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Boating safety and personal flotation device research report 2014-15

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Report: TR 2015/25

Author: Kim Parker

About this report

Harbourmaster staff observations, and research in 2013 and 2014 identified issues with carriage, and fit of personal flotation devices (PFDs) in the boating community. These observations and findings motivated further research in the 2014-15 boating season. The purpose of the research undertaken was to identify safety and compliance gaps in the boating community.

Two researchers completed the quantitative field research, in six harbourmaster areas, on the water. This methodology ensured data was collected consistently, that the findings are indicative of boaties behaviour on the water, and that the results are across harbourmaster areas. The harbourmaster areas included in the research were Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taupo, and Canterbury.

A total of 963 vessels were surveyed. Aboard these vessels were 2374 adults and 533 children (13 years or less). Powerboats were the most common vessels used, and on the east and west coast the majority of these being used for fishing; on inland waters, towing was the most common activity. The most frequent age for skippers was 35-44, followed closely by 45-54 years, 95% of skippers surveyed were male.

61 skippers failed to carry sufficient PFDs for the number of people aboard their vessel. 27.2% of children wore PFDs which were substantially too small or large. Continued enforcement and education is needed in relation to these items.

Inflatables were a popular choice of PFD with 36.2% skippers surveyed carrying at least one inflatable aboard their vessel. However, 59.7% of skippers were unaware of the servicing requirements for these PFDs. In addition, some skippers and passengers struggled with how to put an inflatable on, this, and the lack of knowledge of how to use it in an emergency situation was also highlighted. Children under the age of 12 years or less than were also observed to be wearing adult inflatable PFDs. The research indicates that this a national issue. It is recommended that the national agency, Maritime NZ, work with manufacturers and distributors of PFDs to improve safety in relation to inflatable PFDs from point of sale.

There are compliance gaps with vessel identification and jetski registration in the areas that have regional bylaws requiring these.

Cellphones were the most commonly carried form of communication and yet there were a high number of skippers not waterproofing this form of communication. VHF radios were the second most commonly carried form of communication and a small number of skippers indicated they did not know how to use their VHFs. Further education is needed in both of these areas.

Boaties are a mobile community; a number of boaties came from outside of the region in which they were boating in. It is important that harbourmaster offices collaborate on activities, and the findings further highlight the importance of the national agency guidance and activities.

Read or download the report

Boating safety and personal flotation device research report 2014-15 (PDF 1MB)


  Executive summary iii
1 Introduction 1
1.1 Background 1
1.1.1 The rules and safety advice 1
1.2 Purpose 1
1.3 Methodology 1
1.4 Limitations 2
2 Findings 3
2.1 General 3
2.1.1 Surveys by waterway 3
2.1.2 Surveys by harbourmaster area and geographic spread 4
2.1.3 Activity type 4
2.1.4 Vessel type 4
2.2 Activity type by area 5
2.3 Skipper demography 5
2.3.1 Skipper age 5
2.3.2 Skipper gender 5
2.4 Personal Flotation Devices 5
2.4.1 Carriage of PFDs 5
2.4.2 PFD fit 6
2.4.3 Inflatable PFDs 6
2.5 Vessel identification 8
2.5.1 Powerboats over 4 metres named 8
2.5.2 Powerboats over 4 metres named, by area 8
2.5.3 Personal watercraft (jetski) registered 8
2.5.4 Jetskis registered by harbourmaster area 8
2.6 Communications carriage 9
2.6.1 Total number of communications carried 9
2.6.2 Number of communications carried by harbourmaster area - table 9
2.6.3 Number of communications carried by vessel 9
2.6.4 Number of communications carried by geographic spread 9
2.6.5 Cellphones 10
2.6.6 Cellphone in waterproofed or carried in a drybag 10
2.6.7 Types of communications carried 10
2.7 Where skippers reside vs. survey location 11
2.7.1 Percentage of skippers from outside the region they were boating in 11
3 Observations 12
3.1 Personal flotation devices 12
3.1.1 Carriage of PFDs 12
3.1.2 Children wearing PFDs 13
3.1.3 PFD fit 13
3.1.4 PFDs in a readily accessible location 13
3.1.5 Inflatable PFDs 13
3.1.6 Communications 14
3.1.7 General knowledge of rules 14
4 Trends 15
5 Discussion 15
5.1 Insufficient PFD carried 15
5.2 PFDs in readily accessible location 15
5.3 PFD fit 15
5.4 Wearing of PFDs 15
5.5 Inflatable PFDs 16
5.6 Vessel identification 16
5.7 Communication carriage 16
5.8 Collision prevention rules 16
6 Recommendations 17
7 Conclusion 17
  Appendix A - survey questions 18
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