Tin Can Bay volunteer Coast Guard Philip Feldman.
Tin Can Bay volunteer Coast Guard Philip Feldman. Renee Albrecht

UPDATE: Tin Can Bay Coastguard back after feds back down

THE Tin Can Bay Coast Guard is back in the water after what looks like a quick backdown by its federal management body, which had previously warned its skippers not to put to sea.

The body, Australian Volunteer Coast Guard, had ordered the Bay flotilla out of the water, amid allegations the rescue boats had not been subject to an appropriate Safety Management System report.

It is understood this claim was contested.

The move initially left water craft operators without an immediately available rescue service comparable in bar and blue water experience with the Bay flotilla.

Members were warned that any skipper putting to sea could be "at risk of a substantial fine.”

But AVCG appeared to respond quickly yesterday to publicity on the issue.

A Queensland Fire and Emergency Service release said Coast Guard members had been advised that their flotilla was back on duty, only hours after The Gympie Times reported online a warning that skippers taking Tin Can Bay boats out could be prosecuted.

Coast Guard Sunshine Coast Squadron Commodore John Milland initially confirmed Tin Can Bay had been taken out of operation, saying the Sandy Straits flotilla would step in.

"You probably know that Coast Guard has coverage in your marine area by both Tin Can Bay and Sandy Straits flotillas and always has and will continue to provide a professional rescue and assist service to your mariners.

"I don't know where you have obtained your information but I can categorically advise you that it is business as usual from Coast Guard in your area,” he said.

The "business as usual” claim was immediately rejected by the Bay flotilla's patron, Gympie MP Tony Perrett.

"It can't be business as usual without Tin Can Bay. It must be at best a reduced service,” he said.

"I am extremely concerned that our region's boating fraternity will be without a coast guard and at best (have) a reduced service.

"Claims that it is business as usual are double speak when the Tin Can Bay crews and service has been withdrawn.”

But yesterday afternoon, everything appeared to change.

In an apparent confirmation that the organisation had suspended Flotilla Commander Phil Feldman, but without any mention of a threat that skippers taking boats out could be prosecuted, Commodore Milland said there were no longer any compliance problems, "as the Acting Tin Can Bay commander has addressed them.”

"All vessels are operational and can be crewed by Tin Can Bay crews.

"The flotilla is fully operational,” he said.

This result came shortly after a Queensland Fire and Emergency Service statement confirming Mr Feldman's suspension, "pending appeal into alleged breaches of the AVCGA constitution and bylaws.”

The claimed breaches are believed to involve claims Mr Feldman had contacted "government departmental officers” and "publicly urged flotilla members to breach the by laws by contacting politicians.”

Mr Perrett said he was concerned about the ownership of Coast Guard assets "paid for through the hard work of local community supporters and the fundraising of volunteers.”

The QFES statement said flotilla members "were notified of the suspension of the commander this morning.”

EARLIER:

THE Tin Can Bay Coast Guard has been ordered out of the water by its federal management body, amid allegations the rescue boats have not been subject to an appropriate Safety Management System report.

It is understood this claim is contested.

The move leaves Tin Can Bay without an immediately available rescue and assistance service comparable in bar and blue water experience with the Tin Can Bay flotilla.

And without government intervention, it seems the situation will continue unto the New Year, meaning reduced rescue services over the Christmas holiday period.

There is a rescue and assistance service based at Boonooroo, north of Tin Can Bay, but it is understood to have mostly been used in the past for inshore work within the Tin Can Inlet.

An assistance service is available from Boonooroo, north of Tin Can Bay, but it is understood to have mostly been used for inshore missions.

Coast Guard Sunshine Coast Squadron Commodore John Milland denied there would be any disruption from taking Tin Can Bay out of operation and described the new arrangements as "business as usual.”

"You probably know the Coast Guard has coverage in your marine area by both Tin Can Bay and Sandy Straits flotillas and always has and will continue to provide a professional rescue and assist service to your mariners.

"I don't know where you have obtained your information but I can categorically advise you that it is business as usual from Coast Guard in your area,” he said.

The "business as usual " claim was immediately rejected by the Bay flotilla's patron, Gympie state MP Tony Perrett.

"It can't be business as usual without Tin Can Bay,” he said. "It must be at least a reduced service,” he said.

"I am extremely concerned that our region's boating fraternity will be without a coast guard and at best (have) a reduced service.

"There is absolutely no time period which is acceptable to be wthout this valuable service.

"This is a very serious situation which leaves boaties, visitors to our region, the volunteers and supporters in our local community with no clear support.

"Claims that this is business as usual are double speak when the Tin Can Bay crews and service has been withdrawn.

"I have been aware of concerns regarding the takeover of coast guard facilities by federal bodies.

"These have been paid for through the hard work of local community supporters and the fundraising of volunteers.”

He said he had met with Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford, who had advised him of a review into marine rescue organisations, because of service delivery concerns.

"My experience, previously as Deputy Mayor and as the Member for Gympie is that the Tin Can Bay Coast Guard is manned by a highly professional hardworking group of volunteers.

"I have never had any concern about their operation,” he said.

"This latest development just doesn't make sense. It seems to be heavy hadned and mired in bureaucratic game playing,” he said.

Tin Can Bay Coast Guard.
Tin Can Bay Coast Guard. Renee Albrecht

Minister Crawford has been approached for comment.

Tin Can Bay Coast Guard.
Tin Can Bay Coast Guard. Renee Albrecht

Australian Volunteer Coast Guard is understood to have told the local organisation that any skipper putting to sea is at risk of a substantial fine from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

The claim is the Tin Can Bay coast Guard has not provided what the VCG regards as "compliant" Safety Management System.

Volunteers are understood to be angry at the claim and ready to resign from VCG to join the rival organisation Volunteer Marine Rescue.

Tin Can Bay Coast Guard jetty.
Tin Can Bay Coast Guard jetty. Renee Albrecht

But such an action could see all assets claimed by the VCG, effectively seizing all locally raised funds, including donations from the public.

Gympie Times


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