Upcoming safety equipment changes

WA skippers are being urged to prepare for upcoming changes to safety equipment requirements for recreational vessels.

It's time to get on board

(Please note that these are future changes only and that all current requirements remain in force)

New safety equipment laws for recreational vessels including personal watercraft (PWC) and non-registerable vessels are currently being drafted. The new requirements are planned to be in place prior to the 2023/24 summer boating season. 

The Department of Transport (DoT) has launched a State-wide education campaign in advance of the changes featuring recently retired AFL footballer and marine biologist David Mundy telling boat owners Itís time to get on board. 

The new laws will include mandatory wearing of lifejackets in some situations, but skippers and their passengers are being encouraged to wear them now rather than wait for the laws to change.

Statistics tell us there is a much higher survival rate for those who are wearing a lifejacket when they enter the water in an emergency.

The reforms will be implemented in two stages with changes for registered vessels taking effect first, followed by changes for windsurfers, kiteboards, and some paddle craft.

Stage One changes

Once the new laws come into place the first stage of changes will apply to registered recreational vessels, personal watercraft (PWC), non-registrable yachts/sailing vessels and tenders.


Vessel length and distance from shore

The length of a vessel will no longer determine how far it can travel from the shore. 

Even when carrying the required safety equipment, the skipper is responsible for determining how far from the shore they can operate safely. 

Weather conditions, vessel capability and ability of the skipper should be the key considerations, not the length of the vessel. 

Fire extinguisher, anchor/line, bilge pump/bailer

Skippers will no longer be required to carry a fire extinguisher, anchor, bilge pump or bailer.

However, it is strongly recommended that you continue to carry this equipment and assess your individual circumstances in determining which anchor, fire extinguisher or bilge pump/bailer is appropriate for your vessel and operating circumstances.

Changes to marine radio and distress beacon standards

  • All Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)  will need to be GPS enabled.
  • You will be required to carry a VHF or HF marine radio when travelling more than 4 nautical miles from shore. 27-MHz radios are being phased out over five years and will no longer be compliant.
  • The following Electronic Visual Distress Signal (EVDS) may be carried:
    • 547 Orion Electronic SOS Beacon Locator.
    • ACR ResQFlare LED Electronic Distress Flare. 

We strongly encourage you to update your distress beacons and marine radio units as soon as possible to improve your safety on the water. 

Note: Non-GPS enabled EPIRBís and PLSís will be phased out over the first 5 years.


Requirements for vessels smaller than 4.8 metres

In protected waters

When operating in rivers, lakes, estuaries, harbours and waters within 400 metres from the shore you will be required to carry a lifejacket (Level 100 or higher) for each person on board.

In unprotected waters

When operating more than 400 metres from shore in unprotected waters: 

  • A lifejacket (Level 100 or higher) will need to be worn by everyone on board.
  • You will be required to carry a GPS-enabled EPIRB or wear a GPS-enabled PLB.
  • You will be required to carry at least 2 handheld red flares and 2 handheld orange flares.  
  • Electronic Visual Distress Signals (EVDS) may be carried instead of flares, if a GPS-enabled EPIRB is carried or GPS-enabled PLB is worn.
  • You will be required to carry a marine radio; when operating beyond 4 nautical miles from shore.

Requirements for vessels larger than 4.8 metres

In protected waters

When operating in rivers, lakes, estuaries, harbours and waters within 400 metres from the shore you will be required to carry a lifejacket (Level 100 or higher) for each person on board.

In unprotected waters

When operating more than 400 metres from shore in unprotected waters: 

  • A lifejacket (Level 100 or higher) will need to be carried for everyone on board.
  • Children aged one to 12 years on board will need to wear a lifejacket (Level 100 or higher).
  • You will be required to carry a GPS-enabled EPIRB or wear a GPS-enabled PLB.
  • You will be required to carry at least 2 handheld red flares and 2 handheld orange flares.  
  • EVDS may be carried instead of flares only if a GPS-enabled EPIRB is carried or GPS-enabled PLB is worn.
  • You will be required to carry a marine radio when operating beyond 4 nautical miles from shore.

Requirements for PWC

Everyone on board PWC will be required to wear a lifejacket (minimum level 50S) at all times and in all waters. 

In unprotected waters

When operating more than 400 metres from shore in unprotected waters you will be required to also carry: 

  • A GPS-enabled EPIRB or wear a GPS-enabled PLB.
  • At least 2 handheld red flares and 2 handheld orange flares. EVDS may be carried instead of flares if a GPS-enabled EPIRB is carried or GPS-enabled PLB is worn.
  • A marine radio when travelling beyond 4 nautical miles from shore.


Non-registrable vessels

Existing equipment requirements for paddle craft and sailboards will continue to apply. New requirements for the craft will be drafted in Stage Two.

Stage Two changes

The second stage of changes will apply to paddle craft, sailboards, tenders, sailing dinghies and other non-registrable vessels once the new laws come in to place.

Once introduced tenders and non-registrable sailing vessels will no longer be subject to the requirements outlined in Stage One.

Requirements for non-registerable vessels less than 4.8 metres

In protected waters

When operating in rivers, lakes, estuaries, harbours and waters within 400 metres from the shore in unprotected waters it will not be mandatory but strongly recommended to carry or wear safety equipment.

In unprotected waters

When operating more than 400 metres from shore in unprotected waters: 

  • A lifejacket (minimum level 50S) will be required to be worn by everyone on board a vessel smaller than 4.8 metres.
  • You will be required to carry a GPS-enabled Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or wear a GPS-enabled Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).
  • Carry at least 2 handheld red flares and 2 handheld orange flares. An Electronic Visual Distress Signal (EVDS) may be carried instead of flares if a GPS-enabled EPIRB is carried or a GPS-enabled PLB is worn.

Requirements for non-registerable vessels larger than 4.8 metres

In protected waters

When operating in rivers, lakes, estuaries, harbours and waters within 400 metres from the shore there will be no requirements to carry or wear safety equipment.

In unprotected waters

When operating more than 400 metres from shore in unprotected waters: 

  • A lifejacket (Level 50S or higher) will be required to be carried for everyone on board a vessel greater than 4.8 metres.
  • Children aged one to 12 years on board will be required to wear a lifejacket (Level 100 or higher).
  • You will be required to carry a GPS-enabled EPIRB or wear a GPS-enabled PLB.
  • You will be required to carry at least 2 handheld red flares and 2 handheld orange flares. An
  • EVDS may be carried instead of flares if a GPS-enabled EPIRB is carried or GPS-enabled PLB is worn.

Frequently asked questions

The following frequently asked questions relate to upcoming changes to the required safety equipment for recreational vessels including PWCs and paddle craft, sailboards, tenders, sailing dinghies and other non-registrable craft.

When will the new safety equipment requirements apply?

Itís planned that the new laws will be in place prior to summer 2023/24. The reforms will be implemented in two stages with changes for registered vessels taking effect first, and followed by changes for windsurfers, kiteboards and some paddle craft.

Where can I get more information?

You can find more information in the background documents provided below, or by sending an email to our Maritime team at safetyequipmentreview@transport.wa.gov.au

 

Lifejackets

My vessel is 4.8m exactly, will the lifejacket wearing rules apply to me?

Vessels 4.8 metres and larger will only be required to carry a lifejacket for everyone on board when operating beyond 400 metres in unprotected waters.  

The lifejacket wearing rule only applies on vessels less than 4.8 metres. For example, if your vessel is 4.79 metres, everyone on board will be required to wear a lifejacket when the vessel is operating beyond 400 metres in unprotected waters.

But if you have children on board, the vessel length doesnít matter. All children aged between one and 12 years must wear a lifejacket when on board any vessel operating beyond 400m in unprotected waters.

Will it be compulsory for children to wear a lifejacket on vessels and craft?

Children aged one to 12 years on board any vessel will be required to wear a lifejacket (minimum level 100) when the vessel is operating in unprotected waters.

Children on board personal water craft (PWC) will be required to wear a lifejacket (50S minimum) at all times.

I like to kiteboard, windsurf, and ride on my paddle craft; will I need to wear a lifejacket?

Yes, paddle craft, kiteboards and windsurfers are non-registerable vessels so you will need to wear a lifejacket (50S) minimum when operating beyond 400m of shore. These rules will come into effect in Stage Two .

If Iím surfing a break further than 400m from shore, will I be breaking the law if I donít wear a lifejacket?

You are not required to wear a lifejacket while operating stand-up paddleboards, non-motorised surfboards, or body/boogie boards.

 

Vessel and craft requirements

What is a registrable vessel and a non-registrable vessel?

A registrable vessel is:

  • any vessel that is or may be propelled by mechanical power, including vessels ordinarily propelled by sail only, and
  • used wholly for recreational use or sporting activities and not for hire or reward.

All registrable vessels must be registered with DoT if they are in or are used in any navigable waters.

Non-registrable vessels include sailboards, kiteboards, non-motorised paddle craft, tenders and sailing dinghies. These vessels are not required to be registered with DoT.

Stand-up paddleboards, non-motorised surfboards and boogie boards are not considered to be registrable or non-registrable vessels and are not subject to any safety equipment requirements. However, youíre encouraged to consider your safety and appropriate equipment for the conditions.

If you are unsure which category your vessel belongs to, email safetyequipmentreview@transport.wa.gov.au

I only use my boat on the river, or on lakes for water skiing. Will I be affected by the safety equipment changes?

Yes. Itís planned in the 2023/24 summer boating season, with the new laws in place, all recreational vessels will be required to carry a lifejacket with a minimum buoyancy of level 100 for each person on board in all waters.  

During consultation, the community strongly supported increasing lifejacket carriage requirements.

Will my tender need to carry safety equipment under the new laws?

Yes, following the introduction of the new rules, tenders will require safety equipment but following the introduction of Stage Two, tenders will join the non-registrable vessel category and those requirements will apply.

Did you know you need to register your tender if you use if for any other purpose than lifesaving or for transport to and from your larger registered vessel Ė such as for fishing?

Once your tender is registered, the safety equipment requirements for registerable vessels will apply.

I windsurf in the ocean. Will I need to carry safety equipment on me if I travel further than 400m from shore?

Yes. Once the new rules are in place, safety equipment requirements for non-registrable vessels will apply.

Is a sea kayak that is 3.7m in length with a battery powered motor (and sometimes without a motor) required to be registered?

A kayak or any vessel that has a motor fitted or a fitting for a motor must be registered. 


Will I be permitted to take my personal water craft (PWC) to Rottnest?

Yes. The length of a vessel will no longer determine how far it can travel from the shore. 

Currently, vessels less than 3.75m in length are not permitted to navigate further than 5 nautical miles from the nearest point at low water mark on the mainland shore.

However, the length of your vessel should not be the only consideration when determining how far you can safely operate from shore. 

Consider the weather conditions, vessel capability and safety equipment requirements when deciding how far to travel from the shore.


Am I required to carry the same safety equipment on my PWC as other registrable vessels?

A PWC is a registrable vessel so you will be required to carry the applicable safety equipment. 

However unlike other registrable vessels, everyone on board a PWC will need to wear a lifejacket (minimum level 50S) at all times.

 

Distress beacons 

Under the new safety equipment requirements, EPIRBs must be GPS enabled.

 How do I tell if I need to upgrade my existing EPIRB?

A GPS enabled EPIRB will be:

  • labelled to indicate if it has GPS capability by the initials GPS or the letter G; or
  • have an identification number or hex ID that includes the term Ď3 echoí.  

All Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) on the market are GPS enabled. 

You will have five years from the commencement of the new laws to upgrade to a GPS enabled EPIRB.

Under the new safety equipment requirements do I have to wear my EPIRB?

No. EPIRBs should be kept in an easily accessible location on your vessel. However, you can choose to wear a GPS enabled PLB instead of carrying an EPIRB. The PLB will need to be worn by at least one person on board the vessel.

Can PLBs be an acceptable alternative to EPIRBs?

Yes, however the PLB will need to be GPS enabled and worn by at least one person on board the vessel.

What is the benefit of a GPS enabled distress beacon compared with a non-GPS enabled distress beacon?

A GPS enabled distress beacon (EPIRB and PLB) will direct emergency services to within 120m of your location compared to 5 kilometres with a non-GPS device.

Where can I dispose of my old EPIRBs and PLBs?

Old and unwanted EPIRBs and PLBs can be:

  • Handed in for safe disposal at Marine Operations, 14 Capo D'Orlando Drive, Fremantle or any DoT regional office.
  • Left in marked bins at Battery World stores around Australia (disposal fees may apply.)
  • Disarmed by following the manufacturerís instructions.

Flares

Under the new safety equipment requirements do I need to carry flares on my vessel?

Yes. When operating any vessel more than 400m from the shore in unprotected waters, you will need to carry:

  • 2 in date handheld orange smoke flares, and
  • 2 in date red handheld flares.

An electronic visual distress signalling device (EVDS) may be carried instead of flares if a GPS enabled EPIRB is also carried, or a PLB is worn.

Currently, only 2 EVDS meet DoTís requirements:

  • 547 Orion Electronic SOS Beacon Locator
  • ACR Electronics ResQFlare

Under the new safety requirements, will I be able to use the parachute/rocket flares that I have?

Yes, if you have parachute/rocket flares, you will be able to use them until 3 years from the date the new laws commence.

How do I dispose of old flares?

You can dispose of old flares at Marine Operations, 14 Capo D'Orlando Drive, Fremantle, any DoT regional office or Household Hazardous Waste program centres. Find a list of disposal sites on our flares page.

Which Electronic Visual Distress Signals (EVDS) are approved for recreational vessels?

Skippers operating beyond 400m from shore in unprotected waters will have the option to carry an EVDS instead of flares, if they also carry a GPS enabled EPIRB or wear a GPS enabled PLB. 
Currently, only 2 EVDS meet DoTís requirements:

  • 547 Orion Electronic SOS Beacon Locator
  • ACR Electronics ResQFlare

Do you know if EVDS will also be approved for domestic commercial vessels?

The new safety equipment requirements only apply to recreational vessels and craft in WA. 

For more information about safety equipment for commercial vessels please contact the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Marine radios

At what distance from shore will I need a marine radio on board my vessel?

You will need to carry either a HF or VHF marine radio on any registrable vessel when operating more than 4 nautical miles from shore in unprotected waters.


Can I still use my 27MHz radio?

27 MHz marine radios will be phased out over a 5-year period from the date the new laws commence. 

27 MHz marine radios do not perform as well as modern VHF marine radios and the monitored coverage by search and rescue organisations is significantly less than that of the VHF spectrum.  

We encourage you to update your radio as soon as possible to ensure your safety on the water.
 

Recommended safety equipment  

Fire extinguishers, bailers, bilge pumps and anchors are recommended under the new requirements but no longer required by law. Am I still able to carry them?

Yes. While many boats come with this equipment as standard, skippers will be encouraged to carry fire extinguishers, bailers, bilge pumps and anchors.


Why are anchors Ďrecommended itemsí under the new safety equipment requirements?

The effectiveness of an anchor depends on the vessel type, anchor type, seabed, depth of water and sea conditions. 

For some types of vessels, carrying and using an anchor is not practical, even during an emergency. For other vessels, anchors are used as part of normal operations and will be carried regardless of if they are required to or not.

It is up to you to determine if you need to carry an anchor and line. Find out more about choosing an anchor on our anchors page.

Why are bilge pumps or bailers Ďrecommended itemsí under the new safety requirements?

The type and capacity of the bilge pump or bailer required depends on the type, buoyancy, and size of your vessel.

For example, some vessels have self-draining decks or are constructed to have positive buoyancy even if they are filled with water. Other vessels have compartments where water is difficult to detect without an alarm and cannot be cleared using a bailer.  

It is up to you to determine if you need to carry a bailer or bilge pump. Find out more on our bailer or bilge pump page.


Why are fire extinguishers Ďrecommended itemsí under the new safety requirements?

The fire risk on board a vessel depends on the type, size, and construction material of the vessel.

The type of fire extinguisher required will also vary depending on the source of the fire and capability of the person responding to the fire.  

It is up to you to determine if you should carry a fire extinguisher. Find out more on our fire extinguishers page.

Background documents

 

Safety equipment

Page last updated: Tue Mar 21 2023 2:44:42 PM