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I'm buying a new boat—what do I need to know?


In Queensland, all ships with a motor or auxiliary of 3kW or more (over 4hp) must be registered when on the water. Your ship will be allocated registration symbols. These must be clearly visible in plain characters in a contrasting colour to the hull of your ship and must meet the following criteria: 

  • The size of the characters depends on the type of ship and must be easy to read from a distance of 30m away.
  • Ships not capable of planing must have characters a minimum of 75mm high on both sides or on the stern.
  • Ships capable of planing must have characters a minimum of 200mm high on both sides.
  • Personal watercraft (for example a jet ski) registration symbols must be:
    • displayed on both sides
    • at least 100mm high
    • easily seen while the craft is underway.
If the registration symbols are purchased as part of your new boat deal, you should check they are the appropriate size and a contrasting colour to the hull. Find out more about recreational registration.


In Queensland, a marine licence is required to operate a recreational boat which is powered by a motor greater than 4.5kW (over 6hp). You must have a personal watercraft licence to operate a personal watercraft (for example a jet ski). To get a recreational marine driver licence or personal watercraft licence, you need to successfully complete a BoatSafe training course. Find out more about recreational marine licences.

Safety equipment

Depending on whether your boat needs to be registered and where you are going boating will depend on what safety equipment you need to carry. Sometimes boat dealers will include safety equipment as part of a package deal. If safety equipment is included you should check: 


  • Need to be within the expiry date (printed on the side of the flares).
  • In Queensland when operating in partially smooth waters and beyond it is a requirement to have two orange hand smoke flares and two red hand flares – it is not a requirement to have parachute flares for a recreational vessel. Flares are sometimes sold as an 'offshore' kit, these contain two red hand flares and two parachute flares. This will not meet the safety equipment requirement if you must carry flares.
  • Find out more about flares.


  • Must be current, that is within the expiry date (printed on the EPIRB).
  • If you are required to carry an EPIRB as part of your safety equipment, it must be a 406 MHz EPIRB and must be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
  • EPIRBs are required if operating beyond partially smooth waters or more than two nautical miles from land.
  • Find out more about EPIRBs

Life jackets/personal flotation devices (PFDs)

  • Life jackets or personal flotation devices must meet certain standards. You should check that life jackets you already have or are about to purchase comply with the required standard.
  • Where you will be operating your boat will depend on the type of life jacket you need. For smooth waters you can have a type 1, 2 or 3, for partially smooth waters you can have a type 1 or 2, for beyond partially smooth waters you need a type 1. For activities such as waterskiing PFD type 2, 3 or a wetsuit with inbuilt flotation approved as a PFD type 3 in smooth water limits. PFD type 2 in partially smooth water limits.
  • In smooth waters, personal watercraft require a PFD type 2 or 3 or a wetsuit with inbuilt flotation approved as PFD type 3. In partially smooth waters and beyond personal watercraft require PFD type 2.
  • If life jackets are not visible to passengers, there must be a sign indicating where they are stowed so that passengers know where to find them. The sign must be either red letters on a white background or white letters on a red background.
  • Find out more about life jackets.
Masters must make sure each passenger on board knows where the safety equipment is kept and how to use it in an emergency situation. Find out more about safety equipment.

Australian Builders Plate

What type of boats need an Australian Builders Plate? The Australian Builders Plate applies to:

  • all recreational vessels
  • all commercial and fishing vessels that are exempt from registration under the Transport Operations (Marine Safety) Regulation 2004 that are constructed after 28 September 2006.
Example of an Australian Builders PlateIn most circumstances, an Australian Builders Plate will apply to personal watercraft that carry three or more people unless it already has clearly visible information affixed to the craft by the builder specifying the number of persons the personal watercraft may carry and the total weight of persons and equipment (expressed in kilograms) that the craft is capable of carrying. An Australian Builders Plate is not required on personal watercrafts that are designed to carry two or less people.

In most circumstances, an Australian Builders Plate will apply to inflatable boats unless the vessel already has a plate affixed in accordance with the European Directive 94/25/EC, or a plate attached in accordance with the requirements of the United States National Marine Manufacturers Association and set out in their certification handbook.

The information that needs to be provided includes:
  • recommended maximum engine power rating and engine weight for outboard engines
  • recommended maximum person capacity and maximum load
  • for vessels under six metres, buoyancy information
  • warning statement about the alteration of the boat.

What type of boats are not required to have an Australian Builders Plate?

  • a second hand vessel
  • an amphibious vehicle
  • a canoe, kayak, or surf ski designed to be powered by paddle
  • a pedal powered boat
  • a rowing shell used for racing or rowing training
  • a sailboard or sail kite or other similar ship
  • a surf row boat
  • a hydrofoil or hovercraft
  • a sailing vessel
  • a submersible
  • an aquatic toy
  • registered commercial and fishing vessels.

Navigation lights

Navigation lights are required to be shown on ships operating between sunset and sunrise, and in restricted visibility. Navigation lights indicate the size of the ship, the angle where you see them, the direction the ship is travelling, or if the ship is anchored. Find out more about navigation lights.


All boats are built for different purposes. Different hull shapes and designs limit where a boat can be used and its capacity. You need to consider if the boat will be suitable for the type of activities you will be using it for and where you plan to go boating. Find out more about choosing your boat.

Last updated
08 August 2014