DAF considers new methods in wake of vessel sinkings
THE Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will consider an automatic data-sharing system with search and rescue organisations following an inquest into the sinking of two Queensland vessels and the loss of eight crew.
A shake-up of vessel-tracking systems was suggested during the ongoing inquest held at the Coroner's Court at Gladstone into the tragic sinking of fishing vessels Cassandra off the Fraser Coast on April 4, 2016, and Dianne off Seventeen Seventy on October 16, 2017.
DAF senior compliance officer David McCorkindale took to the stand to explain the department's Vessel Monitoring System.
The system is used by the department to manage and monitor fisheries.
Fishers can "opt in" to have their data sent to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
Mr McCorkindale told the court this feature was optional and that if a fisher had opted in their vessel data could be used in a search-and-rescue mission.
He told the court safety was an "optional feature" of the VMS but not its purpose.
Mr McCorkindale gave evidence the DAF did not hold any expertise in search and rescue missions and that its sole aim was fishery management.
The court was told when a vessel "failed to poll" (position alert) using the system, the DAF received a real-time alert.
A failure-to-poll alert could mean the tracking system had been turned off, had an electronic fault or the vessel had been lost.
Coroner David O'Connell recommended DAF implement an automated system that alerted search and rescue authorities whenever a vessel failed to poll.
"And if it was a false alarm then it would only be a matter of phone calls," Mr O'Connell told Mr McCorkindale.
Mr O'Connell also recommended DAF remove the "opt-in" option and make location information sharing mandatory.
"I would hate for a fisherman to be floating around in the ocean and thinking: 'I wish I ticked that box to send my data to AMSA'," Mr O'Connell said.
Mr McCorkindale said talks were already in place to implement a data-sharing system and could take up to six months for changes to be made.