Safer Boating Forum welcomes TAIC report linking jet boat crash to alcohol

04 June 2020

The Safer Boating Forum welcomes a Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) report into a fatal jet boat crash on the Hollyford River in March 2019. TAIC links the crash to alcohol.

Forum Chair, and Maritime NZ Deputy Director, Sharyn Forsyth, said TAIC’s report is consistent with the Forum’s recently published position paper Safer when sober.

“Our position is boaties should never drive, or paddle, a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” Ms Forsyth said.

“TAIC’s report about this tragic accident reinforces that message to boaties.”
The position paper, developed separately prior to the report, guides the Forum’s 24 organisations’ work, including research and public messaging, aimed at encouraging boaties to avoid alcohol.

As part of that work the Forum’s data sub-group has increased its research into alcohol and boating, and Maritime NZ is allocating more funding for research. Funding for safer boating comes from the Fuel Excise Duty (FED) on petrol. Boaties pay FED when they put fuel into their boats.

TAIC’s recommendation to Maritime NZ reinforces the importance of this research. The recommendation is that Maritime NZ continue to develop its fatal accident database to improve the quality of the data so that the maritime sector is better able to understand the risks of alcohol and drug use in recreational boating accidents.

Research shows that alcohol is one of the four main factors linked to boating. The Forum’s boating code focuses on those risks and encourages safe behaviour:

  • Wear your lifejacket
  • Take two waterproof ways to call for help
  • Check the marine weather forecast
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Be a responsible skipper.

“The Forum has focused on these risks for more than a decade,” Ms Forsyth said.

“TAIC’s report is timely as our messaging is spread wider to more strongly include avoiding alcohol.”

Statistics from Safer when sober

Over the past 10 years, alcohol and drugs have played a part in an estimated average of 5 recreational boating and watercraft fatalities per year – a total of 50.

The Boating Safety Strategy review (2007) estimated alcohol consumption was involved in 18 percent of recreational boating and watercraft accidents that resulted in fatalities between 2000 and 2006, based on post-mortem investigations.
The actual percentage of alcohol-related recreational boating and watercraft fatalities, however, is likely to be higher because alcohol and drug testing was not always carried out in post-mortems so undoubtedly more cases went unreported.

An Australian study found alcohol to be a factor in 28 percent of recreational boating and watercraft fatalities in Australia in 2005, while a US study showed alcohol was the ‘leading contributing’ factor in 16 percent of US boating fatalities in 2011.

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), therefore, suggests substance impairment is likely to be a contributing factor in around 25 percent of New Zealand’s recreational boating and watercraft fatalities.
However, some boaties continue to drink on board.

According to Maritime NZ’s 2019 Recreational Boating Participation Research, approximately 62 percent of boaties avoid alcohol every time they go to sea (a 5% decrease since 2018) and approximately 86 percent of boaties avoid alcohol at least most of the time (a 3% decrease since 2018).

“We know not to drink and drive – it’s the same on a boat,” Ms Forsyth said.

You can download a copy of the report here:

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