Image Grabs from documentary on slug boat Dianne that was filmed for the Discovery Channel.
Image Grabs from documentary on slug boat Dianne that was filmed for the Discovery Channel.

Trawler tragedy sparks safety call

A MEMBER of the Cairns fishing community believes options which do not compromise the confidentiality of professional fishing locations should be considered as the families of the six men killed after their trawler capsized last October call for stronger safety regulations.

Sea-cucumber dive boat crewmen Zac Feeney, 28, Eli Tonks, 39, Adam Bidner, 33, and Chris Sammut, 34, Ben Leahy, 45, and Adam Hoffman, 30, lost their lives when their trawler the FV Dianne sunk in rough seas off Bundaberg in October last year.

Family members have given the Australian Maritime Safety Authority a 42-page report asking for compulsory vessel-monitoring systems, used to police restricted fishing areas, to be used to locate boats in emergency situations as well.

It is believed the victims of the Dianne tragedy possibly floated for more than five hours in deadly seas.

But Great Barrier Reef Tuna manager Rowan Lamason said technology such as float-free EPIRBS, which activate without human intervention, would be "just as safe".

"It's not going to save you but it'll start the search and rescue a lot quicker," he said.

"VMS is used for fishing activities and to ensure they're following legislation, not safety. They are two totally different systems.

"There is a lot of confidentiality involved with VMS and that information on where people are fishing is intellectual property and shouldn't be made available to others."

AMSA chief executive Mick Kinley said VMS and float-free EPIRBS were discussed with Zac Feeney's brother Joel after receipt of the families' investigation notes.

"AMSA has been fast-tracking a proposal to mandate the use of float-free EPIRBs for most domestic commercial vessels operating more than two nautical miles from land," he said.

"A float-free, auto-activating EPIRB can signal a request for help within minutes of being submerged in water without action of a person."

A spokeswoman from the Australian Fishing Management Authority, which monitors the VMS, would not comment on the matter.



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