Centre for Maritime Safety


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Personal watercraft safety (PWC)

Each year an estimated two million people, or 25 per cent of the NSW population, take part in recreational watercraft and boating activity.

  • In 2017/18, there were 14,174 personal watercraft (PWC - commonly referred to as jet skis) registrations and 61,294 PWC licence holders.
  • The number of PWC licences and registration grows at around 10 per cent each year, in comparison to general boat licences and registrations which continue to grow at approximately 2 per cent each year. 

Despite PWC riding being a relatively safe activity, preventable fatalities and serious injuries continue to occur. Over the 10 year period from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2018, there were five fatal incidents and 74 serious injury incidents on NSW waterways related to PWC rider behaviour3. There were also 197 recorded incidents involving a PWC3.

While fatal incidents are still relatively low PWC were involved in just over 4 per cent of recreational boating fatal incidents over the 10 year period, PWC are involved in a high proportion of boating serious injury incidents. Over the10 year period, they were involved in 17 per cent of recreational boating serious injury incidents3

Serious injury incidents are over represented amongst PWC riders, and collisions are common, due to the fact that PWCs are fast and highly maneuverable and are generally used for ‘fun’ and thrills. Riders like to do tight high-speed maneuvers, often in company with other riders which leaves little margin for error.

The most common incident causes related to PWC3 are:

  • Lack of judgement (29.3% of all PWC-related incident cause records)
  • No proper lookout (21.8%)
  • Excessive speed (7.8%)


PWC - Waterways We Ride

The PWC ‘Waterways We Ride’ behaviour change campaign videos, produced in collaboration with the PWC industry, promote safe and responsible PWC riding. Two videos have been developed – one focussing on inland waterways and one featuring open waters.


PWC Waterways We Ride – Inland water

This video features Jack Ellison, a professional PWC athlete with over 35 years’ experience, and one of Australia’s top talents in the field of water based entertainment. He holds a world record for freestyle water-ski jumping and has worked as a marine coordinator on James Bond’s ‘Quantum of Solace’ feature film, along with many other cinema and TV productions. Jack is also a professional coach, expert maritime witness and has made major contributions to the TfNSW PWC handbook. 

The inland video shows Jack, along with his daughter Dominique, demonstrating keeping a safe distance from other waterway users, undertaking a safety check, wearing a lifejacket and showing how to ride safely and responsibly while having a fun time.



PWC Waterways We Ride – Open water

This video features Dominique Ellison, a professional PWC performer and one of Australia’s top talents in the field of water based entertainment. Dominique has been riding PWCs her whole life and is a professional performer and talent manager.

The open water video shows Dominique, along with her dad Jack, demonstrating safe preparation and planning, buddying up with a friend, adapting to riding conditions and showing how to ride safely and responsibly while having fun.



Keeping the community safe

When people ignore or disregard maritime safety rules, they put their lives and the lives of others at risk.

Everyone on the water should follow the rules and ride to the conditions. By making safe choices, incidents that cause serious injury and death on the waterways can be prevented and lives can be saved.

The PWC ‘Stop it…Or cop it’ campaign is part of our partnership with the NSW Police Force to improve maritime safety, with high visibility enforcement to reduce risky behaviour. The goal is to change dangerous behaviour and create a safer waterway for everyone to enjoy.


Image: The "Stop it...Or cop it" campaign 

In NSW, an increased number of police and boating safety officers will be patrolling NSW waterways as part of maritime enhanced enforcement activity (MEEP). Officers will target behaviour that increases the risk of crashes, serious injuries and fatalities. Such behaviours include speeding, riding too close to swimmers, or people in other craft and performing dangerous and intimidating maneuvers. All officers can enforce the rules, which means you can be caught anywhere and at any time for doing the wrong thing.

There are consequences for not complying with the rules, including loss of licence, heavy fines and loss of personal watercraft (PWC – commonly referred to as a jet ski).

The NSW Police Force also has powers to seize and impound PWC if riders have demonstrated dangerous behaviours.

Enforcement cameras have also been installed on the Georges River to help keep a look out for dangerous activity and support regular patrols.

The PWC ‘Stop it…Or cop it’, campaign is to remind people in all types of craft that the NSW Police Force and boating safety officers are keeping a safety watch over our waterways.

1 NSW Maritime Safety Plan 2017-2021

2 PWC Behaviour and Communications Strategy, Centre for Maritime Safety, August 2018

3 Boating incidents in NSW: Statistical report for the 10-year period ended 30 June 2017, Centre for Maritime Safety, November 2017