By Alan Lucas, SV, Soleares
"Queensland recently considered extending
its licensing net to include all boat owners whether their craft
could plane at speed or not. To date it has not been implemented
but, as we all know, bureaucracies never scrap a sound money-making
idea; they simply wait until we have all forgotten about it and
then they slip it in".(editors note, this article appeared
in early 2005, very soon after Queensland government did exactly
as Alan described/predicted they would.)
This is an excerpt from an article I wrote
for the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol's newsletter, "The
Masthead" early 2001. It was a critical piece about Victoria's
sudden swing from no boat registrations and licences to a total
blanket law on all boats and their owners. It netted the new
bureaucracy millions of dollars and was justified under that
tired old heading of "Safety".
A couple of years before that, Queensland
Transport was floating the same idea and opening it for public
input. My input, in the form of a critical letter, did not even
deserve an acknowledgement of receipt, let alone a response.
It was the sort of public involvement we have come to expect
of this department. So I changed tacks and wrote articles for
the above newsletters "Modern Boating" and "Afloat",
hoping to alert my fellow sailors of potential events. The response
was one letter criticising my lack of concern for "safety"
and another suggesting my attack was "cynical"!
So, how cynical is it now? Six years later,
sure enough, Queensland is going down that track and, yep, they
are calling it a "safety initiative". Victoria, in
the meantime, has had a rise in boating fatalities since its
inception of rules and regs; so who's kidding who here?
The fact is Queensland Transport's (Maritime
Safety) blanket rules, obliging everyone with a boat of over
6 horse power to have a Recreational Marine Drivers License,
is nothing short of a blatant and hypocritical grab for cash.
It has absolutely nothing to do with safety and depends entirely
on the assumption that we, the owners of plodding displacement
vessels, have suddenly become a threat to life and limb. This
is so patently wrong that it is downright insulting. Let's look
at a few real life facts as against those dreamed up by the corporate
ladder climbers who are now controlling us.
First, is the above mentioned rise in accidents
since Victoria started down the track (reported in "Cruising
Helmsman", October 2004). Second, is the fact that accidents
amongst the displacement fleet are very rare, so much that they
are almost non-existent compared to planing craft accidents -
and planing craft drivers, never let it be forgotten, have been
licensed since 1962!
This fact is damning evidence in itself
that licensing does not produce safety. But the most profound
evidence of the legislation's futility as anything but a money
raiser comes from within the legislation itself. Unbelievably
- and breathtaking in its hypocrisy, is the fact that holiday
makers are exempt. That's right, if you've never seen a boat
in your life but want to hire one for a week's holiday, you are
miraculously deemed perfectly safe and do not need a licence!
Maritime safety would respond to
this by piously saying that hirees receive tuition before being
allowed to venture forth. Oh yeah? Sometimes, sometimes not,
it depends on circumstances. But even if the argument was valid,
by inference it suggests that a person owning a boat learns nothing.
Are the bureaucrats seriously trying to convince us that, having
spent a fortune on our boat, we then treat it with contempt?
Using myself as an example, let's look
at this subject from a human, rather than money-raising perspective.
At one level or another, every boat owner will relate to its
My sea time is 45 years plus. During that
period I have always owned my own boat, have continuously sailed
it and have never had an accident that could be sheeted home
to an incident caused by lack of safety rules. Until Queensland
Transport arbitrarily and without warning decided to strip all
coaster masters of their in-perpetuum qualifications (another
brilliant money-raising scheme), I was professionally qualified
for 30 of those years during which time I skippered many a vessel
in a variety of activities. Now, by the stroke of a bureaucrat's
pen, I am incompetent and need to be licensed!
Contrasting that is the fact that if I
were, say, a camel driver from Central Australia who had never
seen a boat in my life, I would automatically be considered more
than competent to take command of a large yacht, motor cruiser
or monstrous houseboat for as long as I had the money to afford
And they tell us it's a safety measure?
Give us a break. We may be silly enough to own a boat, but we're
not silly enough to swallow huge doses of hypocrisy and we certainly
don't believe the money raised will do anything but expand an
already bloated bureaucracy.
As from September 2005, we can expect to
be pursued by boating officers for yet another force-fed infringement.
But let us not forget that they are just ordinary people trying
to earn a living in the maritime environment that we all love.
Some, I suppose are tin gods trying to rattle their armour at
us, but most are embarrassed by the new law. Of a recent phone-around
of boating officers, only one thought the law "essential"
whilst all others recognised it for what it is - a hypocritical
So let's not shoot the messengers. It's
the feather-bedders at the top who are treating us like fools
with bottomless pockets. Before those pockets empty completely,
perhaps we should club together and try a new law in court. Could
any judge really believe that a boat owner is a greater threat
too safety than a landlubber let loose at sea? I don't think
so. Unless, of course he is thoroughly corrupt!