Tough new laws introduced for skippers under the influence

PIC: WA Police

Skippers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or who navigate dangerously will soon face tough new penalties.

The State Government has made some changes to the Western Australian Marine Act 1982 which will come into force this month in a bid to boost boating safety.

Skippers who navigate dangerously could be slapped with a maximum fine of $36,000, three years imprisonment and two years disqualification from holding or obtaining a Recreational Skipper's Ticket, compared with a previous maximum fine of only $1000. 

Those who skipper a vessel under the influence face a fine of up to $3750 for a first offence, and up to $7,500 and 18 months imprisonment for a third or subsequent offence.

While those who navigate under the influence and cause a death will face a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

In the past seven years, 57 people have died from an on-water incident in WA.

This includes Kylie Bazzo and Debbie Burdon who died in a tragic boating accident in Mandurah back in January.

Debbie's husband John Burdon recently pleaded not guilty to two counts of manslaughter over the incident.

"This is another significant milestone in the strengthening of boating safety laws in WA that will provide a more effective deterrent and assist in reducing the increasing and senseless loss of life on our waterways," Assistant Transport Minister David Michael said.

"In September we introduced major changes to the safety equipment requirements for recreational vessels, and the staged introduction of new marine drug and alcohol laws from December 21 continues this important work.

"On the water, officers are seeing a very high level of compliance with the safety equipment changes, and skippers are to be applauded for their significant effort to carry essential lifesaving safety equipment on each voyage.

"Skippers will be encouraged to continue to learn more about safe boating practice and the new drug and alcohol laws in a Statewide education campaign."

Further laws will be introduced next year which will give police the power to drug and alcohol test a skipper if they are suspected of being under the influence.

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