Speed limits and other boating restrictions

Speed limits apply to waterways. Ensure you look out for signage in and near navigable waters, and comply with any restrictions.

List of speed limit areas

View or download the complete list of speed limit areas for NSW waters.

Speed limit scheme prior to 7 October 2016

Since 30 March 2009, the statutory basis for speed limits has been primarily Section 11 of the Marine Safety Act 1998 (Act). Section 11 outlines the various restrictions on the operation of vessels on navigable waters by display of ‘notices’. Speed limit signs are notices for the purpose of this Section.

Speed limit scheme on and after 7 October 2016

On 7 October 2016, Section 11 of the Act was updated to allow notices under Section 11 to either be displayed in or near a waterway, or to be published in the NSW Government Gazette.

Notices may also be published in the NSW Government Gazette imposing speed limits associated with special events (Section 12 of the Act), and for management of other waterway issues (Clause 22 and 56 of the Marine Safety Regulation 2016 (Regulation). Notices imposing restrictions to manage waterway issues (Clause 22 and 56 of the Maritime Safety Regulation 2016 (Regulation)) may also be issued to individuals.

Exemptions from speed limit notices

Section 11(5) of the Act 1998 provides that the Regulations may exempt vessels from compliance with a notice under Section 11. Clause 16 of the Regulation contains general exemptions from speed limits where necessary, for safety reasons. These include avoiding an immediate risk of injury or property damage, non power-driven vessels and Police and Roads and Maritime Services vessels operated by officers whilst on duty.

Roads and Maritime is able to grant an exemption from compliance with a speed limit, in writing under Clause 140 of the Regulation. Exemptions through Aquatic Licences may also be granted, in accordance with Section 18(4) of the Act.

Speed limits without speed limit notices

In addition to the speed limits communicated by the display of notices, there are some speed limits that are not communicated in this way. For example, they either operate throughout NSW or apply to certain vessels only, and the display of notices would cause confusion. These are:

  • A 60 knot speed restriction, applicable to any vessel carrying a person under 18 years of age (unless allowed by an Aquatic Licence) under Clause 12 of the Regulation
  • A 60 knot speed restriction, applicable to any vessel towing a person under 18 years of age (unless allowed by an Aquatic Licence) under Clause 46 of the Regulation
  • A set of speed limits applicable to vessels of 30 metres or more in length, in the Port of Sydney, other than ferries and Police and Roads and Maritime vessels operated by officers on duty (Clauses 34-38 of the Regulation).

Safe speed under the COLREGs and general safety responsibilities of vessel operators

Boaters are reminded that the absence of speed limit notices in an area of waterway does not mean that there are no controls on vessel speed.

All vessel operators should operate their vessel in accordance with the ‘Safe Speed’ requirement in Rule 6 of the Collision Regulations (COLREGs) and are generally required to operate with due care, through provisions such as the ’negligent navigation’ and ’speed dangerous to the public’ offences in Section 13 of the Act.

Special speed limits also apply to licence holders aged from 12 to under 16 years of age. More information on boating licences.

Additionally, other speed restrictions apply when close to other vessels, the shore and structures. Know the rules.

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