstasy and cannabis.

A blood alcohol limit of zero has been introduced for operators of commercial and government marine vessels.

Police will also continue to enforce a zero blood alcohol tolerance for all commercial and recreational operators under the age of 21.

Sen Const Tanian said increased patrols, including from unmarked boats, would be targeting the new drug laws, on-board safety equipment and enforcing blood alcohol limits.

‘‘What we’re looking at is making the waterways safer for everyone to use,’’ he said. ‘‘If you’re doing everything right, you’ll have no problems.’’

Fines have increased from $153 to $282 for failing to wear a lifejacket, the same amount as failing to wear a seatbelt in a car.

Those using an unregistered or unseaworthy vessel, or those who don’t have a licence, may also face an increased fine of $704.

It’s expected to be a busy summer for police with many Victorian lakes full and predictions of above average temperatures.

Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Victoria squadron commodore Barry Cordwell welcomed the legislation.

‘‘The Victorian Volunteer Coastguard fully support the new legislation, and anything for that matter what would provide safer activities on our waterways,’’ he said.

Mr Cordwell said the expansion of legislation to include drug and alcohol testing would be beneficial for local waters.

‘‘Unfortunately there’s always an element of alcohol in regards to boating,’’ he said.

Victoria Police assistant commissioner Chris O’Neill said there was no room for complacency when it came to water safety and police would be increasing patrols to ensure everyone stayed safe.

Ports Minister Denis Napthine urged people to take care over Christmas.

‘‘We want people to enjoy recreational boating this holiday season and we can all contribute to a safer boating environment by making sure we behave responsibly and are equipped with the appropriate safety equipment,’’ he said.

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