A dispute between volunteer marine rescue organisations has created concerns over future rescue efforts.
A dispute between volunteer marine rescue organisations has created concerns over future rescue efforts.

Boaties at risk as high seas battle escalates

QUEENSLAND'S volunteer marine organisations are at war following a mutinous defection and threats to withdraw some of their rescue armada from the high seas.

The brawling between the Volunteer Coast Guard and Volunteer Marine Rescue has forced the Palaszczuk Government to order a snap review of the duelling organisations.

Millions of dollars of marine assets are tied up in the dispute with the flotilla of both organisations spread across 47 locations providing rescue services to stricken boaties.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll will spearhead the review which will probe long-running service agreements which combined cost taxpayers $3.2 million a year.

Both agreements expire on June 30 next year.

"I believe the most critical aspect of this statewide review will be for QFES to speak with volunteers in these marine rescue units and get a real feel for what is going on," Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford told The Courier-Mail.

A bitter imbroglio between the two organisations was sparked last year when Port Douglas Coast Guard voted to defect to Marine Rescue.

The long-running saga saw volunteers locked out of facilities, prompting warnings that boaties in the area would have to rely on a Cairns rescue vessel.

A dispute over who owns the boat and bank accounts continues.

With further defections to the more decentralised Marine Service model expected, there are concerns over potential impacts on rescue efforts.

Marine Rescue president Graham Kingston said while the Port Douglas dispute had created risks, local volunteers were never prepared to sit idle.

"The local guys still had a set of keys to the boat and said 'bugger you, we're going to use it if we have to'," he said.

Mr Kingston said Coast Guard units would continue to defect because each Marine Service unit owned their own assets.

"On the water we co-operate tremendously," he said. "It's administratively that there's a problem."