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We've addressed many times the subject of skipper responsibility on the water and also what are the legal obligations of a skipper.
At this stage, it is not a legal requirement to hold a boating licence to operate a recreational vessel in New Zealand waters. A recreational boat, unless it’s a jetski, doesn't have to be registered. Just because there are no requirements for recreational vessels to be registered or licences issued, doesn't relieve you as a skipper from the laws, by-laws or regulations while on the water.
In some Australian states, your vessel must be registered and you must hold a boating licence. If you breach or break those laws, you risk heavy fines, your vessel being impounded and the loss of your licence. In some states, loss of your boat licence also means loss of your car licence. Set out below are the current New Zealand regulations and responsibilities for the skipper of a vessel.
Know the maritime rules
Every boat, no matter how big or small, must have a skipper. The skipper is legally responsible for the safety of the boat and all the people on board, and is also responsible for complying with all of the relevant rules and regulations. Even though no licence is required to operate a pleasure boat in New Zealand, ignorance of any maritime rules or regional bylaws is not accepted as an excuse. Failure to comply can lead to instant fines or prosecution.
Before you undertake any form of boating activity, we recommend you undertake some form of boating education and understand the “rules of the road on the water”.
Lifejackets must be carried on board or worn at all times
Maritime law requires all skippers to carry enough lifejackets of the right size and type for everyone on board. We recommend that lifejackets are worn at all times when underway, especially by children and non-swimmers. Lifejackets must also be worn in any situation where there is an increased risk to safety.
Know the bylaws for your region about lifejackets. Many regions also have bylaws in place that make it compulsory for lifejackets to be worn at all times or in certain circumstances, and for communication devices to be carried while boating. Check with your regional council before going out.
Know or check your bylaws
Many regions also have bylaws covering navigational safety. The MarineMate app (free for android and iPhones) will deliver regional bylaws to your smart phone.
Safe boating and alcohol do not mix. Things can change quickly on the water. All on board need to stay alert and aware.
Stick to safe speeds
Keep to a safe speed. This means slowing down in situations where you may find it difficult to see another boat, eg in waves, rain or fog, or when there is glare on the water. Understand and operate within the speed limits - five knots is the maximum speed permitted for all boats in New Zealand within 200m of the shore or any boat with a dive flag, and within 50m of any other boat or swimmer.
Remember, as the skipper it's your head on the chopping block if things turn to custard as a result of negligence. Be responsible and keep your vessel and crew safe at all times.
And if in doubt, don't go out.
Phone (021) 298 5750