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Trip Preparation

Safety Equipment

The following table sets out the minimum requirements for owners and operators of motor-propelled recreational vessels.

All vessels operating at night require navigational lights and torch.

It is recommended that vessels less than 6 metres should not proceed beyond sheltered waters.

Sheltered waters are all waters not exceeding 2 nautical miles to seaward of land on the North and East coasts unless specified in the MAST "Limits of Operational Areas"

All Other Waters are those beyond Sheltered Waters as well as waters on the South and West Coasts between South East Cape and Cape Grim.

    1. Personal flotation devices should meet the requirement of AS 4758 which came into effect in July 2010. PFDs made to the old standards, AS 1512, or AS 1499 are still able to be used however it is recommended that these are replaced with the AS 4758 jackets when their condition deteriorates.

    2. Fire extinguishers should have a capacity of at least 0.9 kg and meet AS 1841.5 Depending on the size of the vessel more than one extinguisher may be required.

    3. Flares should include 2 orange smoke and 2 red handheld distress flares. 2 Parachute rockets are required for vessels operating outside sheltered waters.

    4. EPIRB=Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon

    5. Flares are not required on vessels in smooth waters. Smooth waters are enclosed and inland waters.

Life Jackets (Personal Flotation Devices)

An approved life jacket / personal flotation device (PFD) must be provided for each person on board. It is compulsory to wear a PFD in any recreational motor boat or motor-propelled tender that is under six (6) metres in length and is under power.

It is also compulsory for children under the age of 12 years to wear a PFD in a recreational motor boat or motor-propelled tender of any length while under power.

Boaters are not required to wear a PFD while they are within a deckhouse, cabin or secure enclosed space.

Personal Flotation Device - Level 150 or Level 100

A Level 150 or 100 must comply with the Australian Standard AS 4758. This will be clearly marked inside the garment. These jackets replace the old PFD Type1, AS 1512. These jackets offer head support and superior buoyancy over other PFDs. They are also made from highly visible colours. These jackets are required for sheltered and open waters. It is recommended children use this style of jacket in all operational areas.

Personal Flotation Device - Level 50

A Level 50 must comply with Australian Standard AS 4758. This will be clearly marked inside the garment. These jackets replace the old PFD Type 2 AS 1499. They do not offer head support. These jackets are to be used in smooth water only.

Personal Flotation Device - Level 50 Special Purpose

A Level 50 Special Purpose must comply with AS 4758. These jackets do not meet Australian Standards Association colour requirements. They replace the old PFD Type 3 AS 2260. Level 50 Special Purpose jackets can be worn by operators of kayaks, PWCs in sheltered waters and people being towed on skis, wakeboards etc. They are not to be used as the main life jacket in a boat.

Anchor, chain and line

An anchor with a high holding power such as a spade or plough is required to be carried with a specified length of line and before the anchor you must insert a length of chain.

Vessel length
Chain length
Line length
Under 6 metres
2 metres
40 metres
6 metres and over
5 metres
50 metres

Fire Extinguisher

All vessels with an engine carry a fire extinguisher.

Vessel length
Minimum number and capacity
Minimum equivalent rating
      Under 8 metres
One 0.9kg5BE
8-12 metres
Two 0.9kg5BE
Over 12 metres
(a) Three 0.9kg or
(b) One 0.9kg and one 1.5kg
5BE / 10BE

Oars/Auxiliary propulsion

Oars/paddles or an auxiliary motor must be carried to provide a second means of propulsion. Owners of larger vessels should also consider some means of auxiliary power as an effective safety device.


Depending on the size of the vessel, at least one solidly constructed metal or plastic bucket with 2 metres of rope attached must be carried on any vessel. As a safety item it is useful for both bailing water out and fighting fires. In an emergency the bucket can be used as a sea anchor.


Distress flares are a most important part of safety equipment. They are used to raise the alarm and also to act as a pinpoint location to assist search and rescue parties to come to the vessel in distress. They can be very valuable in assisting early rescue, and reducing heavy cost for search and rescue operations.

Within Tasmania, flares are not required for vessels less than 6 metres operating in smooth waters.
It is important to read the instructions on distress flares carefully at the beginning of every boating season to ensure familiarity with the method of operation, since different brands of signals have different methods of ignition.

It is important to check the expiry date and to replace any out-of-date product. Such products can be returned to the manufacturer or to Workplace Standards Authority offices. Check the White pages for your local office or phone 1300 366 322.

Store flares carefully on board in an easily accessible, dry place and ensure that all crew members know where they are stored and how they operate.

Flares must be approved to Australian Standard AS2092.

Red Handflare
These can be seen from a range of up to 10km at sea level on a clear, dark night and up to 20km from the air. It burns for over 60 seconds with an intense 15,000-candela red light. They can be seen in daylight over a shorter range.

Orange Handsmoke Signal
The smoke flare is for day use only. It provides a vivid and expanding cloud of dense orange smoke visible for more than 60 seconds and can be seen from 4 km away at sea level and even further from and aircraft. Always hold the flare to leeward when using it.

Parachute Rocket Flare
This is a handheld, self-contained distress rocket, ejecting a parachute with a suspended red flare at 300 metres altitude. It burns for 40 seconds at a brilliant 30,000 candela. It can be seen for 15km by day and 40km or more by night.

WatersFlare Requirement
Smooth WatersRecommended
Partially Smooth Waters2 x Red Hand Flares
2 x Orange Smoke Flare
Open &
Coastal Waters
2 x Red Hand Flares
2 x Orange Smoke Flare
2 x Red Parachute Rockets


All boats operating beyond sheltered waters are required to carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). An EPRIB is a compact, buoyant, self contained radio beacon which continuously emits a distinctive radio signal to a satellite for at least 48 hours when activated. When the signal is detected the Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra initiates a response using locally based rescue services. EPIRBs should only be used as a last resort when in imminent danger. Other communications such as a radio and flares should be used first.

Some important points about EPIRBs

  • Ensure your EPIRB container is not cracked or showing signs of damage and batteries are within their shelf life.
  • Use the test switch at least once a month to verify power
  • Keep accessible
  • Extend or release the aerial to its full length
  • Allow the beacon to float free to the length of its attached line
Once activated, leave the EPIRB on until told to switch it off by a SAR authority.

Your 121.5 MHz beacon should now be replaced by the more modern 406 MHz EPIRB.

406 MHz beacons are much easier to locate as they are more accurate and also contain particular details about the vessel and it’s owner. Consequently false alerts can be resolved by a quick radio or telephone call.

406MHz personal locator beacons (PLBs) are available in compact sizes to enable them to be carried within the wet weather gear of yachtsmen and solo boaters. These PLBs are not recognised as the principal EPIRB on a boat as they are built to a different standard.

It is important to remember that once activated, the response to your EPIRB signal by a search and rescue authority many be many hours, especially if you are in a remote location.

Click Here to view EPIRB Hire Agreement Form

You must register your EPIRB with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

Registration is free and valid for two years. More details on how to register your EPIRB can be found on the AMSA website.

406 Beacon Information (

Distress Beacons : Frequently asked Questions (PDF 939kb)

Radar Reflector

Vessels such as trailer boats often give very poor echoes on a ship's radar, especially in rough seas. These can be even poorer from fibreglass and timber vessels. Radar reflectors mounted aloft from masts or above superstructures can help small craft to become more "visible" on radar. They are simply a piece of metal arranged to return radio waves and can be purchased from boat chandleries or even home-made.

The Marine and Safety (Motor Boats and Licences) By-Laws 2013 require vessels of all lengths that operate outside sheltered waters to carry a radar reflector. In general terms, sheltered waters extend two nautical miles to seaward of land unless otherwise specified in MAST's Limits of Operational Areas.

Marine Radio

MAST recommends that in areas where a marine radio is required a VHF radio is a better choice than a 27MHz radio. The 27MHz is the cheaper option but is inferior to a VHF.

For coastal operations a VHF radio provides much greater coverage and allows communication with shore stations for distress and emergency situations. It also allows boaters to talk with commercial vessels if necessary. The MAST VHF repeater network gives statewide coverage and allows vessels in distress to communicate with each other. Traffic on the repeaters is monitored by volunteer groups as listed below.

Maatsuyker Island Channel 82Monitored by Coast Radio Hobart
Cape SorellChannel 80Monitored by Strahan Sea Rescue
Bluff Hill PointChannel 81Monitored by Smithton Radio and Mersey Radio
Three Hammock Island Channel 26 Monitored by Smithton Radio and Mersey Radio
Dazzler RangeChannel 80Monitored by Mersey Radio and Tamar Sea Rescue
Mt HorrorChannel 82Monitored by Tamar Sea Rescue, St Helens Marine Rescue and Mersey Radio
Cape TourvilleChannel 80Monitored by Swansea Coastguard
Mt MariaChannel 16Monitored by Coast Radio Hobart
Mt RaoulChannel 81Monitored by Coast Radio Hobart

Distress communications with shore stations is on Channel 16. When at sea you must have your radio turned on and tuned to the distress frequency even when it is not otherwise in use. If you are unable to gain a response to distress communications on Channel 16 then you may be ou tof range in which case you should also try on the repeater channel closest to you (as above).

For vessels venturing far out to sea or interstate, a HF radio provides long distance communication and emergency response.

All operators of VHF radios must have a minimum of a Marine Radio Operators VHF Certificate of Proficiency (MROVCP) issued by the Australian Communications Authority.
Further information is available from the Australian Maritime College on 1300 850 115 and a list of ACA Invigilators is available in the Marine Communications section of this website.

Mobile Phones
A mobile phone cannot be used as a substitute for the requirement to fit a marine radio. In an emergency situation a marine radio transmission can be heard by other vessels in the vicinity and so provide a greater chance of receiving a quick response. This does not mean a mobile cannot be used in an emergency situation.

International Distress Signals
All distress, urgency and safety calls and messages should be spoken slowly and clearly. Use of the standard vocabulary is recommended in the case of language difficulties.

The obligation to accept distress calls and messages is absolute and such messages must be accepted with priority over all radio communications. The transmission of false or deceptive distress, urgency or safety signals is strictly forbidden and there are extremely severe penalties. These signals must be used only to indicate the need of assistance. Misuse of them puts lives of others at risk and is illegal.

The Distress Signal
The radiotelephone distress signal consists of the word MAYDAY. This signal indicates that the ship using it is threatened by grave and imminent danger and requests immediate assistance.

The Urgency Signal
The radiotelephone urgency signal consists of the words PAN PAN. This signal indicates that the ship has a very urgent message to transmit concerning the safety of the ship or the safety of a person but is not in imminent danger. (eg medical emergency) This signal has priority over all other communication except those concerning distress.

The Safety Signal
The safety signal consists of the word SECURETE (pronounced SAY-CURE-E-TAY)
This signal indicates that the station using it is about to transmit a message concerning an important navigational or weather warning.

In an emergency the most vital link between the rescuer and the rescued is communication. If your boat is being operated outside sheltered waters you are required to have a marine radio.

Safety equipment in unregistered boats

It is a requirement for all unregistered motor boats to carry the minimum required safety equipment. Unregistered motor boats are all motorised vessels of less than 4hp. These vessels are required to carry the minimum required safety equipment as per the Marine and Safety (Motor Boats and Licences) By-Laws 2013, which includes a fire extinguisher, bailer or bilge pump, flares, an anchor with the correct length of chain and rope and oars or paddles. It is also compulsory to wear a PFD at all times when under power.
(Flares are not required in smooth waters)

Safety equipment in tenders

The only compulsory safety equipment that applies to tenders is the requirement to wear a PFD when under power. This is not a requirement for tenders that are being rowed.

A motor propelled tender is defined as any vessel not exceeding 4.5 metres in length that is operated within 0.5 nautical miles of a parent vessel
used primarily for embarking and disembarking crew and passengers.

Once a motor-propelled tender operates beyond 0.5 miles from it’s parent vessel, it is required to carry the minimum safety equipment listed above and if more than 4hp is also required to be registered.

Weather Safety Hints

Always obtain a weather forecast before going to sea. A forecast includes information on wind direction and speed as well as the state of the sea and swell.
    • Know the local factors that influence sea conditions and where to reach shelter quickly.
    • Learn how to read a weather map.
    • Beware of rapidly darkening and lowering cloud.
    • Be aware of unexpected changes in wind speed and direction.
    • Always check the latest forecast.
    • Be aware that the weather map in the morning newspaper may be a prognosis from the day before. AM & FM Radio as well as internet forecasts are much more up-to-date.
    • Be flexible –change your plans if necessary and make sure you keep the person who has your voyage plan informed.

MAST Telephone Boating Weather Service

Always ring this service for the cost of a local call before you go boating.

Southern Tasmania Phone 6233 9955
Eastern Tasmania Phone 6376 0555
Northern Tasmania Phone 6323 2555
North West and West Tasmania 6498 7755

Also included on these numbers are forecasts for South-West and Central Plateau Lakes.

Other sources of a weather forecast include:
    • Bureau of Meteorology at
    • Marine Radio on VHF Channel 67
    • Recorded telephone information on 1900 969 940 or by fax on 1902 935 240
    • AM Radio
    • (ABC at 0555 and with bureau at 0645, 0720, 1240 & 1725 during the week)
    • Weekend bulletin at 0600, 0700, 0745, 0900, 1000, 1200, 1800, 1900, 2200
    • FM Radio (Check local stations for frequencies and broadcast times)
    • Television (nightly news updates)
    • Newspapers
    • Volunteer organisations (Check these in your local area)

Positive Buoyancy

Boats fitted or built with positive buoyancy will keep afloat when filled with water. Small boats with no buoyancy fitted or negative buoyancy can fill with water and sink very quickly. If a boat with any sort of buoyancy swamps with water, it should still stay afloat. This can give those on board time to reach life saving equipment, put on their life jackets, if they are not already wearing them, and attempt to bail the water out. A floating boat is an identifiable target for search and rescue efforts.

MAST trials show that boats that have underfloor buoyancy were not likely to remain upright but would float either upside down or bow up depending on the weight of the outboard and the buoyancy fitted in the stern of the boat.

Flotation material added at the sides, as far aft and as high as possible (up under the gunwales) will under normal conditions, make the boat float level. Even if the boat is swamped, it will stay upright and sit lower in the water, even to where the deck is level with the surface of the sea or surrounding water. If the occupants are tipped out they can get back into the upright boat more easily.

Amount of Flotation

A simple calculation is available for owners of trailer boats to check the required amount of flotation in your boat. This is a guide only.

Aluminium, GRP and Steel vessels:

1.2 x (M x K + F)

1000 – D M = Mass of the hull and deck
K = Alum 0.62, GRP 0.375, Steel 0.87
Timber vessels
F = Mass of machinery and fittings
D = Density of buoyancy material (40kg/m3)
1.2 x F

1000 - D

Example for an aluminium vessel When
: M = 240 kg (hull and deck mass)
K = Aluminium 0.62
1.2 x (240 x O.62 + 80)
F = 80 kg (machinery)
1000 – 40 D = 40 kg/m3

Required flotation = 0.286 m3

Click here for further information on Buoyancy


Overloading is one of the easiest ways to capsize your boat, and contributes greatly to boating fatalities. The more weight in the boat, the lower the freeboard which increases the chances of swamping and lowers stability. Overpowering your vessel also causes overloading due to the increased weight. Overloading compromises the safety of everyone on board.

Know how to safely load your boat by:
    • storing heavy items low and central in a place where they cannot move around
    • distributing the weight, including passengers
    • evenly throughout the boat.
    • compensating for the weight of extra fuel

Capacity Plates on Recreational Vessels

After 1 December 2001, it will be compulsory to have a capacity label affixed to your boat, indicating to you and your passengers the safe persons capacity for the vessel. . A voluntary phase-in period will exist up until this date.

All motor boats and motor propelled tenders will be required to affix a sticker, which will be issued by MAST. Stickers and brochures have been sent out with registration renewals in November 2000, and are also available from your local marine dealer or by emailing or phoning MAST.

As outlined in the brochure Don’t Overload Your Boat, the maximum number of persons can be
    a. a number representing the maximum capacity calculated according to Australian Standard AS1799.1-1992; or
    b. the manufacturers maximum persons capacity rating, or
    c. a capacity calculated in a manner approved by the MAST.

The owner or driver of a vessel will also have to ensure that the capacity plate sticker is permanently attached to the boat, not more than one metre from each steering position, and it must also show the maximum number of people the boat may carry in smooth waters.

The sticker which owners will receive will be either identical to the one illustrated above, or very similar.

There are four different types of capacity plate stickers—
    a. powered boats under six (6) metres
    b. powered inflatable rubber boats
    c. powered boats six (6) metres and over
    d. powered boats with flybridges

If you own an inflatable boat, or a boat with a flybridge, we will need to obtain the relevant sticker from MAST or your local marine dealer.

Capacity limits are the recommended maximum number of persons a boat can safely carry in good conditions. The onus on safety rests with the operator at all times. When using the boat in exposed waters or rough conditions, the operator should consider either reducing the number of persons taken on the trip, or not go at all!

Click Here for further information on Capacity Labels

Basic Rules for Safe Boating
    • Know the area you’re boating and seek local knowledge
    • Tell someone where you are going and when you will return
    • Know the limitations of your boat – ask a boat dealer
    • Know your own limitations – if you’re in any doubt, come in.
    • Carry the right safety gear and know how to use it.
    • Don’t commit yourself to the trip-cancel if the weather is bad.
    • Know the load limit of your boat and don’t exceed it.
    • Carry some spare fuel and basic spare parts
    • If you’re in doubt about safety – put on a PFD
    • Keep an eye on the kids and put them in a PFD at the boat ramp.
    • Alcohol and boating don’t mix

      If you’re new to boating, remind yourself of these items
        • Take it easy – even the most experienced boaters can get into trouble
        • Knowledge and skills come from experience – this takes time
        • Perhaps start in calm conditions and work your way up
        • Don’t be over confident – a licence means you know the rules but you have no experience
        • Now that you hold a boat licence, you also hold the responsibility of your passengers

          Planning Your Trip

          Going Boating? - Then use this checklist before depart!
            • Do I have a current Licence?
            • Have I Checked the Weather Forecast?
            • Checked the tide to ensure the ramp is suitable?
            • Checked the vessel and safety equipment?
            • Have I got enough fuel for the trip (and reserve)?
            • Do I have sufficient food and water and a first aid kit?
            • Have I told someone when I am going and returning?
            • Do I know the area I’m going, or have I asked local knowledge?
            • Have I shown my passengers the safety equipment?

              If you have done everything on this checklist, then you’ve planned your trip satisfactorily and you’re ready to go boating!

              But remember to watch the weather and think of your boat’s safety at all times

              Print this checklist out and use it before you go boating.