Other essential equipment
This page provides information about the safety equipment items that are required or recommended to be carried onboard, including advice on how to store and use them.
Choose the right size and type of anchor for your vessel and the nature of the sea bed. For example, an anchor designed for rocky bottoms may not hold in sand or mud.
At least one solidly constructed bucket of metal, robust canvas or plastic must be carried with lanyard attached. It is useful as a safety item for both bailing water out and fighting fires.
The bucket can also be used as a sea anchor.
Vessels with covered bilges are required to be fitted with a bilge pump or pumps capable of draining each compartment of the vessel. They may be manual or powered and must be protected by a strainer to prevent choking of the pump suction.
Compass and chart
Any boat being operated offshore is required to have a compass. Even if your boat is fitted with satellite navigation equipment, a good marine compass will indicate the course back to shore if the electronic equipment fails or rain, fog or sea haze obliterates the land from view.
An appropriate chart or map that identifies prominent shore marks and offshore reefs and shoals is also required on all vessels offshore. Charts and maps help to determine your position, which can be of particular importance in an emergency.
From 1 July 2016 under the NSW Marine Safety Regulation 2016, charts or maps may be in printed or digital format.
Boating maps for NSW coastal waters and many popular boating areas are available to order from the boating maps page.
An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) suitable for marine use must transmit on 406 MHz and conform with all relevant standards. A 406 MHz EPIRB only complies if it conforms with Standard AS/NZS 4280.1 (It is the ‘1’ which indicates compliance).
Any 406 MHz EPIRB must be properly registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
A 406 MHz EPIRB is a simple and effective alerting and locating device that is compulsory for all vessels operating more than two nautical miles from the shore. It is also recommended for all vessels operating in remote locations or areas of high risk.
The EPIRB should be accessible but stowed to avoid inadvertent activation. Do not stow the EPIRB in the bottom of a locker.
The diagram shows that when activated, EPIRB signals are detectable by satellites and aircraft. When a distressed vessel activates the EPIRB, the signal is received by a satellite, and the satellite relays the signal to the satellite receiving system. The search and rescue centre communicates with the search and rescue unit, such as a helicopter.
All vessels with an electric start motor, gas installation, fuel stove or battery must carry a fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers carried on board must be appropriate for the type of fuel carried on the vessel. Additional fire extinguishers may need to be carried if there are several fuel types onboard or the size of the vessel requires it.
Regular maintenance checks are recommended to ensure the charge indicator is registering in the green zone. If it is in the red zone you need to replace the extinguisher.
Flares signal that you are in trouble and provide an exact location for searching aircraft or vessels. Ignite them only when rescuers are in view and can spot your flare.
A minimum of two red hand flares (for night or day use) and two orange smoke flares (for day use) are required to be carried on all vessels operating in open (ocean) waters, although some exemptions may apply. See modified safety equipment requirements for exemption details.
You should be able to locate and ignite the correct flare in total darkness.
Most flares have a use-by date of three years and they must be replaced before the expiry date. Penalties apply.
It is an offence to set off flares, except in an emergency.
The safe disposal of out-of-date flares is essential to avoid any injury from unintended or deliberate ignition in a non-emergency situation.
For more information call 13 12 36 (option 2) or see Expired marine flare disposal.
Fresh drinking water
Two litres of fresh drinking water per person must be carried on all vessels operating on any open (ocean) waters.
Different types of marine radios are available so check with the Australian Communication & Media Authority (ACMA) to ensure your radio is suitable for the intended use.
Marine radios are compulsory for all vessels operating more than two nautical miles out to sea, and are recommended for anyone proceeding offshore. They provide a means of advising shore stations of your itinerary, checking boating weather and navigational warnings and making distress calls which can be picked up by other vessels in the area or by shore stations.
Marine radios are relatively inexpensive and available for general use.
VHF & HF radios are popular with VHF providing a wider coverage. The diagram shows the VHF marine radio channels. You can also visit the ACMA VHF marine radio website for further information about VHF use.
HF services have now transferred from Sydney Ports Corporation to Kordia. This includes the monitoring of HF distress and emergency frequencies 4125 kHz, 6215 kHz and 8291 kHz and provision of navigation warnings on 8176 kHz at 10.57am and 11.57pm hours and at other times that such warnings are received from AMSA.
The key difference for NSW boaters currently using the HF component of the National Coastal Radio Network is that the call sign for distress and emergency calls in NSW waters is 'Charleville Radio' instead of 'Coast Radio Sydney'. Due to the superior equipment being used by Kordia and the better positioned HF equipment in Charleville, Queensland (far away from radio interference that normally occurs along the coast and in the cities), it is anticipated users of the service will experience improved HF coverage in NSW waters.
A mobile phone does not replace the requirement to carry a marine radio but is an extra means of communication. Call 000 in any life threatening situation.
This diagram shows the VHF marine radio channels:
- Distress, safety and calling - use 16
- Supplementary to channel 16 - use 67
- Digital selective calling - use 70
- Talk through repeaters - use 21, 22, 80, 81 and 82
- Non-commercial operations and recreational vessels - use 72, 73 and 77
- Professional fishing operations - use 71, 72 and 77
- Ship-to-ship safety info - use 13
- Ship-to-ship working - use 77
- Port operations - use 6 (which is also used for on-scene air/sea SAR operations), 8 to 14, 20, 68, 72 and 79
- Commercial operations - use 6 (which is also used for on-scene air/sea SAR operations), 8, 72, 74 and 78.
Paddles or oars and rowlocks
Oars with rowlocks and/or paddles must be carried on most vessels under six metres in length unless a second means of propulsion is fitted.
Owners of larger vessels should consider some means of auxiliary power as an effective safety device.
A Safety Label must be displayed clearly on all recreational powered vessels (except PWC) regardless of whether the vessel is fitted with an Australian Builders Plate (ABP).
The label must be placed where it can be seen by the skipper and at each steering position on the vessel.
The label indicates the maximum number of people to be carried on a particular vessel, as well as important safety information. The capacity is determined by the ABP Standard, the manufacturer or, if not specified, by the table on the reverse of the Safety Label.
The maximum number of people in good conditions is shown. A reduction in the maximum number must be made in adverse weather conditions or when on open waters. If not, the master may be guilty of negligence.
In determining whether your vessel complies with the capacity limits shown on its safety label, note that:
- Children up to one year of age are not counted. However, you still require safety equipment for them
- Roads and Maritime recommends counting each child between the ages of one and 12 years as one half of an adult
- Capacity of each adult is assessed at 90kg including an allowance for their personal gear.
Note: For PWC, the number of people on the vessel must not exceed the maximum number specified by the manufacturer.
Safety labels are available from registries and service centres.
You must have some means of providing a sound signal, such as an airhorn, whistle or bell.
The V sheet is a fluorescent orange-red coloured sheet (1.8 x 1.2 metres minimum) with a large black V printed in the middle.
V sheets are required to be carried by all vessels operating on open (ocean) waters. They can be spread over the deck of a boat or flown as a flag to indicate that you are in trouble.
Waterproof floating torch
A floating waterproof torch must be carried on all vessels at all times and be operational. A torch is a valuable safety device for signalling, for use as a navigation light on small vessels at night and when working on the engine.
Spare bulbs and batteries should be carried.
Other recommended safety equipment
First aid kit
It makes good sense to carry a complete first aid kit aboard, appropriate to the size of the boat.
Kill switch lanyard
Many small recreational powerboats and all personal watercraft are fitted with an automatic engine cut-off device called a kill switch, which is activated by a lanyard. The kill switch lanyard attaches to your arm, leg, clothing or lifejacket and stops the engine if you fall overboard or lose control of the steering.
It is strongly recommended to always wear the lanyard and ensure the kill switch key is engaged whenever the engine is turned on and in gear.
Although not part of the safety equipment requirements, every vessel should have a tool kit.
The basic items in a tool kit include a spark plug spanner and spark plugs (for petrol engines), small adjustable spanner, pliers, metal file, wire brush, hacksaw and blade, phillips head and standard screwdrivers, spare fuel line, electrical wiring, insulation tape and a can of water repellent.
See Boat maintenance for recommended tools and spare parts.
Care of equipment
Safety equipment is generally durable and long lasting. Keep small, storable items like flares, V sheet, EPIRB, torch and other bits and pieces in an accessible, sealed, waterproof container.
Make sure items like the radio and fire extinguisher are protected from saltwater.
You must look after your lifejackets, don’t use them as cushions or fenders and keep them away from oil and fuel. Remove new lifejackets from their plastic wrapping. Ensure they are stored in an accessible, dry and well ventilated area and let everyone on board know where they are.