by Ken McManus
After a major overnight search by emergency services along a large stretch of the NSW North Coast two fishermen have been rescued from the ocean off Iluka.
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Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Stacey Tannos again urged all boaters on NSW waters to Log On with their nearest MRNSW unit and wear lifejackets whenever they were on the water.
He said the unique Log On service was provided by all MRNSW units along the coast to help keep track of vessels on the water and guide search crews in the event of an emergency.
Marine Rescue Ballina, Evans Head, Iluka-Yamba and Wooli, the NSW Police Force Marine Area Command, Ballina Jet rescue service, Ballina Surf Lifesaving and Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter joined the search and rescue operation that stretched from Ballina south to Iluka.
The search was mounted after MR Ballina received a MAYDAY call at 3.50pm yesterday (Friday) from a vessel reporting it was taking water close to rocks near the South Ballina wall. The search was suspended for the night at 11.30pm before resuming this morning.
About 6.30am, the Westpac chopper located the overturned boat 8.5 nautical miles east of Iluka Bluff and soon after spotted the two men, who had clung to a large esky overnight. They were winched to safety and transported to Lismore Base hospital.
MRNSW Northern Rivers Regional Controller Steve Reading said the missing vessel was not Logged On with MRNSW so crews had no information about its departure time or where it was headed to guide the search operation.
'If boaters Log On and tell us where they’re heading, that gives us a starting point to begin looking in an emergency like this,' he said.
Commissioner Tannos said Logging On and Off was a quick and simple process.
'All it takes is a call on your marine radio to the local MRNSW base to tell them where you’re going and when you’ll be back. This means someone responsible knows you’re out there and if you don’t call back in to Log Off, our volunteers can swiftly start searching for you,' he said.
'It gives you peace of mind but more importantly, it gives us a starting point for a search operation, increasing the chance that you will be found quickly. Every minute is crucial in an emergency at sea.
'Calls can be made by mobile phone but your marine radio will have better transmission and reception when you’re off the coast.'
Commissioner Tannos also urged all skippers to ensure everyone on board was wearing a lifejacket at all times.
'Nine out of 10 people who drowned while boating in NSW over the past decade were not wearing a lifejacket,' he said.
'Please don’t gamble with your safety. Our crews will be on the way as quickly as possible but wearing a lifejacket is the simplest thing you can do to help save your life in an emergency.
For a full list of all volunteer Marine Rescue units in NSW, click here.