Police to target south-west water users

BOATING enthusiasts are being reminded that new Victorian laws and marine safety regulations will come into effect today.

Police now have the power to test ship, boat and jet-ski operators for illegal drugs such as ice, speed, ecstasy and cannabis.

Premier Ted Baillieu this week urged boaters to be safe, prepared and vigilant on Victorian waterways and said Water Police would increase patrols this season.

“While most people play it safe by the water, we still see around 200 serious incidents each year and around 500 calls for help each summer,” Mr Baillieu said.

“While drug testing has been commonplace on Victoria’s roads, Victoria Police have not had the power until now to administer preliminary drug tests on the water.

“This will be a primary focus for the Victoria Police summer water campaign, as well as other types of behaviour that can lead to tragedy — speed, poor preparation and impaired or unauthorised operation of vessels.”

Changes to rules include:

n a zero blood-alcohol limit for all commercial operators and recreational operators under the age of 21;

n an increased penalty of $282 for not wearing the appropriate lifejacket; and

n an increased penalty of $704 for operating an unregistered or unseaworthy vessel or operating a vessel without a licence.

Ports Minister Denis Napthine, the member for South West Coast, said that since wearing lifejackets became compulsory in 2005, drowning deaths had halved, but a percentage of boaters were still not wearing them and risking their lives.

“Transport Safety Victoria officers will be patrolling waterways and boat ramps to help educate boaters on the correct safety equipment requirements and to make sure people behave responsibly on the water,” Dr Napthine said. malexander@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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