Boating safety

The equipment needed to keep safe this boating season.

You’ve got the boat, the fishing gear and the family’s ready to get out on the water. Everything’s all set. Or is it?

Before you head out, ensure you have the right safety equipment onboard and know how to use it – it may save your life in an emergency.

The safety equipment required varies depending on the size of your boat and where you’re operating it, so stay up to date with the latest boating rules.

Essential safety equipment:


Lifejackets are a vital piece of safety equipment akin to a seatbelt in a car. They are designed for people of different ages, sizes and weights and you must have the correct lifejackets for everyone onboard. Lifejackets must meet Australian Standards and be in good condition void of rips, tears, pulled stitching and waterlogged foam.

The type of lifejacket required also depends on whether you’re operating your boat in open water (level 100 required), partially smooth water (level 50) or using it for a special purpose, such as water skiing (Level 50s).

Lifejackets are compulsory for passengers under the age of 12, those riding a personal watercraft (jet ski), tubing or water skiing and when crossing a coastal bar in an open boat that is less than 4.8m in length.

Distress signals, flares and emergency beacons

If you are in an emergency on the water and need help, use distress signals, flares and Emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRB) to alert others to your distress.
Signalling devices are mandatory for all boats operating between sunset and sunrise. Several different signals can be used provided they generate enough light to be seen by other boats and attract attention.

  • Flares: All boats and personal watercrafts in use outside of smooth water must carry orange smoke and red hand flares. The orange smoke is used during daylight and red at night. Flares have a three-year lifespan and must be replaced before they expire.
  • EPIRBs: All boats travelling beyond partially smooth waters must carry a 406MHz EPRIB which can help search and rescue authorities locate your position. When activated, EPRIBs continually send out a signal for at least 48 hours. All EPIRBs must comply with Australian Standards and be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. For more information on emergency beacons, click here.

Firefighting equipment

Registered boats over five metres in length are required to carry firefighting equipment which can extinguish a fire quickly and effectively.

If you purchase a fire extinguisher, ensure you know to use it before an emergency and have it serviced/replaced at manufacturer-specified intervals.

Navigation equipment

Boats operating in partially-smooth waters and beyond are advised to carry navigation equipment, such as a GPS, charts/maps or a compass.

Some boat ramps have GPS verification marks installed for boaters to check the accuracy of their onboard navigation.

Download Maritime Safety Queensland’s free boating maps here.

Marine radio

Marine radios are an essential piece of equipment which are often the only way to communicate with other boats, marine rescue groups and receive navigation and weather warning/updates. Skippers should know how to operate a marine radio and the correct frequencies to transmit and receive messages.

Maritime Safety Queensland has a 24-hour listening watch service to cover coastal waters between Cooktown and the New South Wales border. For more information on marine radios and frequencies click here.

Other recommended equipment:

  • Pumping and bailing equipment: Buckets are suitable for boats under five metres, but a bilge pump will be required for larger vessels.
  • Anchors: All boats should be equipped with a suitable anchor and a minimum of two metres of chain.
  • Manual propulsion equipment: Boats under six meters in length should carry a secondary means of propulsion such as oars or paddles in case of emergency.
  • Drinking water: You should carry enough drinking water onboard for all occupants for the duration of the trip.

Boat Insurance with RACQ

Protect your boat with RACQ Boat Insurance so you can enjoy being out and about on Australia’s waterways. Learn more about RACQ Boat Insurance today.

Insurance products issued by RACQ Insurance Limited ABN 50 009 704 152. Conditions, limits and exclusions apply. This is general advice only and may not be right for you. This information does not take your personal objectives, circumstances or needs into account. Read the PDS and any relevant SPDS (where applicable) before making a purchase decision.