Tragic death sparks push for sea headcount

The preventable death at sea of a Perth father of three has sparked a push for mandatory headcounts on commercial vessels.
The preventable death at sea of a Perth father of three has sparked a push for mandatory headcounts on commercial vessels.

THE preventable death at sea of a Perth father of three has sparked a push for mandatory headcounts on commercial vessels.

Damien Mills died in 2014 after he fell overboard while on a cruise carrying 36 people from Fremantle to Rottnest Island.

A coronial inquest found the tragic death would likely have been avoided if the boat’s crew had conducted headcounts and noticed Mr Mills was missing.

Labor senator Glenn Sterle’s private bill would force crews to conduct headcounts at the start and end of all voyages on domestic commercial vessels.

“If that skipper had implemented the headcount that was in his own safety management system the alarm would have gone off one was missing,” he told parliament on Monday.

Damien Mills died in 2014 after he fell overboard while on a cruise.

Mr Mills was left to tread water for up to 12 hours before his body was found about 20 hours after he went overboard.

Senator Sterle said “Damien’s law” would go some of the way to safeguard against similar deaths.

“You can fix this minister. You can get a pen and a piece of paper and draft up some legislation to make sure this never happens again,” Senator Sterle said.

WA Liberal senator Dean Smith said the government would not support the bill because it was not perfect.

“When we’re thinking about the safety of people at and on the sea, the legislative response from this chamber should be as perfect as it can be,” he said.

He said the bill would remove flexibility from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which could prevent the regulator from implementing more robust safety conditions in the future.