SAFETY CHECK: Tourism Whitsundays general manager Tash Wheeler is supportive of trialling hand-scanning technology on charter boats in the Whitsundays, if it proves effective in Cairns.
SAFETY CHECK: Tourism Whitsundays general manager Tash Wheeler is supportive of trialling hand-scanning technology on charter boats in the Whitsundays, if it proves effective in Cairns. Peter Lik

Hand scanner technology not a 'one size fits all' solution

THE trial of a marine onboard tourist management system that could prevent passengers being left behind at the Great Barrier Reef has begun in Cairns.

However it is not known if there will be a trail of palm reading technology in the Whitsundays.

The technology, which scans the palm of a passenger when they get off the boat and again when returning to the vessel, has been embraced in Cairns as a potential safeguard against tragedy, but Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association vice-president Al Grundy was not convinced it was a silver-bullet solution.

"Given the diversity of marine operators in the region, the solution to tracking passengers might need to be broader than a one-fits-all approach and would most likely still incorporate a manual headcount,” he said.

"But as the technology is advancing, it will get easier to swipe on and off a boat in a wet marine environment and when that happens our operators will embrace it.”

Mr Grundy also said for a region with well in excess of a million Environmental Management Charge visits to the GBR each year, the Whitsundays had a high safety record.

But the 20-year anniversary of the disappearance of US couple Tom and Eileen Lonergan off Port Douglas in 1998 and the ongoing inquest into the diving death of Bethany Farrell at Blue Pearl Bay in 2015 has brought charter boat safety into the spotlight.

Skipper Stephen McGowan, of Whitsunday company Mars Charters, has 15 years of experience in the marine charter business and thought on smaller vessels the technology wouldn't work.

"If you had a hand scanner on the boat, where are you going to put it?” he said.

"It could be great as an aid on the bigger boats but you would still use the current headcount system because it works.

"Four million people go to Whitehaven Beach each year and you don't really hear of people being commonly left behind.”

Tourism Whitsundays general manager Tash Wheeler said at this point she was not aware of any trial of the technology in the Whitsundays.

"But obviously we look forward to hearing the results of the trial,” she said.

"It will depend on the kind of operator as to who will be suitable for the scanners.

"We need to wait and see how the technology rolls out to see if it can cope with larger numbers, to see how suitable it is.

"We would be supportive if it was successful and provides a positive customer experience, and it was a good fit for the operator.”


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