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Personal watercraft (PWC)

Personal watercraft (PWCs) including jet-skis, aquascooters and jet bikes, are required to be operated within the same rules as ‘powerboats'.

If you are an owner or operator of a PWC there are responsibilities you need to understand and comply with. This page provides information about these requirements, including:

Watch this video for an overview of one of the rules.

PWC - Keep a good look out

This video shows the video about PWC - Keep a good look out .

Video transcript

Join in the conversation about PWC safety on our PWC Ride safe Facebook page.

Watch more PWC and boating safety videos on our TransportSafetyVic YouTube channel.

Marine licence

Operators of PWCs are required to have a marine licence with a PWC endorsement.

Restricted marine licence

Holders of a restricted marine licence with a PWC endorsement may operate a PWC if:

  • operating during daylight hours between sunset and sunrise
  • operating at speeds of less than 10 knots
  • not operating a vessel that is towing a person, another vessel or object.

Vessel registration and numbers

Owners of PWCs are required to register their vessel with VicRoads. Operators must also ensure that registration numbers are:

  • a minimum height of 100mm
  • attached on both sides of the PWC
  • coloured in contrast to the background and clearly visible from a distance.
A current registration label must also be attached to the vessel.

Visit the vessel registration for more information. 

Safety equipment

Operators, masters, passengers and anyone being towed by a PWC must wear an approved personal floatation device (PFD) at all times.

Other safety equipment that must be carried on board includes:

  • waterproof buoyant torch
  • registered EPIRB if operating more than 2nm from the coast.

All safety equipment required to be carried onboard must be in good working order and placed in a conspicuous and readily accessible position at all times.

For more information visit the safety equipment pages.

Speed and distance

PWC operators must ride at specific speeds and distances from other vessels, swimmers, the shore and some fixed objects.

Stunts and maneuvers must be done well away from swimmers, vessels, and the shore. Best practice is to stay at least 400m away from everyone.

Some waterways have local rules. Rules for each waterway are specified in the Guide to Vessel Operating and Zoning Rules (VOZR) or check with the local waterway manager.

On all state waters

A speed limit of 5 knots (9.26 Kph) applies within:

  • 50 metres of a person in the water
  • 100 metres of a vessel or buoy on which a dive flag is displayed
  • 50 metres of another vessel.

Inland waters

A speed limit of 5 knots applies within:

  • 50 metres of the waters’ edge
  • 50 metres of a fixed or floating structure in or on the water including a wharf, jetty, slipway or boat launching ramp (except in an access lane).

Coastal waters and enclosed waters

A speed limit of 5 knots applies within:

  • 200 metres of the waters’ edge
  • 50 metres of a wharf, jetty, slipway, diving platform or boat ramp.

For more information visit the speed and distance page.

Carrying capacity

The PWC capacity plate will specify the number of people able to be carried. Generally for PWC's, it is one person per seat. So, for a three seater PWC, three people may be carried.

Towing

When towing the rules for waterskiing must be followed. This includes the need to carry an appropriate observer on the PWC. You should also consider having space for any person/s being towed.

Holders of a restricted marine licence with a PWC endorsement must not operate a PWC that is towing a person, another vessel or an object.

For more information about towed watersports visit the Wakeboarding page.

Access lanes

An access lane is an area set aside for towed water sports such as water-skiing. Access lanes can be found on many inland waters.

If you are dropping off or picking up a water-skier you may operate at a reasonable speed that is greater than 5 knots. Please refer to the VOZR for specific speed and distance rules.

Definition of a PWC

PWC means any recreational vessel that:

  • has a propulsion engine
  • has a fully enclosed hull
  • does not retain water if it capsizes
  • is designed to be operated by a person standing, sitting astride or kneeling on the vessel.

Examples of PWCs includine jet-skis, aquascooters, jet bikes, wave runner, ski free, motorised surfboard. They are also known as 'powerskis'.

Useful publications

General PWC rules are provided in chapter eight of the Victorian Recreational Boating Safety Handbook

Check local waterway rules in the vessel operating and zoning rules available to download as a PDF or Word document.