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Skipper responsibility

Safety is the skipper’s first priority. No matter how big or small the boat, every boat skipper is responsible for the safety of those on board. That means managing the risks of being on the water. Even though no licence is required to operate a pleasure boat in New Zealand, ignorance of any maritime rules or bylaws is no excuse for failure to comply. Non-compliance can lead to fines or prosecution.

If you are the skipper of your vessel you must:

  • Ensure you have all the necessary equipment on board for the trip you intend to make.
  • Make sure everyone on board knows what safety equipment is carried, where it is stowed and how it works.
  • Know the rules of the road at sea, the local bylaws.
  • Never overload your boat with people or equipment.
  • Make sure everything on board is properly stowed and secured.
  • Always maintain your boat, its motor, electrics and equipment.
  • Check everything before you head out.
  • Check the marine weather forecast and tide times before you head out.
  • Listen for regular updates while you are out on the water.
  • Always carry two forms of communication and make sure they are waterproof.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol intake on board your boat.
  • Always keep a good lookout.
  • All maritime incidents/accidents must be reported to the Harbourmaster and Maritime New Zealand immediately.

Harbourmaster - 0800 5 KNOTS (0800 55 66 87)
Maritime New Zealand - 0508 22 55 22
You must also provide a written report within 48 hours via email to

  • Is your boat named? To help with identification, powered vessels over 4m and non-powered vessels over 6m are required to be clearly marked with a name or number, consisting of a minimum of two letters or numbers, which must not be a vessel’s brand, make or model. The name and/or number must be of a contrasting colour that is legible from a distance of 50 metres, with a minimum height of 90 millimetres and each digit having a minimum width of 80 millimetres, or compliant with a national sporting body standard.Smaller vessels are encouraged to ensure some form of identification is on their vessel to help with determining ownership or knowing who we may be looking for in event of an emergency
  • Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back and do a trip report with Coastguard.
  • Report any oil or fuel spills to our 24 hour Pollution Hotline on 0800 884 883.

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