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Safe Boating

Enjoying the beach should be both safe and fun, especialy if you follow a few basic safety tips

Keeping safe while boating means knowing the environment, the rules, having all the right equipment and using plenty of commonsense.

For more comprehensive information on boating safety visit the Boat Safe website by clicking on the logo above.

Skipper Responsibility

Most of us are aware of the respect we must have for the sea, a truely formidable force of nature - and how much more there is to learn about it, no matter how much you already know, or think you know. Remember every boat, no matter how big or small, must have a Skipper and it is the Skipper who is legally responsible for the safety of the boat and all the people on board.

Maritime Rule Part 91 - the Navigation Safety Rule

The navigation safety rule became law on March 21, 2003 and sets out a ‘code of conduct' for all vessel operators' behaviour.

The navigation safety rule addresses a number of issues including

  • Skipper responsibility
  • The carriage of buoyancy aids
  • The speeds for operating boats and where they can be operate
  • The age requirement for driving power boats
  • Dangerous wakes caused by boats
  • Water skiing rules
  • Anchoring rules

The Navigation Safety Rule sets out a legally binding "code of conduct" for all vessel operators' behaviour. All vessels are also subject to the Collision Prevention Rules which must be read in conjunction with this rule.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)

It is compulsory for PFDs (often called lifejackets) to be carried on all recreational craft. They must be worn at all times of heightened risk. This may include, for example: rough seas, non-swimmers, alcohol consumption, emergencies and distress

A wide range of PFDs is allowed in the rule to suit all types of boating activity. The skipper must ensure that a correctly sized serviceable PFD is available for every person on board

In some sports and ceremonial events the PFDs may be carried in another boat which stays in the immediate vicinity

PFDs must meet the New Zealand Standard or another similar national standard acceptable to the MSA. Sports teams from other countries may use their own approved PFDs while in New Zealand.

Age for Operating Power Driven Vessels

The person operating a power vessel capable of more than 10 knots (18.5 km/h) must be at least 15 years of age. If a person aged 15 or over is supervising and remains within reach of the controls, a younger person may operate the vessel.


Without reasonable excuse, no vessels may exceed 5 knots (9.2 km/h) through the water:

  • Within 50 metres of another vessel or person in the water.
  • While anyone has any part of their body over the bow or sides or a power boat


Recreational craft must avoid making a wake which can cause unnecessary danger or risk of damage to other vessels, structures or people.

Water Skiing, Towing & Similar Activities

Any boat towing a water skier, boat, wake board or similar device at over 5 knots (9.2 km/h) must have a person aged at least 10 to keep a lookout, as well as the skipper. Those being towed must wear a PFD.
Water skiing and similar activities are not permitted from sunset to sunrise.

Access Lanes & Reserved Areas

If an area is being used for its designated purpose, then other persons and craft must leave the area.
If it is not being used for that designated purpose, then all normal navigation rules apply.


All vessels must anchor well clear of wharves and jetties and their approaches.
Skippers must ensure they anchor so that they do not cause a hazard by swinging into other anchored craft, or by dragging.

The 500 Ton Rule

In areas near the approaches to harbours and ports, charts will show where all vessels must keep well clear of ships over 500 tons, even if the ship is overtaking.


Any vessel where diving activities are taking place must display code flag A so that it can be clearly seen from 200 metres.

Regional Navigation Safety Bylaws

Regional Council Bylaws are in place in many places around our coast and also inland. Bylaws must not conflict with this Maritime Rule, so there is one consistent set of Navigation Safety Rules throughout all parts of NZ.
Where bylaws are in place, the Navigation Safety Rule does not apply.

Education is the Key!

Most of us are aware of the respect we must have for the sea – a truly formidable force of nature - and how much more there is to learn about it, no matter how much you already know.

Through the Coastguard Boating Education Service, you will find the opportunity to enhance your knowledge of safe boating practices. CBES have over 200 accredited tutors nationwide whose courses can take you from the basics through to advanced boating safety topics, for the complete novice there's a course that will help you enjoy your time on the water more safely and responsibly.

For a brief outline of the courses on offer open the attached file or for more comprehensive information use the CBES logo as a link to their web site.

Resources are available from Water Safety New Zealand Inc

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