Skipper responsibilities

Read about your responsibilities as a skipper and understand the boating rules to ensure the safety of all those on board.

1. 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 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”.


2. 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 communications devices to be carried while boating. Check with your regional council before going out.


3. 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.


4. Avoid alcohol

Safer boating and alcohol do not mix. Things can change quickly on the water. All on board need to stay alert and aware.


5. 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 – the maximum speed permitted for all boats in New Zealand is 5 knots (about 9 km/h) within 200 metres of shore or any boat with a dive flag, and within 50 metres of any other boat or swimmer.

Related information:

Prep and maintain your boat

Learn how to keep your boat in safe working condition.

You and your boat

Check your gear and prepare

Know what gear you need onboard and how to keep it in good working order.

Check your gear

Final checks before you head out

Learn about the tasks you need to do just before you hit the water.

Before you head out