(Below is information on safe boating advice compiled

from the ‘Maritime Safety Queensland’ website)


A safety initiative of Maritime Safety Queensland

The General Safety Obligation for any skipper of any vessel is to ensure that the vessel is:
  • Safe                                                                            
  • Properly equipped and crewed
  • Operated in a safe manner
These general safety obligations prohibit a ship from going to sea if it is not properly built and maintained, equipped, crewed and operated in accordance with its proposed operating environment.
Registration and Licencing: In Queensland, all ships with a motor or auxiliary of 3 kW or more (over 4 hp) must be registered when on the water. Your ship will be allocated registration symbols. These must be clearly visible in plain characters in a contrasting colour to the hull of your ship and must meet the following criteria: 
  • The size of the characters depends on the type of ship and must be easy to read from a distance of 30 metres (m) away.
  • Ships not capable of planing must have characters a minimum of 75 millimetres (mm) high on both sides or on the stern.
  • Ships capable of planing must have characters a minimum of 200 mm high on both sides.
  • Personal watercraft (for example a jet ski) registration symbols must be:
    • displayed on both sides
    • at least 100 mm high
    • easily seen while the craft is underway.
In Queensland, a marine licence is required to operate a recreational boat which is powered by a motor greater than 4.5 kW (over 6 HP). You must have a personal watercraft licence to operate a personal watercraft (for example a jet ski). To get a recreational marine driver licence or personal watercraft licence, you need to successfully complete a BoatSafe training course.



Alcohol and Boating: When in charge of a vessel, the skipper must have a blood alcohol limit of less than 0.05, the same as on the road. The skipper is also responsible for the safety of the passengers and should be responsible for their alcohol consumption. The effects of alcohol are enhanced while on the water due to the sun, wind, waves and constant motion. Reflexes and response times to emergencies are slowed and swimming ability deteriorates considerably.
Skippers of recreational boats should also be aware that, when their boat is anchored, it may still be considered to be used for navigation, and the blood alcohol limit applies. The limit does not change unless the boat is securely moored in a marina, to a jetty or wharf or on a swing mooring.
Designated Coastal Bar Crossings: Designated coastal bars are bars that have been certified as dangerous and therefore require caution when crossing. In all vessels under 4.8 metres in length, everybody on board must wear a life jacket when crossing a designated coastal bar. Visit the MSQ website to gain good advice on what to do in preparation to crossing a designated coastal bar.
Depending on whether your boat needs to be registered and where you are going boating will depend on what safety equipment you need to carry. Sometimes boat dealers will include safety equipment as part of a package deal. If safety equipment is included you should check:
Safety Equipment:
  • Flares:
    • Need to be within the expiry date (printed on the side of the flares).
    • In Queensland when operating in partially smooth waters and beyond it is a requirement to have two orange hand smoke flares and two red hand flares – it is not a requirement to have parachute flares for a recreational vessel. Flares are sometimes sold as an 'offshore' kit, these contain two red hand flares and two parachute flares. This will not meet the safety equipment requirement if you must carry flares.
    • Find out more about flares
  • EPIRBs:
    • Must be current, that is within the expiry date (printed on the EPIRB).
    • If you are required to carry an EPIRB as part of your safety equipment, it must be a 406 MHz EPIRB and must be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
    • EPIRBs are required if operating beyond partially smooth waters or more than two nautical miles from land.
    • Find out more about EPIRBs 
  • Life jackets/personal flotation devices (PFDs):
    • Life jackets or personal flotation devices must meet certain standards. You should check that life jackets you already have or are about to purchase comply with the required standard.
    • Where you will be operating your boat will depend on the type of life jacket you need. For smooth waters you can have a type 1, 2 or 3, for partially smooth waters you can have a type 1 or 2, for beyond partially smooth waters you need a type 1. For activities such as waterskiing PFD type 2, 3 or a wetsuit with inbuilt flotation approved as a PFD type 3 in smooth water limits. PFD type 2 in partially smooth water limits.
    • In smooth waters, personal watercraft require a PFD type 2 or 3 or a wetsuit with inbuilt flotation approved as PFD type 3. In partially smooth waters and beyond personal watercraft require PFD type 2.
    • If life jackets are not visible to passengers, there must be a sign indicating where they are stowed so that passengers know where to find them. The sign must be either red letters on a white background or white letters on a red background.
    • Find out more about life jackets
Masters must make sure each passenger on board knows where the safety equipment is kept and how to use it in an emergency situation. Find out more about safety equipment
Reporting Marine Incidents:
Under the Transport Operations (Marine Safety) Act 1994, a marine incident is classified as an event causing or involving:
  • the loss of a person from a ship
  • the death of, or grievous bodily harm to, a person caused by a ship's operations
  • the loss or presumed loss or abandonment of a ship
  • a collision with a ship
  • the stranding of a ship
  • material damage to a ship
  • material damage caused by a ship's operations
  • danger to a person caused by a ship's operations
  • danger of serious damage to a ship
  • danger of serious damage to a structure caused by a ship's operations.
Maritime Safety Queensland has responsibility to collate and analyse the marine incident data provided by people involved in marine incidents. This information is gathered into reports by Safety Standards Branch, which produces two main reports each year:
the annual Marine Incidents Report and the National Marine Safety Committee (Queensland jurisdiction) report.
How do I Report a Marine Incident?
A marine incident must be reported to a shipping inspector within 48 hours of the incident, unless there is a reasonable excuse. Shipping inspectors are marine safety officers (located at Maritime Safety Queensland marine operations bases), and officers of Queensland Water Police and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol. If you are unable to access one of these offices, contact a shipping inspector by phone. They will advise you what to do next.
Capacity labels
Overloading is dangerous and one of the easiest ways to capsize your boat. The more weight in the boat, the lower the freeboard. Freeboard is the minimum vertical distance from the surface of the water to the gunwale or deck. The gunwale is the upper edge of an open boat. Overloading compromises the safety of everyone on board and increases the chance of swamping or capsizing.
When preparing for a trip, the boat operator is responsible for assessing the load on board, both people and objects. For example:
  • heavy items should be stowed in a low and central place where they cannot move around
  • weight, including passengers, should be distributed evenly through the boat
  • the weight of extra fuel and water should be taken into account.
By applying a capacity label you will have a constant reminder of how many people can be safely on board your boat in smooth waters and good conditions.
All registrable recreational boats, with the exception of sailing ships, must have one or more capacity labels attached. Capacity labels should be placed near the boat's control area/s where they can be seen by the operator at all times. A penalty could apply if a capacity label is not attached, unreadable or located in the wrong position on the boat.
There are three different capacity labels available:
  • powered boats under 6 metres
  • powered boats 6 metres and over
  • powered boats with a flybridge.
The operator must keep in mind that the label indicates the number of people the boat can safely carry in good conditions and smooth waters. When using the boat in partially smooth or open waters or in rough conditions the operator should consider reducing the number of people taken on the trip.