Boaties urged to look out for high-voltage hazards

Close-up of a high-voltage undersea cable covered in netting and barnacles
Image: Ergon Energy

Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) and Ergon Energy are reminding boat captains to be aware of high-voltage undersea and overhead power infrastructure when they’re out and about.

Queensland has plenty of high-voltage cables up to 33,000V crisscrossing the state’s waterways and Ergon Area Manager Peter Lougheed is urging boaties to be on the lookout for them when sailing under powerlines or dropping anchor near cables.

“Not too long ago we had divers remove 27 anchors from one relatively short underwater power cable between the mainland and a southern Queensland island,” Lougheed said.

Related article: Ergon urges extra care around powerlines after incident

“This means the owners of those anchors failed to take notice of the large warning signs we have on the banks clearly marking the location of the cable. So before dropping that anchor, particularly in rivers and estuaries, look out for signs marking underground services such as electricity. 

“Similarly, if you’re on a sailboat or other vessel that stands tall out of the water, take a look at maps along your proposed route to locate any overhead powerlines. Those who have trailer sailboats should always lower their mast before leaving the boat ramp to avoid hitting overhead powerlines in the streets.”

VMR president Thomas Grice said if the worst happens and a boatie strikes or becomes entangled in electrical lines or cables, they should always radio or phone their local VMR or Coast Guard squadron or call triple zero for assistance.

“If an anchor has dragged and caught an underwater cable, the most dangerous thing you can do is try and lift it because you could very well be bringing a high-voltage cable up with it, creating a potentially deadly electrical scenario,” Grice said.

“The best thing to do is play it safe and cut the anchor rope or if it is a chain, don’t touch it, keep away and call VMR, who will be able to assist.

“The same goes for anyone with a masted sailboat. If they’ve misjudged their route and get entangled on overhead powerlines, they should never touch the mast, keep as far away as possible from where it is attached to the boat and if it isn’t possible to manoeuvre off the powerline, call triple zero immediately.”

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Grice also reminded boaties to ensure their boats are seaworthy before heading out these holidays.

“If your boat has been stored away for an extended period and you’re looking to hit the water, ensure your engine is serviced, you have fresh fuel in your tank and the boat’s hull is seaworthy.

“And remember to contact your local VMR or Coast Guard squadron to log on, informing them of your trip and what time you expect to be back. It’s a free service that can, and has, saved lives.”

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