Make sure your vessel is fit for purpose

If your vessel is not fit for purpose or is unsafe, Safe Transport Victoria may direct the vessel not to be operated on Victorian waters or only under certain conditions.

The Marine Safety Regulations say that a boat should be:

  1. Able to keep water out.

  2. Not have fuel leaking from it.

  3. Have a working steering system.

  4. Use a working ventilation system.

  5. Have insulation to prevent fires.

  6. Keep things that help it float in good shape.

  7. Have engine kill switches that work.

  8. Use navigation lights the right way.

  • Inspect propeller nut and pin
  • Check for water and fuel leaks
  • Ensure bung is suitable and in good condition
  • Ensure bilges are clean and dry
  • Check reserve buoyancy for condition
  • Test steering for stiffness
  • Check wiring
  • Check and clean fuel filter
  • Clean cooling system passages
  • Replace outboard pull cord if fraying.


  • Top up battery cells with distilled water and check each cell with a hydrometer
  • The battery should be charged but never overcharged
  • The terminals, cables and casings should be kept clean
  • Test all electrical equipment operating from the battery such as radios, gauges, power tilt, navigation lights.

  • Allow one-third for outbound travel, one-third for return trip and keep one-third in reserve
  • Always replace old fuel after periods of inactivity
  • Inspect fuel lines, manual priming bulb and connections for cracks, leaks, etc
  • Inspect the fuel tank for cracks or corrosion
  • Always check for fuel smells and ventilate your vessel well before starting the engine
  • Do not go boating with old fuel.
  • No passengers when refuelling or restarting after refuelling
  • Install and use blowers on inboard engines

A vessel is an unsafe vessel if the operation of the vessel may endanger any person because of

  • the condition or equipment of the vessel
  • the manner in which the cargo and equipment on the vessel is stowed or secured
  • the nature of the cargo
  • the overloading of the vessel with persons or cargo
  • the number or qualifications of the vessel’s crew
  • the absence of marine safety equipment that is required under the regulations to be carried or installed on the vessel.

It is advised that vessels, and equipment should be inspected by a competent marine person such as a surveyor or similar at regular intervals and when the vessel is sold or purchased.

It is advised that motors and other serviced equipment are serviced either in accordance with their service requirements listed in manuals etc. or at regular intervals which ensure they are maintained and continue to operate safely.

Listed below are links to resources which provide contact details of accredited and/or competent marine surveyors and practitioners.

Note: ST Vic do not endorse any particular organisation.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Australasian Institute Of Marine Surveyors

Boating Industry Association of Victoria

Boating with children

If your children enjoy boating and water activities, it’s important to take steps to increase their confidence and ensure their safety.

By following these guidelines, you can help your children stay safe while enjoying their favourite water activities.

Before heading out on the water, invest some time in training and education – this can include teaching your children about stability, getting on and off the boat safely, and how to distribute the load evenly.

Show them where to find safety gear, the first-aid kit, and other equipment on the vessel.

Teach them emergency procedures, including what to do if the boat capsizes. Make sure they understand that everyone should stay with the boat or a visible floating object.

Keep a close eye on your children whenever they are around water. Never leave them unsupervised, and don’t take infants on board a recreational boat.

In situations where children are always required to wear life jackets, the age limit has   changed from ‘less than 10 years old’, to ‘less than 12 years’ old.

A sole adult boating with children less than 12 years old is considered boating alone, and must comply with the heightened risk provisions that apply to boating alone. Mandatory lifejacket wear applies in times of heightened risk.

Encourage your children to learn to swim and practice positions for cold water immersion.

If your children are old enough, show them how to use distress signaling equipment in case of an emergency.

Alcohol and drugs

It’s important to adhere to these regulations to ensure safe boating practices and protect the well-being of everyone on the water.

Please note that the specific details on alcohol and drug-related offences in boating can be found in the Marine (Drug, Alcohol, and Pollution Control) Act 1988 (Vic).

Alcohol and drugs can impair boating skills, resulting in decreased judgment, coordination, and reaction time, which can lead to an inability to respond appropriately to dangerous situations on the water.

Drinking alcohol can make it harder to stay warm in the water, which is tough for survival.

Alcohol and drugs can speed up your heart, and that can make you tired fast when things are tough.

These things can affect how you see, keep your balance, think clearly, and move well. So, it’s really important to avoid them when you’re near the water to keep yourself safe.

In Victoria, people under 21 who operate a vessel or are in charge of a vessel, including one at anchor, must not have any alcohol present in their blood or breath; that is, a blood-alcohol reading of 0.00 per cent.

People over 21 operating or in charge of a vessel must not have a blood or breath-alcohol reading over 0.05 per cent.

Fire prevention

Following these guidelines can help minimise the risk of fire incidents on boats and contribute to safer boating experiences..

Ski boats equipped with inboard petrol-powered engines pose the highest risk of fire.

Older vessels with worn-out electrical and automotive components are also prone to fire-related incidents.

Installing converted car engines or non-marinized engines in boats increases the likelihood of fire or explosion, especially when boat owners attempt to modify their boat themselves or employ unqualified technicians for the job.

Boats that are not in use for extended periods of time should be inspected for fire hazards before being used again.

To reduce the risk of fire, it’s important not to attempt marine electrical work yourself as improperly installed electrical components are more likely to cause fires on board your vessel.

Seek the services of a qualified and reputable professional for any electrical work on your vessel.

Ensure that the engine compartment is properly ventilated before starting the vessel.

Be vigilant throughout the day as engine fires may occur even after the first start-up.



What to do in an emergency

Most emergencies on the water can be avoided by good seamanship. However, they can happen on even the best maintained vessels, so you need to be equipped to handle them.

Always call triple zero (000) if you are involved in or witness an emergency.

If an incident has occurred but you are not in immediate danger, report it to Victoria Police on 1800 135 729.

In an emergency, you should be aware of how to signal distress using flares, marine radio and distress beacons.

Marine incidents include:

  • loss or presumed loss of a vessel
  • collision with another vessel or object
  • grounding, sinking or flooding
  • capsized vessel
  • fire
  • structural failure or loss of stability
  • close quarter
  • person overboard
  • vessel becoming disabled and requiring assistance
  • fouling or damaging of any pipeline, submarine cable, lighthouse, lightship, beacon, buoy or marine mark.

Masters’ responsibilities:

Under the Marine Safety Act, a master is the person in charge of a vessel. If the master is involved in a reportable incident, they are required to:

  • immediately stop and secure the vessel
  • immediately provide whatever assistance you can
  • provide their contact details and the vessel owner’s name and address, in addition to the registration or survey number to:
    • any injured person
    • the owner of any property which has been damaged
    • the representative of these people
    • the police present at the scene
  • report in person to the most accessible police station if a person is injured or property damaged, and the police or owner of the property are not present.

The Marine Safety Act 2010 (Vic) requires the master to provide the following details to the police present at the scene:

  • the name and address of the master
  • the name and address of the owner of the vessel
  • the registration or survey number of the vessel.

If a person is injured and no police members are present, the master must report full details at the nearest police station as soon as possible.

If any property is damaged or destroyed, and the owner, the owner’s representative or police are not present, the master must report full details at the nearest police station as soon as possible.

Heightened risk

Heightened risk in terms of boating refers to an increased level of danger or potential for accidents, incidents, or hazardous situations while operating a boat or being on the water. Several factors can contribute to heightened risk in boating.

  • Operating alone
  • Operating at night (one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise)
  • Crossing an ocean bar
  • Boating in restricted visibility
  • When the vessel is disabled
  • When the vessel is operating in an area with a weather warning issued by the Bureau of Meteorology, including gale or storm force-wind, hurricane-force wind, severe thunderstorm and severe weather warnings.
  • When operating in a designated hazardous area.

PWC (jetski)

As a PWC operator, you have a legal duty to take reasonable care for your own safety and for the safety of anyone who may be affected by your actions.

Assess the risks associated with operating a PWC and be aware of the changing nature of the maritime environment.

PWCs can accelerate very quickly and can be noisy. Be mindful of this when others are on or in the water, or on the beach.

Understand your limitations in performance in varying conditions. Be aware that the operators of other vessels may not be familiar with PWCs and how quickly you can approach, pass, turn and move away. You may need to adjust your riding techniques so that you don’t alarm other operators.

Towed watersport

If you are participating in any towed watersports on a PWC, you must follow the relevant rules which include carrying an appropriate observer.

Your PWC must have seating for the master and observer.

You should also consider having adequate seating for anyone who is being towed.

To determine the carrying capacity of your PWC, refer to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and maintenance schedule. Joining a PWC riders club or similar organisation will improve your skills, knowledge and experience.

Safe operation 

The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (1972) – COLREGs, enshrined in Victorian maritime safety legislation, apply to operators of all vessels including PWCs.

It is your responsibility when in charge of a PWC to correctly apply these rules in all circumstances.

Without power, a PWC has little or no steering control – simply releasing the throttle may not help you avoid a collision.

A PWC operator must give way to:

  • larger vessels operating in confined channels
  • sailing vessels
  • other vessels crossing from the right
  • vessels being overtaken.

A very important rule is: maintain a proper look out at all times.

In particular, remember:

  • in surf areas, swimmers may be hidden from view by waves and swell. Keep well away from areas where swimmers are likely to be present or slow to 5 knots or less
  • do not cut blind corners – slow down
  • if you have difficulty seeing properly because your vision is affected by the sun or spray – slow down or stop
  • keep well clear of anchored or moored vessels
  • in channels and narrow stretches of water, you must operate to the right of the centre of the channel
  • on inland waterways, powered vessels must travel in an anticlockwise direction in relation to the approximate centre of the waterway, unless otherwise specified in a waterway rule
  • navigation lights are required if your PWC is used on the water between sunset and sunrise, and in times of restricted visibility
  • water does not ‘give’ when you hit it at speed – you will probably break bones and, if you are not wearing protective clothing, sustain serious internal injuries.