Centre for Maritime Safety


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Alcohol & Drugs

Stay under the 0.05 limit. Alcohol affects your judgement. Out on the water, the safety of your passengers is in your hands.

People relaxing on a boat in the water

Excess alcohol is a significant factor in fatal and serious injuries and a priority issue in the Maritime Safety Plan. The skipper of a vessel must stay under the 0.05 limit. By law, a ‘vessel’ includes canoes and kayaks, through to sailing craft of all shapes and sizes and all powered vessels – which includes personal watercraft.

Follow the rules for safe and responsible boating on NSW waterways with the Boating Handbook.

Passengers are also at higher risk by drinking alcohol while boating and are encouraged to stay under the 0.05 limit. When towing, the observer and the person being towed must both stay under the 0.05 alcohol limit.

Excess alcohol impairs coordination, judgement, vision, balance and reaction times, greatly increasing the risk of having an incident. The effects of alcohol can be intensified by conditions on the water such as sun, waves and glare.

It can also reduce a person’s chance of survival if they are forced into the water. This is because they have reduced ability to self-rescue and get back into their vessel and they have an increased chance of experiencing cold shock and hypothermia if they are in cold water.

Marine Area Command Police regularly monitor NSW waterways. They undertake random breath tests (RBT) and random drug tests (RDT) on vessel operators while vessels are underway, including drifting. There are serious consequences if you're over the limit. RBT or RDT do not apply when a vessel is moored, berthed or at anchor.

Tips to stay safe:

  • The law is the same, whether you are driving a car or a recreational boat – stay under 0.05.
  • The alcohol limit is 0.00 for all vessel operators under 18 years
  • The alcohol limit is less than 0.02 for commercial vessel operators over 18 years
  • If you drink, have a ‘Plan B’ – such as a designated skipper to get you and your boat home.