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. It has been updated to include rule changes introduced from 1 July 2016 by the Marine Safety Regulation 2016.

The purpose of this section is to help you understand the key rules for safe and responsible boating on NSW State waterways. This includes comprehensive details of the safety equipment you must carry on board and the importance of wearing a lifejacket.

This section also provides detailed information about proper preparation, safe navigation and what to do in an emergency. A recurring theme is the importance of being aware of other people and vessels on the water, and minimising the impact of your boating activities on them. An example would be maintaining a safe distance and speed and minimising the wash caused by your boat.

By exercising care and courtesy, you will help to make boating safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

For more information call 13 12 36.

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