Buoy moorings

Maritime Safety Queensland is responsible for the management and regulation of buoy moorings in Queensland waters, except for Gold Coast waters.

The Gold Coast Waterways Authority is responsible for buoy moorings in Gold Coast waterways. For further information visit the Gold Coast Waterways Authority website or contact the office at (07) 5539 7350 or mail@gcwa.qld.gov.au.

Buoy moorings are an accepted means of securing ships, providing an alternative to methods like mooring and anchoring. A buoy mooring is on or in the seabed with ropes, cables or chains connecting it to a float or buoy on the surface to mark the location of the ship.

Increasing demand has led to a number of areas having reached their capacity for buoy moorings. As a result Maritime Safety Queensland gives preference to buoy mooring applications where:

  • the nominated ship(s) has fewer alternative methods of storage 
  • the nominated ship(s) is non-trailerable and ordinarily not stored on the land
  • a business has demonstrated a legitimate commercial need to utilise the buoy mooring.

Note: trailerable vessels, such as tinnies, tenders and vessels under 4.8m, are not eligible for a buoy mooring

Buoy mooring category areas

The administration of buoy moorings is determined by an area-based classification system where areas of Queensland waters, except for the Gold Coast, are deemed to be either a Category 1, 2 or 3.

  • Category 1 buoy mooring areas are managed and controlled by third parties, such as mooring managers, through agreements with Maritime Safety Queensland. All fees charged and conditions for the use of the moorings are set by the mooring manager.
  • Category 2 buoy mooring areas are considered by Maritime Safety Queensland to be a higher risk to marine safety and the control of navigation is a significant, ongoing concern, due to environmental elements or navigational issues.
  • Category 3 buoy mooring areas are all other areas in the state, unless otherwise upgraded to a higher category by Maritime Safety Queensland.

Buoy mooring types

Maritime Safety Queensland issues 2 types of buoy mooring authorities for Category 2 and 3 buoy mooring areas.

We issue restricted buoy mooring authorities for recreational use by 1 nominated and approved ship.

We issue unrestricted buoy mooring authorities to support maritime-related business activities of established marine service providers and legitimate maritime-related businesses.

Read the section below on buoy mooring authority conditions for restricted and unrestricted buoy moorings.

Obtaining a buoy mooring authority

All applications for a buoy mooring authority must be made through a Maritime Safety Queensland regional office. Maritime Safety Queensland has a whole-of-state framework for approving buoy moorings. A regional harbour master may create some area-specific conditions. Contact the relevant Maritime Safety Queensland regional office for further information.

The applicant must:

  • provide satisfactory written evidence to support the application for a buoy mooring authority
  • make sure the design criteria for the mooring device and the method of deploying it is suitable for the size and the type of nominated ship and will not impede or adversely affect other moorings
  • make sure the mooring device is maintained in a safe and serviceable condition at all times.

Note: For Category 2 buoy mooring areas a commercial mooring contractor must install and maintain the mooring device.

Applying for a buoy mooring

  1. Complete the buoy mooring authority application form, available from your local Maritime Safety Queensland regional office.
  2. Provide the following supporting documentation:
    Category 2 and 3 areas:
    • evidence of identity and address
    • evidence of Queensland ship registration ownership (restricted only)
    • ship information—including type, draft and size
    • proposed location of the buoy mooring
    • port authority, port operator and other entity clearances
    • Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural heritage clearances (if relevant).
    Category 2 area only:
    • evidence of an evacuation plan in case the ship needs to evacuate the area quickly.
  3. Pay the assessment fee.
  4. The application will then be reviewed and applicants will be told if the application was approved and the conditions of use.
  5. If approved, the 12 month occupancy fee will also need to be paid before the authority is issued.

Renewing a buoy mooring authority

Buoy mooring authorities are subject to annual renewals and fees on an annual basis. Maritime Safety Queensland may refuse renewals under certain circumstances. Maritime Safety Queensland will issue Authority holders an invoice that will include details for payment, including an online payment option.

Buoy mooring authority conditions

If you have been issued a buoy mooring authority, you need to follow the rules below for both your safety and the safety of other waterway users.

Keeping these rules will help you get your mooring renewal approved each year. If you ignore them, you may put yourself and others in danger, and we may cancel your buoy mooring authority.

Restricted buoy moorings

  • You must be the registered owner of the ship or be able to provide proof of ownership.
  • You must not moor, or allow to moor, any ship to your approved buoy mooring except the approved ship detailed on your authority.
  • You must moor the approved ship to your buoy mooring all the time, unless in operation or at another location for repair or maintenance. The approved ship must use your buoy mooring for at least 60% of the term of the authority, which is 219 days per year.
  • Your buoy mooring must not be unoccupied by the approved ship for more than 90 continuous days without first telling your area manager in writing.
  • Your surface buoy must be yellow.
  • You must also follow all conditions below that apply to both restricted and unrestricted buoy moorings.

Unrestricted buoy moorings

  • You must not allow any ship to moor to the mooring unless the ship is associated with the approved maritime business or community-based activity.
  • You may use the buoy mooring only for the purposes outlined in your authority.
  • Any fee you charge to a third party for using the buoy mooring must only reflect your actual and reasonable cost for establishing, renewing and servicing the buoy mooring. You must write to your local Maritime Safety Queensland office to let them know about any fee you've charged.
  • Your surface buoy must be pink or orange.
  • You must also follow all conditions below that apply to both restricted and unrestricted buoy moorings.

Conditions that apply to both restricted and unrestricted buoy moorings

Restricted and unrestricted buoy moorings must also follow the rules below.

  • You must comply with all relevant laws.

Establishing your buoy mooring

  • If your authority is new, you must establish the buoy mooring within 30 days of the date of issue of the authority.
  • You must place your buoy mooring at the approved location specified in your authority.
  • You must only establish the type of mooring apparatus detailed on your authority. If we've approved a 'swing mooring', the total swing radius of the approved ship moored to the approved buoy mooring must not exceed the length in your authority.
  • Within 14 days of establishing your buoy mooring, you must tell your area manager in writing the
    • date you established the buoy mooring
    • precise location of the buoy mooring
    • type and size of the mooring apparatus.

Maintaining your buoy mooring

  • If the buoy mooring moves for any reason, including by natural causes, you must have it moved back to the approved location as soon as practical.
  • If you decide to replace any part of your mooring, tackle or apparatus, you must remove the replaced part from Queensland waters.
  • You must always maintain the buoy mooring in a safe and serviceable condition.
  • Your buoy mooring must be able to hold the approved ship at the approved location in all environmental conditions.
  • You must tell your local Maritime Safety Queensland office in writing if you change your address or contact details.

Visibility of your surface buoy and ship

  • Your surface buoy must
    • be between 250mm and 800mm in its greatest dimension
    • be of a robust construction, preferably foam-filled
    • be always able to remain on the water’s surface or be visible from the water
    • permanently and legibly display the buoy mooring number, using characters a minimum of 50mm high, on the surface buoy.
  • While moored to your approved buoy mooring, your approved ship must display an all-round white light between sunset and sunrise, which remains visible to the naked eye from a minimum distance of 2 nautical miles.

Fact sheets

More information

Contact your local Maritime Safety Queensland office to ask us any questions you have about buoy moorings.

Last updated
20 July 2023