Tag Archive for: Houseboat

Operating a hire and drive business can be rewarding but it also comes with many risks as you are dealing with the general public, most of which have little or no boating experience.

While this article is primarily aimed at hire and drive/bare boat operators it should take note as it raises many facts that apply to all vessel operators.

Hire and drive operators are required to comply with Schedules 1 and 2 of Marine Order 504 and have in place a documented Safety Management System that meets those requirements.

The general public a wide range of choices when it comes to hire and drive activities including:

  • Paddle craft
  • Runabouts
  • Jetski’s
  • Houseboats
  • Sailing craft

All of these provide the participants with the opportunity to undertake their desired on-water activity but for the operator it presents an income stream which comes with many inherent risks.

Risks that include damage to vessels, participant’s, other people, infrastructure and the environment all of which have the potential to cost you money!

 Here’s a couple of examples…

A number of inexperience tourists hired kayaks from a commercial hire and drive operator and unable to resist the strong currents they drifted away from shore.

One of the kayaks overturned throwing two people into the water. This along with the fact they ended up well away from where they hired the kayaks had the potential to end in disaster. Fortunately, they were rescued and suffered no injuries other than their pride.

A jetski operator who had a group together preparing for a tour had 2 incidents occur within minutes of each other, both with the potential to end in serious injury and damage to the jetski’s.

One of the incidents involved an inexperienced participant shooting forward and colliding with a berthed vessel. Luckily, the person involved suffered no injuries but the jetski was damaged.

What do both of these examples tell you?

  1. The safety inductions for participant’s were most likely not sufficient;
  2. The observers and/or tour leaders were not paying sufficient attention to the participant’s;
  3. Measures to ensure participants safety were not followed;
  4. The operators either failed to provide their staff with a full induction to their safety management system including the procedures; or
  5. They didn’t have a safety management system in place with the appropriate procedures.

How to ensure safety?

It’s no good just saying they have a ticket, so they know what to do, the fact is you don’t know for sure they know your operations. Below is 5 simple steps to help ensure safety:

  1. The first step to ensuring safety for you and your business and all participant’s is to have in place a documented safety management system with all operational and emergency procedures;
  2. Ensure you induct and train all of your staff involved in vessel operations;
  3. Continually monitor their performance;
  4. Provide a detailed safety briefing for all participants prior to departure;
  5. Have in place a procedure for monitoring all participants.

If you have all of the above steps in place then your well on your way to be a safe operation. Note that all of the information provided herein is not only relevant to hire and drive operators but in general applies to all commercial operations!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Number one recommendation is to review your operational and emergency procedures to ensure they are accurate and reflect your current operations and, if you don’t have a documented Safety Management System (SMS) get onto it NOW.

Then ensure all your staff responsible for vessels operations are fully inducted and trained accordingly and continue to monitor their performance. This is the only way you’re going to be able to protect yourself and your business in the event of an incident!


My best tip is if you have an existing SMS have it assessed by someone who can give you real feedback, not just on does it tick the AMSA box, but will it stand up to a legal challenge. We provide a free SMS assessment service through to a full Audit of your system.

If you don’t have an SMS in place then you need to contact us immediately to get one underway. With several hundred of our SMS’s out there already you know we can deliver one for you that ticks the AMSA box and will stand up to a legal challenge!

Do you operate a declared ship?

A declared ship is a domestic commercial vessel which has a fixed toilet or toilets and is designed to carry more than 12 passengers. If you fit into this category you’re required to have a Sewage Discharge Log Book and a Sewage Management Plan. Why not use our Small Ships Sewage Discharge Log Book which meets all the government requirement. Check it out here. We can even develop your Sewage Management Plan.