Will compulsory kill switches for boats up to 4.8m be introduced in NSW?

By: Kevin Green

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Will NSW introduce compulsory kill switches for engines on boats up to 4.8m?

Will compulsory kill switches for boats up to 4.8m be introduced in NSW?
The Royal Yachting Association is preparing for the upcoming boating season.

Boat safety may be a boring subject as many of us have survived decades of high seas, emergencies and lucky escapes, and thus conclude we must be doing things right. However making boating easier and safer may not only save old salts one day but also encourage newbie boaters to cast off.


Mandatory kill switch lanyard laws for NSW

So with summer approaching faster than one of these new Evinrude two-stroke outboard motors, proposed legislation is currently in the works to bring in mandatory kill switches for boats up to 4.8m. The public consultation process closed on Friday, August 28. Among various proposed changes for boaters in NSW, the following piece of suggested legislation caught the attention of many boaters:


The operator of a recreational vessel under 4.8 metres in length that is fitted with a kill switch must wear any lanyard attached to the kill switch and ensure that the key of the kill switch is engaged if the engine is turned on and in gear (italics emphasis added).


Who uses a kill switch or kill cord religiously every outing? Certainly not me. My excuse is that I’m a busy journalist with cameras slung around my neck and chasing boats to photograph, so I need to move around while aboard. That is my reason for sometimes not using a kill cord.

But as I said, luck has done me well so far — recalling going at nearly 50kts on a tiny Williams Jet Tender and hitting a swell that knocked me off the console, is one recent incident that springs to mind. Of course I’ve known of marine engine kill cord systems that have failed, so putting my marine electronics review hat on there are a few electronic systems to consider (if the legislation were to be passed in its current form).


Kill switch systems for marine engines

Cynics may say the outboard industry hasn’t been overly helpful with solutions but for those of us who remember that horror scenario of two members of the English Milligan family being killed by their own rigid inflatable in 2013, it’s worth looking at a few options.

Most of the marine electronic options simply plug into existing kill switches and are reasonably priced systems that have been proved to work, such as the well-established Autotether. The wireless Autotether comes with clips for several popular outboard manufacturers and works with inboards as well. Being portable it’s particularly useful for errant yachting journalists who hop on and off other people’s boats with careless abandon. Should you fall off with the electronic tag on your belt and therefore go out of range, the motor is shut off.

Another slightly more complex system is the CoastKey that connects to the ignition system (but can be overridden with a password) that can also start, stop and tilt your engine. This system is similar to another one, Virtual Lifeline.


  • Have your say: how would a mandatory kill switch affect you if the legislation passed in its current form?




Autotether lanyard killswitch
The well-proved Autotether is a simple and robust wireless marine engines kill switch from the USA.


See the full version of this story in Trade-A-Boat #469, on sale September 3, 2015. Why not subscribe today?


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