Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Flat-battery calls exasperate coastguard

Colin Small. Photo / APN
Colin Small. Photo / APN

Auckland Coastguard has been swamped as boaties take advantage of the improved weather, with many callouts the result of gadget-heavy modern boats running their batteries flat.

Maritime officials expressed frustration at the high proportion of boats needing assistance in the Hauraki Gulf for easily avoided problems, potentially distracting the coastguard from more serious jobs.

Duty officer Tony Winyard said the coastguard answered 28 callouts on Saturday, and a further 15 by late yesterday afternoon. All eight rescue vessels worked relentlessly to clear the queue of jobs.

"Most of those callouts are flat batteries and mechanicals, with the odd out-of-fuel.

"Generally for flat batteries ... people have been out all day ... have their electrical equipment on all day - fishfinders, radios, and some vessels have audio systems - and when they come to start their motors they've got no power left."

He said callouts for flat batteries were time-consuming and could pull resources away from urgent rescues.

"When we're assisting someone and we're having to tow them back to their home port because we can't jump-start them it does tie up a rescue vessel that potentially could be needed for a distress call."

Each coastguard vessel costs about $300 an hour to operate.

The most serious weekend callout was for a vessel taking on water in the Firth of Thames on Saturday.

"We got a couple of coastguard rescue vessels over to them and assisted them back to shore safely. On that occasion both vessels were available - it was either luck or good timing."

Mr Winyard urged boaties planning to fish all day to either reduce their electrical usage or start their engine intermittently during the day.

In the past 12 months, Coastguard New Zealand said it responded to 3300 calls for assistance, many of which could have been prevented with more preparation and planning by skippers.

President Colin Small reported last week that standards had slipped, with 10 per cent fewer boaties checking forecasts before going to sea.

- NZ Herald

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