Six tourists had to be rescued from a busy shipping channel in Moreton Bay over the weekend after they drifted away from shore unsupervised in their hire-and-drive kayaks.

The tourists had hired three kayaks (one between two people) from a commercial hire-and- drive operator on Sunday morning.

Inexperienced and unable to resist strong currents, the tourists drifted away from shore where they had hired their kayaks and into the shipping channel between Moreton Island and Redcliffe.

One of the kayaks overturned, throwing two people into the water.

Thankfully, a passing off duty Queensland fisheries officer spotted the group in distress several kilometres east of Moreton Island.

Graham Shield and a friend who was on his vessel at the time rescued the six tourists from the water, remarkably with no injuries.

“They were okay besides obvious signs of distress and shock,” Mr Shield said.

“This situation could have ended very differently if we hadn’t been on location at this time. Two of the paddlers were struggling in the water.”

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Operations North Manager Greg Witherall said Mr Shield and his friend’s keen mariner instincts and quick thinking helped save the tourists from a dangerous situation.

“This is a timely reminder to commercial hire-and-drive operators ahead of the busy summer holiday season,” Mr Witherall said.

“By law commercial vessel operators – and this includes kayak and sailing boat hire-and- drive operations – must identify and mitigate risks associated with their operations.

“Using personal watercraft might seem innocuous but in the hands of the inexperienced they can be a disaster waiting to happen. Sunday’s incident was a near-miss situation and a timely reminder to hire and drive operators to diligently follow their safety management systems.”

AMSA is investigating the incident.