Boating – Speed Limits, Wash and Unlawful Operation

Posted on March 26, 2018
CategoryBoating & Canal
Status Open now

Complying with speed limits is safe boating for yourself and shows courtesy to others.

All boats must travel at a safe speed where the driver can act to avoid a collision and can stop the boat in time to avoid any danger that arises suddenly.

There have been many casualties resulting from boats traveling at excessive speed, especially in narrow waterways.

Speeding causes major problems on Queensland waterways such as unsafe conditions, inconvenience to others, damage to infrastructure and erosion. That’s why “distance off” and “no wash” rules exist.

All boat owners need to be aware of these rules and more importantly, take notice of them.

Six (6) knots is the minimum speed limit and is equivalent to approximate 11 kilometres per hour.

There are many times when the skipper should reduce the boat’s speed even further to be safe.

An example of this is when the vessel is creating excessive wash. Some boats create excessive wash at six knots.

It is the responsibility of the driver to slow the vessel so that any wash created is minimal.

The maximum speed limit is 40 knots on all smooth waters and dams.

Distance off Six knots within 30 metres of:

  • boats anchored, moored to the shore or aground
  • jetty, wharf, pontoon or boat ramp
  • people in the water
  • boat harbours and marinas

Six knots (approximate 11km/hr) is equivalent to a brisk walking pace.

Speed restrictions are usually indicated by signs.

However, the rules apply whether the signs are there or not.

Learn how to measure distance. For example,

30m is ten times longer than a three metre boat and five times longer than a six metre boat.

Refer to Maritime Safety Queensland’s website to keep up to date with speed limits.

Queensland Water Police and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol target speed and excessive wash to ensure compliance.

Offences carry heavy on-the-spot penalties.


Many speed limits are in place to minimise the wash created by boats. Therefore it is essential as a boat owner or skipper to maintain a speed that creates minimal wash.

Wash can create serious safety hazards for other boats, especially in marinas and anchorages where there is an expectation of calm conditions.

Wash can also create damage to:

  • pontoons
  • jetties
  • vessels moored to these structures
  • vessels in shallow water or anchored on a foreshore
  • shorelines and river banks.

Create a minimum of wash and show consideration to other boaters.

A six knot speed limit applies to all canals in Queensland.

Unlawful operations

A person who is the owner or master of a ship must not operate the ship within 30m of a diver in the water if a code A flag is displayed in the vicinity of the diver.

Visibility: Drive slowly in rain, fog, mist, smoke and glare. Take special care when traveling at night as potential hazards are harder to see.When navigating a boat you must consider:

  • Other boats: Slow down in busy areas and when near moored or anchored boats, and remember — working boats and larger ships may have difficulty manoeuvring.
  • Navigation hazards: Slow down in shallow areas and when boating in unfamiliar water.

Water depth can vary and change quickly, particularly in freshwater.

Wind, waves and currents:

These may affect the boat’s stopping and turning ability. The type of motor, hull and design will all impact on the boat’s maneuverability.