Lifejackets on recreational vessels


The rules governing wearing lifejackets on recreational vessels on all NSW navigable waters were strengthened recently to prevent loss of life. These changes reflect an increased awareness of the need for safety on vessels in NSW.

The punishment for failing to wear an appropriate lifejacket is an on-the-spot fine, issued by a law enforcement officer, of between $100 and $250.

A penalty notice can be challenged by electing to have the matter heard by a court. If you haven’t paid the fine, you must fill in the back of the ticket to advise the SDRO within 28 days of the infringement. If you have paid the fine, you have 90 days after the penalty notice was served to elect to go to court. To request to have the matter heard in court, complete the online court election form on the SDRO website or advise the SDRO in writing.

The maximum penalty if found guilty by a court is a fine of $5,500. You also risk a conviction being recorded.

Lifejacket Requirement

It is a legal requirement that most recreational vessels in NSW carry an appropriate size and type of lifejacket for each person on board. They must be stored or placed to allow quick and easy access. Lifejackets must be either visible to passengers, or their location clearly marked by an unobstructed and clearly visible sign saying LIFEJACKETS.

Types Of Lifejackets

There are four main types of lifejackets:

  1. Type 1 lifejacket – also known as Level 150 or Level 100 PFD.
  2. Type 2 lifejacket – also known as Level 50 PFD.
  3. Type 3 lifejacket – also known as Level 50 S PFD.
  4. Type 1 inflatable lifejacket – similar to the Type 1 lifejacket but rely on carbon dioxide for inflation.

What Lifejackets Must Be Carried On Board

Open (Ocean) Waters

A lifejacket Type 1 must be carried for everyone on board for all vessels except Outrigger Canoes (which can carry Type 1, 2 or 3).

Enclosed Waters

A lifejacket Type 1, 2 or 3 must be carried.

Alpine Waters

A lifejacket Type 1 or 2 must be carried.

When Must A Lifejacket Be Worn

New South Wales law requires that lifejackets be worn:

Boating Activity/Vessel type Situation
Under 12 years
  • At all times in vessel under 4.8m
  • In open area of underway vessel 4.8m to 8m on enclosed, open and alpine waters
All boats under 4.8m (unless specified below)
  • All occupants on enclosed waters at night or alone
  • At all times on open and alpine waters
  • At all times if vessel is used to transport goods/people more than 200 metres from shore
All towing
  • At all times on all waters
Canoes and kayaks
  • More than 100m from shore on enclosed waters
  • At all times on open and alpine waters
Off the beach sailing vessel
  • At all times on open and alpine waters
Sailboarding
  • More than 400m from shore on enclosed, open and alpine waters
Kiteboarding
  • More than 400m from shore on open and alpine waters when alone
PWC (jetski)
  • At all times on enclosed, open and alpine waters
Crossing coastal bars
  • All vessels at all times
Skipper’s responsibility
  • When the skipper considers a “heightened risk” situation on enclosed, open and alpine waters

Do I Need A Lawyer To Represent Me?

It is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible if you wish to appeal the penalty notice. It is your choice whether to represent yourself or whether to have a solicitor represent you in Court. In making this choice, it is important to bear in mind that it can be very daunting for a person who has no experience with the criminal justice system to find themselves in court. Our solicitors specialise in these matters and will use their experience and expertise to lead you through the process to the best possible outcome.

WHERE TO NEXT?

In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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