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NSW and VIC Interstate Boating Rules

Know your interstate boating rules

Throughout Australia boating is regulated by State governments. This means laws may differ between States. When it comes to the Murray River, which borders on New South Wales and Victoria the laws of NSW apply.

Here is a guide to the differences between States:



Children under 12 years old must wear a lifejacketat all times on vessels less than 4.8 metres and in open areas of vessels under 8 metres while underway. Everyone aged 12 or older must wear a lifejacket on vessels less than 4.8 metres when boating alone, or at night, or on alpine or open (ocean) waters.Everyone on recreational and commercial vessels must wear an appropriate lifejacket when crossing designated coastal bars.

Children under 10 years old must wear a lifejacket at all times when in an open area of a vessel that is underway.Everyone must wear a lifejacket on powered vessels less than 4.8 metres at all times when underway. Everyone in an open area of a power-driven recreational vessel less than 12 metres in length and yachts, must wear an appropriate lifejacket when crossing coastal bars, or when boating alone, or at night.


Safety Equipment

In both states, safety equipment must be carried on board. The requirements depend on the vessel type and waterway. In NSW, waterways are defined as enclosed or open,while in Victoria they are defined as inland, enclosed, coastal or offshore.Vessels visiting from interstate are exempt from carrying the required safety equipment, providing they conform with the safety equipment carriage requirements of their state of residence.


Licensing and Registration

In both States, a person is eligible for a full boat licence from 16 years of age. Vessel registration is required on certain types vessels.

A general boat driving licence is required to drive a powered vessel at 10 knots or faster. Restrictions apply to licence holders from 12 to under 16 years of age. Registration is required for vessels powered by 4.0 kilowatt (5 horsepower) or more, all vessels 5.5 metres or longer, all vessels on moorings, all commercial vessels and all personal watercraft (PWC).

A marine licence is required to operate any registered vessel. A restricted marine licence is available to individuals from 12-16 years of age, allowing them to operate at up to 10 knots by day but not to tow. All vessels equipped with a motor capable of propulsion require registration.


Speed Limits and Safe Distance Requirements

In both states, all vessels must travel at a safe speed for the prevailing conditions and keep a safe distance from people in the water, other vessels, structures, the shore at all times and must observe any signposted speed limits.

When travelling in a power-driven vessel at six knots or faster, you must keep at least30 metres from other vessels, structures and the shore. When driving any vessel,you must keep at least 60 metres from people in the water and any dive flag.

Unless otherwise signposted, a five knot speed limit applies to all vessels including PWC within 50 metres of a person in the water, another vessel, a fixed or floating structure or inland shoreline. The five knot rule also applies within 100 metres of a 'diver below' white/blue alpha flag,and within 200 metres of coastal and enclosed shorelines.


Towing Rules

In both states, everyone being towed must wear an appropriate lifejacket and no more than three people maybe towed simultaneously.

Observers must hold a boat or PWC driving licence or be 16 years of age or older. Safe distance requirements apply at any speed to both the vessel and the person being towed. Towing is prohibited between sunset and sunrise.

Observers must be at least 12 years old.Safe distance requirements apply at speeds greater than five knots. Towing is prohibited from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.


Personal Watercraft (PWC)

In NSW you must hold a PWC licence to drive a PWC. In Victoria the licence holder may allow another person to drive the PWC provided the licence holder is in a position to take immediate control. Operators and passengers must wear approved lifejackets at all times.PWC use is prohibited between sunset and sunrise in NSW, but permitted in Victoria provided appropriate navigation lights are used.



Both states follow internationally recognised rules and practices for safe navigation. This includes maintaining a safe speed, keeping a proper lookout at all times,using appropriate navigation lights at night and staying to the right (starboard)in rivers and channels. On lakes, the direction of travel is anti-clockwise unless otherwise stated.

Source: NSW Roads and Maritime and Maritime Safety Victoria reproduced for educational purposes only.

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