Safety and rules (Boating Handbook)

The information in this section is taken from the Boating Handbook, and is an interpretation of the law made easy to understand by using plain English and specific boating terminology.

The boating rules and regulations provide a framework for the safe movement of vessels on NSW waterways. Applicable legislation includes the Marine Safety Act 1998, the Marine Safety (General) Regulation 2009 and the Marine Pollution Act 2012.

Whether you are a new or an experienced skipper, this handbook provides practical information on the NSW boating rules including boat driving licence and vessel registration requirements and penalties for on-water offences. It is essential reading for anyone learning to drive a vessel. It is also a good way for experienced boaters to keep up to date with any changes to the rules and is informative for interstate or overseas visitors who want to navigate NSW waterways.

Laws change, so make sure you have the most recent boating handbook and stay in touch with any updates by visiting this page regularly.

'You're the skipper, you're responsible' is a key boating safety message for recreational vessel operators. The term 'skipper' is used often throughout this handbook as a substitute for the more formal terms of vessel 'master' or 'operator' used in the legislation.

For newcomers to boating, some of the nautical terms used in this handbook may at first seem like a foreign language. This boating jargon has developed over the years to provide more concise and clear communication about specific aspects of boating. For definitions of commonly used boating terms, refer to the glossary of boating terms.


While care was taken with the production of this information by Roads and Maritime Services, its purpose is to act as a general guide and to provide information in the form of a broad overview only. Roads and Maritime does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions and will not be held liable for any damage or injury arising out of the use or interpretation of any of the material provided in this handbook. For formal legal interpretation, refer to the Marine Legislation on the NSW Legislation website or seek independent legal advice.

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