COVID-19 boating update

NSW Maritime appreciates that many boaters and community members have questions about the public health orders and how they relate to water-based activities.

A sail charter vessel
A sail charter vessel

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JUL 2021

JUL 2021NSW Maritime - COVID-19 Boating Update

From 24 July 2021, NSW Government Public Health Orders have been updated requiring people in Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour) to stay at home until at least 11.59pm on Friday, 30 July 2021 unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’. View the latest rules.

Unless you have an essential need to be out - stay home.

A ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave your home to use your vessel could be to:

  • limited recreation where exercise is involved (e.g. kayaking/sailing/paddling/fishing etc but not power boating or cruising) with no more than one other person, if not from the same household.
  • get to and from work, where the work cannot reasonably be performed from home;
  • get groceries (one person only); and
  • provide assistance, care or support to an immediate member of the family.

And, in Greater Sydney, even for these activities, you must stay within a 10 kilometre radius of your home for the whole time you’re out.

Socialising, recreational power boating or cruising on the water are not ‘reasonable excuses’ to leave your home.

Remember, physical distancing and gathering rules apply at all times – including at the boat ramp and on your boat. For details on gathering and distance requirements, check the NSW Government website.

Skippers must also remember their other safety responsibilities regarding safety equipment, alcohol consumption, keeping a proper lookout and proceeding at a safe speed.

For the latest information on coronavirus and current restrictions, members of the community are encouraged to check the NSW Government website for regular updates.

Permitted water-based activities under the current Public Health Orders

The table shows the permitted water-based activities under the current Public Health Orders. Please note outdoor exercise activities are limited to groups of 2 people unless they are members of the same household.

Physical distancing and gathering rules are to be observed at all times during any of the below activities. When on a commercial vessel that has less than two sides open to the weather, those on board must wear masks if they are on the vessel with another person. Commercial vessels (excluding vessels providing tours or hosting functions) are exempted from restrictions on gathering.

When on a private boat, the skipper is to ensure there is 4 square metres of space for each person on board. If there is not 4 square metres of space per person, the skipper will not be complying with the Public Health Order.

Power boating in Greater Sydney is not currently permitted as outdoor recreation, unless you are specifically fishing and provided the vessel remains in Greater Sydney and doesn’t travel outside your LGA or more than 10 kilomteres from your home. Vessels outside Greater Sydney are not permitted to enter Greater Sydney for recreational purposes. Likewise, vessels that normally berth in Greater Sydney are not allowed outside the Greater Sydney area.

The latest information on physical distancing and gathering rules is available on the NSW Government website.

If you are satisfied you meet all the criteria, please still only travel and boat locally. For all the permitted activities below, you must stay within your LGA or within a 10 kilometre radius from your home.

Activity Permitted? Notes
PWC/jet ski for transportation, exercise or fishing Yes
  • Physical distancing and gathering rules apply
  • Considered as exercise or transportation
Fishing Yes
  • Physical distancing and gathering rules apply
  • Anchoring permitted while fishing only
  • Considered as exercise
Tow sports (water-skiing, wake sports etc.) Yes, in limited circumstances. See Notes to the right.
  • Must have a skipper and observer in addition to the person being towed, while also observing physical distancing and gathering rules
  • Considered as exercise
  • Must all be members of the same household
Sailing Yes
  • Physical distancing and gathering rules apply
  • Considered as exercise
General boating for recreational purposes or power boating and cruising No Not considered a reasonable excuse
Kayaking or paddle sports Yes
  • Physical distancing and gathering rules apply
  • Considered as exercise
Education or training for a boat licence Yes, in limited circumstances. See Notes at right. While the trainers and educators are allowed to operate, applicants and trainees can only gather in groups of two, if not from the same household, and must stay within their LGA or no more than 10 kilometres from their home, within Greater Sydney. Virtual training via an online platform is allowed, but practical training of more than two people outside their own LGA is probably impractical.
Stay overnight on a boat or hire a boat/houseboat? No Not considered a reasonable excuse

Purchasing, maintaining and servicing your vessel

The following activities are considered reasonable excuses to leave your home to ensure the safety of a vessel or undertaking a legal obligation and should be limited to your LGA:

  • Access a vessel at a marina or on a mooring to maintain, service or check on systems and make sure it is safe and compliant (per legal obligations to do so)
  • Take a vessel to a marina or boat shed for repairs or servicing
  • Pick up vessel from a marina or boat shed after servicing
  • Move a vessel between marinas or moorings for relocation purposes

Physical distancing and gathering rules are to be observed at all times during any of the above activities. The latest information on Physical distancing and gathering rules are available on the NSW Government website.

Commercial vessels and charters

For crew: Commercial vessels and charter boats are considered places of work for crew. This means they should adhere to the rules surrounding other workplaces. In general, commercial vessels in Greater Sydney can operate if they are providing an essential service, which does not include recreational charters. See details about workplaces.

For passengers:Recreational charters (such as harbour cruises, whale watching, diving, fishing etc.) are considered under the Public Health Order, to be in the same category as restaurants, clubs, hotels and similar premises and therefore should not operate in Greater Sydney. See details NSW Government website.

Information about boat ramps

  • All boat ramps in NSW are managed by local councils, the National Parks and Wildlife Service or WaterNSW – with the exception of four ramps managed by Transport for NSW at Carrington, North Stockton, South Stockton and Port Kembla
  • Contact your local council for more information about specific boat ramps
  • There are no current plans to close the ramps managed by Transport for

Reporting a breach of restrictions

  • NSW Police is the relevant enforcement authority for the Public Health Order and will use discretion to assess whether community members have a ‘reasonable excuse’ to be out on the water, and whether there have been any breaches
  • To report a breach contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a report via the Crime Stoppers website.
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