Complete Guide to Boat Safety Equipment - Requirements and Recommendations

How to Guides

A man out on his boat enjoying the ocean, wearing a safety life jacket

The safety equipment you need on your boat depends on the type of waterway you’re on, the vessel you’re in and distance from shore.  

Equipping your boat with the correct safety equipment for your state or territory and keeping it in good working order is the best way of averting disaster when you’re out on the water. The difference between a simple mishap and a fatality could be determined by the safety equipment on board. If equipment is missing or not where it should be, the boat’s skipper and passengers can be in grave danger. 
 

What Safety Equipment is Required on a Boat in Australia?

The rules vary in each state & territory, and there are also different requirements for boats used in enclosed waters (rivers, lakes, estuaries) vs boats used in the ocean. Some state and territory requirements vary based on the water conditions as well. Check out the requirements for your state or territory and make sure your boat is fitted out appropriately.
 

New South Wales (NSW)

Enclosed Waters

  • Lifejacket – Level 50S or greater

  • Anchor and chain/line

  • Bilge pump

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Paddles or oars and rowlocks

  • Safety label

  • Sound signal

  • Waterproof torch

 

Open Waters

  • Lifejacket – Level 50S or greater

  • Anchor with cable appropriate for vessel size

  • Bilge pump

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Paddles or oars and rowlocks

  • Safety label

  • Sound signal

  • Waterproof torch

  • Compass

  • Distress flare - orange hand-held

  • Distress flare - red hand-held

  • Map/chart

  • V sheet

  • Drinking water
     

Additional Equipment (if two nautical miles or more offshore):

  • EPIRB 406MHz in date and registered with AMSA

  • Marine Radio
     

Navigation lights must be displayed between sunset and sunrise and during restricted visibility.

For more information, see NSW’s Transport Roads and Maritime Services Safety Equipment.
 

ACT

Enclosed Waters:

  • Approved Life Jacket

  • Waterproof torch minimum, white light recommended

For more information, see NCA Application for Boat Permit.
 

Victoria (VIC)

The minimum safety equipment required in enclosed and open waters:

  • Lifejacket – Level 50S or greater

  • Anchor and chain/line

  • Waterproof torch

  • EPIRB 406MHz in date and registered with AMSA
     

For more information, see Maritime Safety Victoria.   
 

Queensland (QLD)

Smooth Waters:

  • Firefighting equipment

  • Signalling device at night (torch)

  • Life jacket level 50, 100, 150, 275 or level 50 special purpose

  • Anchor

  • Drinking water

  • Oars or paddles

  • Pumping or bailing equipment

 

Partially-smooth Waters:

  • Flares (2 x red and 2 x orange smoke)

  • Firefighting equipment

  • V sheet

  • Signalling device at night (torch)

  • Life jacket level 100, 150, 275 or level 50 special purpose

  • Anchor with cable appropriate for vessel size

  • Chart

  • Compass

  • Drinking water

  • Oars or paddles

  • Pumping or bailing equipment

 

Beyond partially-smooth waters:

  • EPIRB

  • Flares (2 x red and 2 x orange smoke)

  • Firefighting equipment

  • V sheet

  • Signalling device at night (torch)

  • Life jacket level 100, 150, 275

  • Anchor with cable appropriate for vessel size

  • Chart

  • Compass

  • Drinking water

  • Oars or paddles

  • Pumping or bailing equipment

 

For more information, see Maritime Safety Queensland.  
 

Western Australia (WA)

Protected Water:

  • Bilge pump/bailer

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Anchor and line

  • Lifejacket

  • Flares (2 red and 2 orange smoke)
     

2+ nautical miles off-shore:

  • Bilge pump/bailer

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Anchor and line

  • Lifejacket

  • Flares (2 x red and 2 x orange smoke)

  • EPIRB

  • 2 Parachute Flares (5+ nautical miles)

  • Marine Radio (5+ nautical miles)
     

See more information, see Department of Transport WA’s Safety Equipment.
 

South Australia (SA)

Protected Water:

Vessels under 8 metres

  • One personal flotation device (PFD) Type 1, Type 2, Type 3

  • One bailer with a line attached or a bilge pump

  • One suitable anchor with cable

  • Fire extinguisher if cooking facilities are on board

  • Waterproof and buoyant torch (if at night)

  • One fire bucket

  • Pair of paddles or oars if the vessel is under 6 metres

 

Vessels over 8 metres

  • One personal flotation device (PFD) Type 1, Type 2, Type 3

  • One bailer with a line attached or a bilge pump

  • One suitable anchor with cable

  • Fire extinguisher if cooking facilities are on board

  • Waterproof and buoyant torch (if at night)

  • One fire bucket

  • One life-buoy with line    

 

Semi-protected Waters:

Vessels under 8 metres

  • One personal flotation device (PFD) Type 1

  • One bailer with a line attached or a bilge pump

  • One suitable anchor with cable

  • Two hand-held red flares two handheld orange smoke signals

  • Fire extinguisher if cooking facilities are on board

  • Waterproof and buoyant torch (if at night)

  • One fire bucket

  • Pair of paddles or oars or other means of auxiliary propulsion (if the vessel is under 6 metres)

 

Vessels over 8 metres:

  • One personal flotation device (PFD) Type 1

  • Two bailers with a line attached and a bilge pump

  • Two suitable anchors with cable

  • Two hand-held red flares two handheld orange smoke signals

  • Fire extinguisher if cooking facilities are on board

  • Waterproof and buoyant torch (if at night)

  • One fire bucket

  • One life-buoy with line

 

Unprotected Waters:

Vessels under 8 metres

  • One personal flotation device (PFD) Type 1

  • One bailer with a line attached and a bilge pump

  • One suitable anchor with cable

  • Two hand-held red flares two handheld orange smoke signals

  • Four litres of fresh water

  • Fire extinguisher if cooking facilities are on board

  • Waterproof and buoyant torch (if at night)

  • A two-way marine radio

  • One fire bucket

  • Boat fitted with a compass, preferably liquid damped. A GPS is not considered to be a compass.

 

Vessels over 8 metres:

  • One personal flotation device (PFD) Type 1

  • Two bailers with a line attached and a bilge pump

  • Two suitable anchors with cable

  • Two hand-held red flares and two handheld orange smoke signals

  • 4L of fresh water

  • Fire extinguisher if cooking facilities are on board

  • Waterproof and buoyant torch (if at night)

  • A two-way marine radio

  • One fire bucket

  • Boat fitted with a compass, preferably liquid damped, a GPS isn’t a compass

 

Additional Requirements for vessels in unprotected waters more than three nautical miles offshore :   

  • One EPIRB

  • One V distress sheet

 

All vessels more than 10 nautical miles off from shore must also carry:

  • Two distress rockets with parachutes

  • A map or chart of the waters in which the boat will operate

 

All vessels more than 15 nautical miles off from shore must also carry:

  • An additional lifebuoy with line

  • A life raft

 

For more information, see the South Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet Safety Equipment.
 

Northern Territory (NT)

Inland Water:

  • One approved PFD for each person on board

  • One anchor with not less than 3 metres of chain

  • Two paddles or oars

  • One bailer or bilge pump

  • Two litres per person of fresh drinking water

  • One waterproof torch

 

Intermediate Water:

  • One approved PFD for each person on board

  • One anchor with not less than 3 metres of chain

  • Two paddles or oars

  • One bailer or bilge pump

  • Two litres per person of fresh drinking water

  • One waterproof torch

  • Two red flares and two orange smoke signals

  • One V distress sheet

  • Portable fire extinguisher

  • Two 9 litre buckets with lanyards

 

Open Water:

  • One approved PFD for each person on board

  • One anchor with not less than 3 metres of chain

  • Two paddles or oars

  • One bailer or bilge pump

  • Two litres per person of fresh drinking water

  • One waterproof torch

  • Two red flares and two orange smoke signals

  • One V distress sheet

  • Portable fire extinguisher

  • Two 9 litre buckets with lanyards

  • One compass or operational GPS

  • Electronic or paper chart for the area of intended operation

  • One lifebuoy

  • One registered EPRIB

 

For more information see the Northern Territory’s Safety Guide for Recreational Boating.
 

Tasmania (TAS)

Sheltered Waters:

Boats under 6 metres

  • Anchor rope and chain

  • Bailer/bilge pump

  • Life jacket

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Oars/auxiliary propulsion

  • Flares

  • Marine radio (recommended)

  • Heaving line (recommended)

  • First aid kit & water (recommended)
     

Boats over 6 metres:

  • Anchor rope and chain

  • Bailer/bilge pump

  • Life jacket

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Oars/auxiliary propulsion

  • Flares

  • Marine radio

  • Heaving line

  • Lifebuoy (recommended)

  • EPIRB

  • Radar Reflector

  • First aid kit & water

 

Coastal Waters:

Boats under 6 metres

  • Anchor rope and chain

  • Bailer/bilge pump

  • Life jacket

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Oars/auxiliary propulsion (recommended)

  • Flares

  • Marine radio (recommended)

  • Heaving line

  • Lifebuoy

  • EPIRB (recommended)

  • Radar reflector (recommended)

  • First aid kit & water (recommended)

 

Boats over 6 metres:

  • Anchor rope and chain

  • Bailer/bilge pump

  • Life jacket

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Oars/auxiliary propulsion (recommended)

  • Flares

  • Marine radio

  • Heaving line

  • Lifebuoy

  • EPIRB

  • Radar reflector

  • First aid kit & water
     

For more information, see Marine and Safety Tasmania’s Safety Equipment.  
 

 

What About Other Watercraft Like Kayaks and Surf Skis?

The above safety equipment applies to motor boats. For information on safety equipment for canoes/kayaks, racing shells, surf boats and skis, rowboats, dinghies, personal watercraft, sailing vessels, off the beach vessels, tenders, sailboats and kiteboards see the link above for your state or territory.
 

Lifejackets

The most critical piece of safety equipment is the life jacket. The design of jackets has improved over the years, so they are much thinner and more comfortable to wear. Boat users are encouraged to wear their life jacket for the duration of the trip in open water. They have a far higher chance of surviving a boat capsizing or a fall overboard if they are wearing their life jacket.
 

EPIRBs

The technology has saved many people’s lives worldwide. When you are nautical miles offshore, an EPIRB may be your only chance at rescue.
 

Marine Radio

Being able to communicate with boats in the area by radio allows you to call for help quickly.   
 

Be Aware of Expiry Dates

Most flares only last three years before they expire. Make sure you keep a check on the expiry dates of flares and life jackets and replace before the expiry date. Fines can apply for having expired safety equipment on board.

 

If you have any queries about whether your safety equipment meets your state’s requirements, call one of the experts at Boat Accessories Australia on 1300 308 161 or contact us online.

 

Related Articles