Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Domestic safety programs and community awareness

AMSA’s domestic safety programs

AMSA works closely with a diverse range of stakeholders to raise community awareness concerning maritime safety and to implement domestic safety programs.

Torres Strait Marine Safety Program

The Torres Strait stretches 150 kilometres from the tip of Cape York Peninsula in North Queensland to the south-west coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG). 

Islands, reefs, and coral sand cays are scattered throughout the region. The northern-most island is within five kilometres of the PNG coastline.

The region includes 18 island communities, with populations ranging from 55 to over 1600, and also two mainland communities.

The islands are scattered over a geographic area of 48,000 square kilometres. The region’s total population is about 8300, of which more than 6100 are Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people.

Torres Strait Queensland - map

The regional reliance on seaborne transport in small open boats over long distances of open-ocean was resulting in very high search and rescue (SAR) incidents.

The Torres Strait Marine Safety Program (TSMSP) began in 2006 as a joint initiative of organisations including AMSA, Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) and the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA).

The Queensland Police Service (QPS) and National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) of PNG became program partners in later years.

The project began after it was found Torres Strait Islanders had a one in 12 chance of being involved in a marine incident, while Queenslanders in general have a one in 3,300 chance.

Today, Torres Strait Islanders have a far smaller chance of being involved in a marine incident.

TSMSP Steering Committee

The TSMSP Steering Committee provides a management structure and funding arrangements to address priority actions in line with the Torres Strait Marine Safety Strategy. 

The programs primary focus is:

  • improving and promoting boating safety in the Torres Strait
  • reducing the number of SAR operations in the area
  • increasing the survivability of persons lost at sea
  • supporting development of the near coastal maritime industry in the region.

Graph of incidents in the Torres Strait

Current Priorites

Boating Safety Education

The TSMSP team deliver a range of boating safety education programs throughout the Torres Strait region, and supports the delivery of the BoatSafe program to high school students.

Kids in life vests

Maritime Safety Education Workshops have been delivered to each of the 23 school campuses throughout the Torres Strait region.

Almost 3,000 properly fitting lifejackets have been distributed, and marine safety equipment educational kits provided to each campus for ongoing maritime safety education and broader curriculum support.

Picture – Workshop at Warraber Island.

Students sitting around as a group outdoors.

Students from the Thursday Island and Northern Peninsula Area Colleges receive BoatSafe training so graduating students leave school with a Recreational Marine Drivers Licence and other maritime safety skills and qualifications.

Picture – Senior students from the Northern Peninsula Area College undertaking Shipboard Safety Skill Set training.

Managing a Safety Grab Bag Scheme and 406MHz EPIRB Replacement Program

The TSMSP team manage a Safety Grab Bag Scheme and 406MHz EPIRB Replacement Program to make essential life-saving equipment available to community members when travelling by vessel throughout the region.

Safety equipment for boats

A lack of appropriate safety equipment in good condition was found to be a common problem during vessel inspections and marine incident investigations.

Safety Grab Bags are now available to recreational boat users unable to properly equip their own boats.

Thirty-eight bags are available for short term borrowing from police establishments throughout the region, without charge to the user.

Two people holding EPIRBs while standing on the shore with water and boats in the background

406MHz EPIRB’s are an essential piece of life saving equipment for all offshore voyages. They have saved the lives of thousands of people around the world, including many lives in the Torres Strait.

Picture – Shanice Havili, AMSA Indigenous Boating Safety Officer (left) and, then Marine Officer, MSQ, Tanya Takai-Bowie (right) promoting the use of 406MHz EPIRBs.

Liaising with communities and developing and implementing a media, marketing and communication strategy

A crucial element of the TSMSP is engagement with Traditional Owners, community representatives and industry leaders, to discuss current and emerging maritime safety issues.

This includes working with the PNG-NMSA to deliver TSMSP boating safety education to those villages in the Western Province subject to the Torres Strait Treaty.

From this engagement and consultation, an intensive media, marketing and communications strategy is maintained through various forums, including:

  • radio
  • print and online media
  • press advertising
  • sponsorship of and attending major community events throughout the year targeting specific seasonal and cultural activities.
People standing on a beach with water and a boat in the background

Picture – AMSA, MSQ and QPS officers following a Maritime Safety Workshop at Saibai Island with various stakeholders including recreational boat operators, commercial fishers, land and sea rangers and local council representatives

The land mass in the background is Papua New Guinea.

Six people standing in a row with palm trees and water in the background.

Picture – TSMSP sponsorship of major community events, such as the Island of Origin Sporting Tournament, provides an invaluable opportunity to promote the key messages and strategies of the TSMSP within the Torres Strait region.

Up to 1,500 people can attend these events with many travelling by small vessels to do so.

Further information

For non-emergency Australian Maritime Safety Authority information, please visit the contact us page.

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