Operating Superyachts on Sydney Harbour

This information is designed to help superyacht masters prepare for a visit to Sydney Harbour and to assist them during the visit.

Legislation, guidelines and definitions

This information is to be read in conjunction with, and is subordinate to, NSW and Commonwealth legislation, as amended from time to time, and the information promulgated on relevant websites. In the event of any inconsistency between this information and the legislation or information promulgated on relevant websites, then the requirements of the legislation and relevant websites take precedence, including the publishing of any Harbour Master Directions.

For the purposes of this information, superyachts are recreational vessels with an LOA of 30m or more that are used for private (non-commercial) operations.

Pilots and certificates

In accordance with the Harbour Master Directions, pilotage is compulsory in Sydney Harbour in respect to all vessels, other than those listed below, subject to any contrary direction given to the Master or owner of the vessel declaring pilotage to be compulsory:

  • vessel with a Master who is the holder of a relevant Marine Pilotage Exemption Certificate
  • vessel with a Master who is the holder of a relevant Certificate of Local Knowledge
  • vessel < 30m in length*
  • seaplane
  • recreational vessel**
  • vessel in respect of which an order is in effect exempting it from pilotage.

*A vessel engaged in towing or pushing, with a combined length ≥ 30m, is not exempt from pilotage.

**Foreign vessels and regulated Australian vessels will not be considered recreational vessels (refer to the Navigation Act 2012 (Cth)).

A master is encouraged to request these services if in any doubt regarding the procedures on the harbour or regarding his/her ability to safely manoeuvre within the harbour.

In certain circumstances the harbour master may require a pilot to conduct the vessel on its movement into, out of or within the port.

Superyacht requirements

Superyachts are free to enter and move around Sydney Harbour subject to compliance with the following requirements:

  • Superyacht masters operate on Sydney Harbour in accordance with the requirements outlined in the Harbour Master Directions.
  • Superyachts operating on Sydney Harbour, or within 5 nautical miles of the port limits, must at all times maintain a listening watch on VHF Ch 13, report to Sydney VTS on VHF Ch 13 at the required times and follow all directions issued by Sydney VTS.
  • The master is aware of, and complies with, the restrictions and all other requirements for operating on Sydney Harbour.
  • International Regulations (COLREGs) and NSW Special Rules of the Road contained within Schedule 4 of the Marine Safety (General) Regulation 2016.

View or download the complete Harbour Master Directions for Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay.

Other Sydney Harbour information

Priority over sail

Masters of sailing superyachts, when under sail, are required to give way to ferries displaying an orange diamond shape which grants ferries priority over sailing vessels by day.

Passage of seagoing ships and Naval Vessels

Vessels are not to impede the passage of seagoing ships, vessels under the conduct of a pilot, exempt master or naval vessels inside the shipping channel or fairway.

Hovercraft, high speed ferries and Rivercats

These craft carry the normal lights for a power-driven vessel underway and, in addition, they exhibit an all-round flashing yellow light. This light does not provide any priority over sailing vessels.

Charter Wharf Booking System

The Charter Wharf Booking System is designed to provide commercial operators use of Charter Wharves in Sydney Harbour. Access the Charter Wharf Booking System.

Other commonly used docks throughout Sydney Harbour

Rose Bay Wharf

  • Floating pontoon next to the ferry wharf (size limit of 20 tonnes / 15 minutes only).

Darling Harbour – Cockle Bay Wharf

  • To book a berth, call +61 2 9211 5383 or email dhmarina@bigpond.com.au
  • Pyrmont Bridge can open or has clearance height of 6.05m.

Taronga Zoo Wharf

  • Ferry wharf (ferries have right of way).

All other ferry wharves within the Sydney Harbour can be used, keeping in mind ferries have right of way.

Cruising and sightseeing flow of traffic on Sydney Harbour

All vessels should navigate in a generally anti-clockwise direction around Sydney Harbour.

Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Operating a PWC (as defined in the Marine Safety Regulation 2016) on Sydney Harbour is prohibited.

Restricted access areas

Cockle Bay

Property NSW controls Cockle Bay. Vessels may enter whenever a closure notice is not displayed on the electronic notice panel on the centre of the Pyrmont Bridge. Contact may be made with the bridge controller to check on closures by calling Pyrmont Bridge on Channel 13. Vessels may berth at the visitor’s marina on the eastern side of the Bay, for which there is a fee. Use of the wharves on the western and southern sides is by arrangement with the Property NSW only.

Sydney Cove (Circular Quay)

Circular Quay is a ferry and passenger ship terminal. Access for recreational vessels is prohibited without written permission from TfNSW Maritime. For more details, see Schedule 6 of the Marine Safety Regulation 2016.

Campbells Cove

The timber wharf in Campbells Cove can be used as a superyacht berth for vessels up to 60m LOA and is within the Sydney Cove restricted area. Prior approval to enter is required. This can be arranged through Sydney Superyacht Marina or any of the local superyacht agents.

Naval Waters

Naval Waters are indicated on charts for the area. A vessel may enter these waters, although Naval authorities are at liberty to restrict access when necessary. A vessel may not anchor in Naval Waters.

For security reasons, people are prohibited from climbing, attaching themselves or helping another person to attach themselves to a naval vessel.

A moving exclusion zone operates for naval vessels underway in NSW waters. This zone extends 200m from bow and 60m on either side and astern of a naval vessel. A ‘distance off’ of 60m from a naval vessel which is moored, anchored or berthed applies at all times. Yellow buoys delineate prohibited zones around Garden Island and other naval installations. Penalties apply.

Parramatta River

Waters west of Silverwater Bridge are closed to all vessels other than ferries.

For more information

To contact TfNSW Maritime, call the info line on 13 12 36 or submit an online enquiry.

To contact Port Authority of NSW, call (02) 9296 4999 or visit Port Authority of NSW.

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