Offences on NSW waterways

Know the rules so you can stay safe and enjoy your day on the water. The following are the major types of offences relating to boating in NSW.

Serious offences

Serious or repeat offences under the marine legislation may result in court proceedings after the issue of a court attendance notice. Vessels involved in serious offences may be seized and impounded by an authorised officer (Transport for NSW or NSW Police) and may be forfeited by the owner under certain circumstances.

The marine legislation provides that specialised camera recording equipment can be used to detect a number of serious offences.

Such offences may include menacing behaviour, dangerous, or negligent navigation.

Anti-social behaviour

Legislation introduced in October 2016 targets people who use a vessel in a dangerous, intimidating or threatening way or who drive with excessive speed on our waterways. Vessel operators may be fined or prosecuted and the vessel may be impounded or forfeited. These offences may be detected with specialised cameras and the recorded evidence used in court.

Alcohol and drug offences

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an offence. A designated driver (skipper) should remain under the legal limit when out on the water in case you need to move your vessel.

Random breath testing (RBT) and random drug testing (RDT) can be conducted on the operator of a vessel while it is underway, including drifting. RBT and RDT do not apply when a vessel is moored, berthed or at anchor.

Being detected in excess of the permissible concentration of alcohol by way of a breath test may result in NSW Police issuing a court attendance notice.

Permissible concentration of alcohol limits are as follows:

  • 0.00 for all vessel operators under 18 years
  • less than 0.02 for commercial vessel operators over 18 years
  • less than 0.05 for recreational vessel operators over 18 years.

The operator of a vessel includes:

  • anyone steering or exercising control over the course or direction of a vessel
  • the observer in a ski boat or personal watercraft
  • a person being towed by a vessel
  • a person supervising the operator of a vessel under 16 years of age.

It is also an offence for the master of a vessel to allow another person to operate a vessel if they have reason to believe that the person is under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.

Offences relating to naval vessels

For safety reasons, people are prohibited from climbing, attaching themselves to, or helping another person to attach themselves to a naval vessel.

A ‘moving exclusion zone’ has also been introduced for naval vessels while on NSW waters. This zone extends 200 metres from the bow and 60 metres either side of a naval vessel whilst it is underway.

A ‘distance off’ of 60 metres from a naval vessel that is moored, anchored or berthed also applies at all times.

Other offences

A boat driving licence or certificate of competency may be cancelled or suspended in other instances including after a conviction for negligent and/or dangerous navigation, operating a vessel in a menacing manner, an alcohol or drug offence, for causing a nuisance or overloading or if it is believed the holder is not a ‘fit and proper’ person to hold the licence, for instance, for repeat offences.

Registration of a vessel may be cancelled or suspended if the vessel is:

  • unsafe or unseaworthy
  • found to be not a true vessel and is being used as a wharf or pontoon
  • deemed environmentally hazardous.
Share this page: