November 29, 2015 6:58pm
BOATING authorities fear for the safety of recreational fishermen after a spate of trailer tampering at boat ramps.
Fishermen say their trailers have been unhooked from tow balls, safety pins and chains have been undone, lights have been disconnected, trailer wheel nuts have been loosened and plugs have been cut from tail lights.
Tasmania Police is now conducting inspections at boat ramps around the state.
Marine and Safety Tasmania recreational boating manager Peter Hopkins told theMercury he had heard of trailer couplings being lifted off and worse at Fortescue Bay, Pirates Bay, Lake Burbury, Strahan and Burns Bay at St Helens.
Mr Hopkins said it had been happening around the state for more than a year, but reports had increased over the past six months.
MAST is encouraging boat owners to use padlocks on trailer coupling locking latches and trailer coupling safety hitches.
“I have asked police to keep a lookout at their various districts but obviously they can’t be everywhere, so people need to check their trailer’s coupling and the wheel nuts as well,” Mr Hopkins said.
“It is a situation where we could have a severe incident where someone could be killed with a wheel coming off and hitting another vehicle or the trailer coming off the car or the boat coming off the trailer.”
Fisherman Mark Watson said someone had removed his trailer coupling safety hitch earlier this month when it was parked at the Eaglehawk Neck boat ramp.
When Mr Watson drove off, the trailer jumped off the tow ball up Eaglehawk Neck Hill and was luckily held on by a safety chain.
“There was no real damage as I run a really short safety chain, so I was lucky because it could have been a lot more serious,” he said.
He recently bought a new locking system enabling his hitch and safety latch to be padlocked.
Mr Watson said he had heard of a dozen incidents where people had their wheel nuts loosened and safety pins taken out of the coupling latch.
“If one of these trailers come off with an decent-sized $80,000 boat, you’re going to ruin the boat and you could kill someone,” he said.
Sunday Tasmanian fishing columnist Carl Hyland said fishermen were planning to install dashcams that operated when the vehicle was turned off.
The Tuna Club of Tasmania, alongside the Tasman Neighbourhood Watch group, have installed CCTV cameras at the Eaglehawk Neck boat ramp for fishers heading out off Pirates Bay.
Dunalley Constable David McKenzie said investigations were continuing.
“Police have been conducting marine and land-based inspections of boat ramps in line with increased seasonal activities,” Constable McKenzie said.
Anyone seeing suspicious activity is asked to phone police on 131 444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.