Marine safety rules and regulations

Understand the main rules and regulations for using NSW waterways.

Our website covers the main rules for using NSW waterways. It's not intended to cover all the laws and regulations. See the full legislation at Marine Safety Act 1998 and Marine Safety Regulation 2016.

As the skipper, you must be aware of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS). These regulations apply in NSW and are modified through the Marine Safety Regulation 2016.

The COLREGS outline internationally agreed rules for safe navigation. These include give way rules and other requirements for safe conduct, including keeping a look out, travelling at a safe speed, and how to travel in narrow channels. They also include requirements for travelling in restricted visibility, including lights, shapes and signals used to prevent collisions. This handbook provides a summary of these rules.

This website explains the rules using plain English. The words 'must' or 'must not' are used for rules that you have to follow.

When you break a rule, you not only put the safety of yourself and others at risk, it's an offence and you can get a fine. For serious or repeat offences, you can lose your licence and your vessel can be taken away. See Offences and penalties.

Laws change, so make sure you always have the most recent version of the Boating Handbook. You can get the latest copy free online in e-book or pdf format. Or pick up a printed copy from a service centre.

Download the Boating Handbook.

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