Torres Strait marine safety project

stop, think, survive graphic from the Torres Strait marine safety program

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Boats are the main means of transport between islands and often voyages of more than 80 nautical miles (nm) are undertaken in all kinds of weather. Unfortunately this region has one of the highest number of search and rescues in Australia.

Maritime Safety Queensland has widely consulted with island councils. Three major issues were identified that lead to boating safety problems in the Torres Strait:

  • the need for training in trip planning and emergency procedures
  • motor maintenance and troubleshooting
  • the availability and cost of boat safety equipment, particularly the 406 MHz emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB).

In response to these concerns a number of initiatives have been developed, including the development of a BoatSafe course which covers:

  • motor maintenance
  • breakdown prevention
  • safety equipment and its use
  • emergency procedures at sea
  • general boating rules.

Maritime Safety Queensland introduced the Torres Strait marine safety project in July 2006. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) are partners in the program and are members of the program’s steering group.

The program objectives are to reduce the number of incidents of lost seafarers in the Torres Strait, increase the chances of survival of lost seafarers, increase community and industry commitment to safety and achieve outcomes through partnerships with communities, industry and government agencies.

An integrated boating safety campaign has been developed targeting the common barriers and safety issues confronting seafarers. The campaign features:

  • television advertising
  • local radio advertising
  • local press advertising
  • a pocket handbook in local languages
  • a map and safety sticker to determine fuel requirements for travel between island communities
  • provision of safety grab bags
  • supply of safety equipment through island stores.

EPIRB exchange program

Emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) are an essential item of safety equipment. An EPIRB exchange program, in conjunction with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), has been in place since 2007. The program offered seafarers a new 406 MHz beacon at a nominal cost in exchange for their 121.5 MHz beacon. This program continues and is now focusing on replacement and servicing of the 406 MHz prior to reaching their expired date.


BoatSafe was introduced in August 2007 through a partnership with the locally-based TAFE college. Island communities have had the opportunity to attend a BoatSafe recreational marine driver licence course and delivery of BoatSafe is continuing throughout the communities.

BoatSafe is also being delivered within the high school curriculum for year 10 students. It is anticipated that eventually all community members will have completed the BoatSafe course as they pass through the school system.

Vessel census

A vessel census has been completed which gathered information on all boats within the Torres Strait and data has been analysed. The census provided information about:

  • the numbers of vessel in use and not in use
  • the overall condition and seaworthiness of boats
  • what safety equipment is carried
  • boat make and model plus motor size and type.

The census provides a benchmark and helps give direction for future safety initiatives.

Safer Straits – launch of readers

Image of the boating safety and environment readersMaritime Safety Queensland and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority have supported the Australian Marine Environment Protection Association (AUSMEPA) in creating two readers about boating safety in Torres Strait and caring for the environment. The readers were put together with the help of 18 students from Tagai College on Thursday and Horn Islands.

While helping put together the readers, the students learnt about key boating safety issues and preventing pollution which can have a physical and harmful impact on their community and the marine environment. Each subject area within the readers is discussed in terms of – What are the facts? What are the issues? What can we do?

Appearing throughout both readers, the students are undertaking basic boatingsafety education as well as investigating marine environmental threats to their community and learning how to prevent harmful impacts of things like litter, ghost nets, climate change, pollution from boats as well as the threats to turtles and local fisheries.

A total of 800 copies of the readers will be provided to the 16 schools on various islands throughout Torres Strait.

Materials developed for the Torres Strait marine safety project

  • BoatSafe Workbook
    image of the front cover of the BoatSafe Workbook for Torres Strait

  • safety map and fuel requirements sticker for boats
    image of a sticker showing safety and fuel requirements for the Torres Strait region

  • safety equipment sticker
    image of a sticker showing safety equipment for the Torres Strait region

  • safety pocket handbook
    image of the cover of a safety pocket handbook for the Torres Strait region
  • a series of television commercials
  • a series of radio advertisements
  • primary school boating safety resources.

Further information

For further information about the Torres Strait marine safety project, email

Last updated
23 January 2023