THE deployment of a $400,000 rapid response rescue vessel at Wooli will increase boating safety and is a real endorsement of the local Marine Rescue unit, Commander Richard Taffs said.
The purpose-built vessel capable of speeds of up to 40 knots in good conditions was deployed the week before Easter and has already been called into action, Mr Taffs said.
"On Easter Sunday we were called out to help a boat that had a flat battery off Arrawarra," he said.
The 9.5m craft has twin 250-horsepower engines and cruises at 30 knots. It is capable of reaching the northern end of the Solitary Island Marine Park in 10 minutes. The old boat took 30 minutes.
The new vessel is moored at the Wooli wharf on an "air berth" that lifts the vessel out of the water when it is not in use.
The unit is working on its scramble time and hopes to be able to man and launch the vessel within 15 minutes of receiving a distress call, Mr Taffs said.
The vessel is equipped with the latest high-tech gadgets including radio direction-finding for EPIRBS, thermal imaging sensors for night searches, new navigation systems and electronic charts.
The state rescue board conducted a risk assessment of the NSW coast to find out where the dangers were most acute and what type of response was necessary.
"Wooli was very high on that list due to the remoteness of the region and because the SIMP attracts a lot of boating activity. That's why they allocated a vessel to Wooli," Mr Taffs said.
It was also recognition that the Wooli unit was well trained, professional and capable of handling the most sophisticated equipment.
"This is a leap forward for a village of just 200 people to be allocated one of the best rescue vessels in NSW," he said.
Another boost for the area was that the boat was made at Yamba Welding and Engineering, he said.
"It's great to be able to bring work into the Clarence Valley; we expect more vessel will be built for other units," Mr Taffs said.
"We worked closely with Bill Collingburn to get the design right."
The cost of the boat was split between NSW Marine Rescue and the Government. The Wooli unit has to pay for an as-yet-undecided proportion of the boat.
The old boat and a vehicle have been sold to fund the purchase and other standard fundraising activities such as raffles were very important to the unit financially, Mr Taffs said.