Important boating rules and regulations in NSW

Whether you're a rookie or a seasoned vet, boaters should make sure they keep up-to-date with the laws relating to their pastime.

Here are a some of the rules, regulations and required safety equipment you'll need if you're going boating in New South Wales.

Rules and Regulations

1. Speed

Many areas have designated speed limits; these must be followed at all times.

For those without, boats must travel at a safe speed. Just what this speed is can't be expressed as single number - what's safe depends on the circumstances and the environment. The skipper should assess things like visibility, time of day, other vessels, navigation hazards and weather conditions to determine a safe speed.

Make sure your speed is always safe.Make sure your speed is always safe.

2. Bow riding

This is not permitted, in any circumstance. Bow riding refers to both extending part of your body outside the perimeter of the vessel that's moving and being in a position where the risk of falling overboard is increased.

3. Giving way

Boats that are engine powered must give way to a variety of other crafts, including:

  • Sailing boats
  • Anything approaching head on (alter course to the right)
  • Anything approaching from the right

Boats need to stay 60 metres away from people or dive flags in the water.

4. Safe Distance

Boats need to stay 60 metres away from people or dive flags in the water. If this isn't possible, a safe distance should be maintained. There are some exceptions - if you're supporting swimmers or divers, your vessel's human-powered or it's a sailing boat less than 5.5 metres long (without an auxiliary engine).

You can find a full list of the rules and regulations on Roads and Maritime Services's website.

Safety Equipment

Enjoying your time on the water should never come at the expense of safety. Here are a few key safety items you should/are required to have on board.

1. Lifejackets

On any recreational vessel, lifejackets are far and away the most crucial piece of safety equipment. Should you fall overboard, they can be the thing that saves your life (hence the name).

The legal requirement in NSW is that every passenger must have a lifejacket available on board that fits them properly, is in good condition and, if inflatable, has been properly serviced. Whether or not passengers are required to be wearing their lifejackets depends on several factors, including the size of the vessel, whether it's on open or enclosed waters, and the age of the passengers.

2. Bailer/bucket/fire bucket

It's a requirement for at least one solidly constructed bucket of metal, robust canvas or plastic with an attached lanyard to be on board at all times. This is useful for bailing water from your boat and fighting fires.

You should choose an anchor that's appropriately sized for your boat

3. Anchor

This is another requirement for all vessels. You should choose an anchor that's appropriately sized for your boat and for the characteristics of the sea/lakebed you'll be above (rocky, sand, mud etc).

4. Fire extinguisher

All vessels that have an electric start motor, gas installation, fuel stove or battery are required to have a fire extinguisher on board. You should ensure that the extinguisher is the right kind for the fuel your boat runs on. Regular checks should be made on the charge level - if it's green, you're good to go, but if it's red, you'll need to replace the extinguisher.

5. Oars and/or paddles

For most boats less than six metres long, oars with rowlocks or paddles are required to be on board, unless there's another means of propulsion, like a secondary engine/outboard.

6. Floating torch and sound signal

You'll also need to have a waterproof, floating torch on board and a method for signalling other vessels with sound, like a horn, bell or whistle.


An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is recommended for those boating in risky or remote areas, and it's a requirement if you're boating more than two nautical miles from the shore.

EPIRBs must transmit on 406 Mhz and comply with all relevant standards. You'll know an EPIRB is compliant if it meets Standard AS/NZS 4280.1.

Once again, further information can be found on Roads and Maritime Service's website.

When it comes to rules and regulations, there's a lot to remember for newcomers and experienced boaters alike. Keeping up with changes to requirements can be tough, but it's important you do so, for the sake of your own, and other's, safety. If you're not sure of something, and would like some more expert advice, get in touch with the crew at Hunts Marine today.

September 29, 2017 by Castleford Media
Tags: Tips