Centre for Maritime Safety


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Available types of lifejackets
Lifejacket standards
Vessel safety equipment
Modified safety equipment requirements
Lifejacket requirements
Old4New lifejacket upgrade
Lifejacket servicing
Lifejacket Loan Program
Offshore boating safety
Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Available types of lifejackets

What type of lifejacket do I need to wear?

Find the right lifejacket style for your activity.

Lifejacket standards

What is the current Australian standard for lifejackets?

The latest standard for lifejackets is AS 4758 You shouldn’t assume that Level 50, 100 and l 150+ lifejackets made to other standards are compliant with AS 4758.

Do retailers need to only sell Lifejackets made to AS 4758?

No. Retailers can still sell lifejackets made to the old standards. Lifejackets made to the old standards will still be recognised for many years.

What does the standard cover?

The standard AS 4758 moved away from use of the term Type 1, 2 or 3 and now describes lifejackets as Level 50, 100 and above. The term level relates to newtons of buoyancy provided and are as follows:

  • Level 150 - formerly known as Type 1 and suitable for offshore use.
  • Level 100 - formerly known as Type 1 and the minimum requirement for offshore use.
  • Level 50 - formerly known as Type 2 and suitable for enclosed waters.
  • Level 50 Special Purpose (50S) - formerly known as Type 3 and suitable for use on kiteboards, sailboards, canoes, kayaks, personal watercraft and off-the-beach vessels.

Why the change in terminology?

Standards Australia carried out a review of the Australian Standard covering lifejackets and developed a new standard to better align with international standards.

Is there a need to replace existing lifejackets?

No. Lifejackets made to the old standards will still be recognised for many years. A change over date won't be made until there has been thorough consultation.

However, lifejackets that rely solely on oral inflation for buoyancy are not approved for use in NSW.

Do retailers need to only sell lifejackets made to AS 4758?

No. Retailers can still sell lifejackets made to the old standards. Lifejackets made to the old standards will still be recognised for many years.

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Vessel safety equipment

What safety equipment am I required to have on my boat?

SymbolItemEnclosed waters - quantityOpen waters - quantity
 Lifejacket symbolLifejacket Type: 1 (level 150 or 100); 2 (level 50); 3 (level 50S)1 per person*-
 Lifejacket symbolLifejacket Type 1 or level 150 or 100-1 per person*
 Anchor symbolAnchor and chain/line11
 Buckets symbolBailer/Bucket (vessel with open bilges) or bilge pump (vessels with covered bilges)1**1**
 Compass symbolCompass (magnetic)-1
 Smoke flares symbolDistress signal – orange smoke hand-held distress flare-2
 Handheld flares symbolDistress signal – red hand-held distress flare-2
 EPIRB symbolEPIRB – 406MHz (required if two nautical miles or more offshore)-1
 Bucket with lanyard symbolFire bucket (if no bailing bucket carries suitable for fire fighting)11
 Fire extinguisher symbolFire extinguisher (vessels with electric start, electric motors, gas or fuel stoves)1**1**
 Map symbolMap/chart of area (paper not electronic)-1
 Radio symbolMarine radio (required if two nautical miles or more offshore)-1
 Paddles symbolPaddle or oars/rowlocks in vessels under 6m, unless fitted with a second means of propulsion11
 Safety label symbolSafety label11
 Sound signal symbolSound signal (air horn/whistle/bell)11
 V sheet symbolV sheet (orange)-1
 Water bottle symbolWater (suitable for drinking)-2L per person
 Torch symbolWaterproof torch (floating)11

* Lifejackets must be suitable for the intended wearer, in good condition, accessible, and inflatable units serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

** Additional bilge pumps and fire extinguishers may be required for larger vessels.

Important: Navigation lights must be displayed between sunset and sunrise, and during times of restricted visibility.

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Modified safety equipment requirements

Vessel typeRequirements
Canoes and kayaksExempt from carrying safety equipment on all waters, but hand-held marine radio or mobile phone in waterproof pouch strongly recommended.
SailboardsExempt from carrying safety equipment on all waters.
KiteboardsExempt from carrying safety equipment.
Racing shells, surf rescue boats, surf boats and surf skisExempt from carrying safety equipment
Rowboats, dinghies, Small unpowered inflatable boats

Exempt from carrying safety equipment on enclosed waters if the vessel is:

  • less than 3m in length; and
  • not a tender; and
  • not carrying an engine or fuel; and
  • not more than 200m from nearest shore; and
  • operating between sunrise and sunset; and
  • built so as to float if swamped or capsized.
Other inflatable boats (if under 5m, built to stay afloat if swamped or capsized and not used as a tender).Exempt from carrying anchor and line, bailing bucket, fire extinguisher and torch when in enclosed waters or in open waters less than 400m from shore between sunrise and sunset only. Exempt from carrying the above items plus flares and map or chart when in open waters between 400m and 2 nautical miles from shore between sunrise and sunset only.
TendersExempt from carrying other safety equipment if the vessel carries a paddle or oars, a waterproof torch if operating between sunset and sunrise, a bucket, bailer or bilge pump.
Sailing vessels
  • If less than 6m in length and in enclosed waters is not required to carry an anchor.
  • Not required to carry bucket/bailer if it has a permanently enclosed self draining hull.
  • When engaged in organised sail training, is not required to carry safety equipment if a power driven vessel capable of use for rescue purposes is in attendance.
  • Not required to have a Safety Label.
Off the beach vessels (means an unballasted, sail-only vessel, including centreboard dinghy, windsurfer, skiff or multihull vessel, but not including a vessel with a cabin or a fixed keel)Not required to carry safety equipment if the vessel does not have sufficient storage room.
PWCExempt from carrying safety equipment. For tow-in surfing the PWC must be equipped with: a rescue sled, second kill switch wrapped around the handlebars, two-way communication device, dive fins, safety knife, tool kit, quick release floating tow rope with a minimum length of 7m, bow tow-line with a minimum length of 7m.

Important: Navigation lights must be displayed between sunset and sunrise, and during times of restricted visibility.

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Lifejacket requirements

How do I determine the length of my vessel?

The length of your vessel means the length of its hull. This includes all structural and integral parts of the craft, such as wooden, plastic or metal stem or sterns, bulwarks and hull/deck joints.

Hull length excludes removable parts that can be detached in a non-destructive manner and without affecting the structural integrity of the craft, like outboard motors, swimming platforms, bowsprits, fittings or attachments. This measure is consistent with the International Standard, Small Craft – Principal Data Standard.

If you’d like more information, see Determining the length of your vessel (pdf).

When do children have to wear a lifejacket?

If you have a child under 12, then they must wear a lifejacket:

  • on a vessel less than 4.8m in length at all times
  • or when in an open area of a vessel less than 8m in length that is underway
  • or when directed to do so by the master of the vessel.

Are lifejackets available for infants (under the age of 1)?

Yes you can get lifejackets that are made for infants. You must, however, make sure they fit properly to be effective. It must fit snugly and securely and not allow the child’s head to slip through the neck hole. Such lifejackets are fitted with a strap between the legs and adjustable chest fasteners to help keep baby in place. Adult lifejackets are not suitable for infants. To make sure a lifejacket is appropriate for your child, you should ask your local marine supplier. Get them to test the lifejacket for adequate support, comfort and flotation. An infant’s lifejacket should be compliant with a standard accepted by the State Government.

Some infants however are simply too small for these lifejackets. If you are unsure, you might like to consider waiting until the baby is older before taking them boating.

To make sure a lifejacket is effective you should always make sure the lifejacket is tested before every use.

Do I need to wear a lifejacket when crossing coastal bars?

Yes. You must wear, a lifejacket level 100 or greater when you’re crossing a coastal bar. This does not apply to a kiteboard, sailboard, canoe, kayak, personal watercraft or off-the-beach vessel.

Special provisions apply for these vessels. You can find out more at "What type of lifejacket do I need to wear"

What lifejacket do my passengers and I have to wear if we’re crossing a coastal bar on a personal watercraft?

If you’re crossing a coastal bar on a personal watercraft, you must wear a lifejacket level 50S or greater.

What are the requirements for people being towed?

If you’re being towed, you must wear a lifejacket,level 100 or greater in open waters and level 50S or greater in enclosed waters. This applies when you’re waterskiing, wakeboarding, parasailing and also if you’re being towed on a tube or sea biscuit.

You must also wear an appropriate lifejacket if you are wake boarding or wake surfing from a vessel, even if a tow rope is not being used.

If you’re wearing a ski suit that meets any of the lifejacket standards recognised by Roads and Maritime and you have it fully zipped up and properly fastened, then your ski suit can also double up as your lifejacket. However, if your ski suit doesn’t meet the relevant standard then you must also wear an appropriate lifejacket or wear a lifejacket instead of your ski suit. The same applies if you are wearing your ski suit in the tow vessel when lifejackets are required to be worn.

What are the requirements for off-the-beach sailing vessels?

You must wear a lifejacket level 50S or greater on an off-the-beach sailing vessel when on open or alpine waters, or crossing a coastal bar. A lifejacket level 50S or greater must also be worn at night or when not accompanied on the vessel by another person 12 years of age or more. Children under 12 years of age must wear a lifejacket at all times. Examples of an off-the-beach vessel are a Laser, Hobie cat or similar centerboard or catamaran boats.

What are the requirements for canoes and kayaks?

You must wear a lifejacket level 50S or greater on a canoe or kayak when on open or alpine waters or crossing a coastal bar. A lifejacket level 50S or greater must also be worn at night or when not accompanied on the vessel by another person 12 years of age or more. Children under 12 years of age must wear a lifejacket level 50S or more at all times.

Are the lifejacket requirements different if I am competing in a Yachting Australia or other organisation’s sanctioned event?

If an event is authorised by an aquatic licence issued by Roads and Maritime Services, changes to lifejacket requirements may apply as a condition of the aquatic licence.

Do I have to wear a lifejacket in my tender?

If the tender is less than 4.8m in length, , you must wear a lifejacket level 100 or greater when on open waters or when crossing a coastal bar. A lifejacket level 50S or greater must be worn on enclosed or alpine waters. A lifejacket must also be worn at night or when not accompanied on the vessel by another person 12 years of age or more. Children under 12 years of age must wear a lifejacket at all times.

Do I have to wear a lifejacket on a sailboard or kiteboard

You must wear a lifejacket level 50S or greater on a sailboard or kiteboard when more than 400m from shore on open waters, when crossing a coastal bar or at night.

Do I have to wear a lifejacket on a surf ski?


Do the rules apply to school or ‘coach’ boats?


What are the requirements for people wearing wetsuits?

If your wetsuit complies with the relevant standards accepted by Roads and Maritime Services, then it will be considered as an appropriate lifejacket.

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Old4New lifejacket upgrade

My boat ramp is not on the schedule, are you going to add more locations?

The initial schedule of visits was developed in consultation with Roads and Maritime and targets popular boat ramp locations in key areas. It is important to note the Old4New initiative will run for at least two years and we will be reviewing and adding to the visit program. We recommend you continue to regularly check this website for updated schedules of boat ramps being visited.

I don't have a lifejacket to upgrade, can I still purchase the new generation lifejacket from the van?

Yes, you can purchase a variety of new generation lifejackets from the van. Please note, new generation lifejackets are also available from many Boating Industry Association outlets.

How much will a lifejacket cost on the upgrade program?

All lifejackets offered in the mobile promotional vehicle are available at a discount off normal retail. A significant discount is available on the modern Pro-Fit Automatic, Auto-Inflatable, Manual Inflatable, Waistbelt inflatable and Crewsave Kite lifejackets purchased through the upgrade program.

The current costs are shown in the following table:

ProductWith trade-in priceWithout trade-in price
Pro-Fit Automatic$80$105
Auto Inflatable$65$90
Manual Inflatable$65$90
Waistbelt Inflatable$50$70
Regatta Adult$55$65
Regatta Child$45$55
Raider Child 4-6 and 8-10 Years$75$85
Raider Child 1-2 Years$65$75

Can I pay with a credit card or EFTPOS at the van?


Is there a cap on the number of lifejackets I can purchase?

The number of lifejackets available for upgrade are limited by stock availability. For this reason, a maximum of two auto inflatable yoke style lifejackets will be sold to any one person. Other lifejackets are available including manual inflatables. But be sure to check with staff at the van on the day.

My lifejacket is not that old, can I still exchange it?


Can I upgrade my old lifejackets at any RMS or Service NSW centre?

No, at this stage old lifejackets can only be upgraded at the Old4New van at designated boat ramp locations.

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Lifejacket servicing

How do I service my inflatable lifejacket?

As you can imagine, lifejackets spend a lot of their time in harsh conditions, both under the sun and in saltwater. Because of this, you must make sure your inflatable lifejacket is being serviced properly and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You should also make sure you get your lifejacket serviced at least once a year unless the manufacturer specifies and permits a longer period.

Note: Lifejackets that rely solely on oral inflation for buoyancy are not approved for use in NSW.

Do the “belt bag inflatable” style lifejackets meet regulatory requirements?

Yes they do but you must make sure the waistband buckle is properly secured and marked by the manufacturer as meeting the relevant acceptable standard in NSW.

Where do I get my inflatable lifejacket serviced?

You’ll find most manufacturers service lifejackets themselves or they will have an authorised representative (agents) that service their lifejackets. Most manufacturers have a list of authorised service agents on their websites. If you can’t find this information then get in touch with the place you bought your lifejacket and ask for the contact details of the supplier or manufacturer, or known service agents for the product.

Alternatively, some manufacturers allow you to ‘self service’ your lifejacket, provided you are competent to do so and follow their instructions.

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Lifejacket Loan Program

What is the Lifejacket Loan Program and how does it work?

Transport for NSW, RMS and the Boating Industry Association have joined forces to establish a Lifejacket Loan program.

The program not only helps to make sure everyone on the water is safe, it also aims to build public awareness of wearing a lifejacket.

RMS Boating Safety Officers carry a limited number of lifejackets specifically to provide to skippers out on the water who have failed to provide lifejackets on board. These lifejackets should be returned as soon as possible to one of the drop-off points.

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What’s the right speed for towing?

The speed you travel depends on the type of towing you’re doing. When you’re towing tube riders, you should aim for a slower speed. Remember, tube riders can’t steer and have little or no control over their direction. If you travel too fast, the tube will slide or whip out when you turn, and could collide with banks, trees or other hazards.

Can I get one-size-fits-all wakeboarding and waterskiing gear?

Skis and wakeboards are designed to suit specific body types and skill levels. You should have equipment that suits your size and your ability. Your helmet, gloves and lifejacket should also be the correct size and type. See a specialist retailer. They can outfit you with the correct gear.

Where can I learn new tricks?

The best way to improve your technique is to get a coach. Try your local club or association for help to find a suitable coach.

Can I tow at night if I have lights on my boat?

No, towing is prohibited between sunset and sunrise.

What is teak surfing?

Teak surfing is when you’re being pulled through the water while you’re holding onto the swim platform of a boat. Teak surfing is prohibited at all times.

What lifejacket should I choose?

You should choose a Level 50 or Level 50S lifejacket for tow sports. These lifejackets are buoyancy vests. They’re not designed to keep the head of an unconscious person above and out of the water. Level 50 lifejackets are suitable when you’re boating in sheltered, enclosed or inland waters, and for tow sports. They come in high-vis colours and are made for comfort. Level 50S lifejackets are mainly used for wakeboarding and waterskiing where comfort and style are important. They don’t have to be hi-vis.

How many people can I tow?

The maximum number of people you can tow at one time is three.

Do I need a licence?

If you’re driving a powered boat at 10kph or more, which is about a good jogging speed, then you need a general boat licence.

Does the observer need a licence?

If you’re an observer, you must be 16 years or older or hold a general boat driving licence or personal watercraft licence.

What are the distances off?

The vessel and person being towed must be at least 60m from swimmers or dive flags on the surface of the water. A vessel travelling at 6 knots or more and the person being towed must maintain a distance of at least 30m from vessels, land and structures.

If it is not practicable to maintain these distances, you must maintain a safe distance and speed..

If you’re the person being towed, you must be at least 7m from the boat.

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Offshore boating safety

What are the requirements regarding EPIRBs?

An EPIRB gives Search and Rescue a great degree of accuracy should you ever need to activate it in the event of an emergency. You must get it registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. They carry a unique identification code, transmitted when the beacon is activated. This code provides vital information about the registered boat and its owner. This ensures a faster and more effective search and rescue response.

While your EPIRB should be easily accessible, it also needs to be stowed to avoid inadvertent activation. Make sure you don’t stow the EPIRB in the bottom of a locker.

You can find more information from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority website.

Can anyone enrol for safety and sea survival training courses?

The short answer is yes. When it comes to recreational boating, sea survival training is only mandatory for a percentage of crew members in major offshore yacht races. Even so, the courses that have been developed are highly recommended for anyone planning to go offshore, including cruising sailors and powerboat crews.

Yachting Australia has developed a Safety and Sea Survival Course, which includes both practical and theoretical training. The course is taught by Yachting Australia qualified instructors at YA recognised teaching centres nationwide. It aims to help offshore skippers and crews in developing awareness of respective responsibilities; to offer and discuss practical strategies for coping with emergencies at sea; and to familiarise skippers and crews with safety and emergency equipment, its purpose, deployment, and use.

You can find more information at Yachting Australia's website.

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Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Why are Personal Watercrafts treated differently to normal powerboats?

A personal watercraft is unlike most powerboats because they have fully enclosed hulls, they do not retain water taken on if it capsizes, and they are designed to be operated by a person standing, sitting astride or kneeling, but not seated.They also do not have a skeg and prop, which can help slow down a normal powerboat and also limits a normal powerboat to a certain depth of water. Insert a line about speed ie how quick they accelerate and then take to slow down?

What offences can PWC riders be infringed for?

Offences can include reckless, dangerous and negligent behaviour, excessive wash, operating a vessel in a menacing manner, operating an unregistered vessel, distance off, operating a vessel in an irregular manner, damage to property and not wearing a lifejacket.

What are the consequences if PWC riders are found to be speeding, riding irregularly or intimidating other waterway users?

If jet ski riders are found to be putting themselves or others at risk they could lose their licence and their jet ski, and could pay a heavy fine.

Where does the money go from the fines?

It’s invested in to education programs.

Where are the PWC Exclusion Zones in NSW?

You are not permitted to ride a PWC inthe waters of Port Jackson and Sydney Harbour at any time because these are PWC Exclusion Zones. It also includes the waters of all tidal bays, rivers and their tributaries connected or leading to Sydney Harbour, bounded by high-water mark and lying to the west of a line commencing at the southernmost point of North Head and running to the northernmost point of South Head.

Where are the PWC Restriction Zones in NSW?

You are not permitted to ride a PWC for 'irregular driving' within 200 metres of a river bank or shore when you're in the Restriction Zones in NSW which include the waters (including any tributaries) of:

Avoca Lake, Botany Bay, Brisbane Water, Broken Bay, Bulbararing Lagoon, Cockrone Lagoon, Cooks River, Dee Why Lagoon, Georges River, Hawkesbury River, Manly Reservoir, Manly Lagoon, Narrabeen Lakes, Nepean River, Port Hacking, Prospect Reservoir, Terrigal Lagoon, Wamberal Lagoon and Woronora River (but does not include any open waters).

What is 'irregular driving'?

Is when you drive a PWC in a circle, weave, divert, surf down or jump across any swell wave or wash You should operate a PWC generally in a straight line within 200 metres of the shoreline.

How can PWC riders be considerate of other waterway users and the community?

If you’re riding a PWC, you should always be considerate, particularly when it’s early in the morning as noise travels a long distance in calm conditions. Also when winds are blowing towards residential areas, the noise travels there too. Avoid riding your PWC continuously close to residential, picnic or recreation areas and take care in environmentally sensitive areas as well