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Pelican Waters QLD - Boating and Fishing
Personal Watercraft / PWC / Jet Skies

Personal watercraft

PWC regulations is available from Maritime Safety Queensland’s website at or contact your local regional office.

Cruising, wave jumping, surf riding and skiing are just a few fun ways to enjoy your Personal Watercraft (PWC).

Whatever activity you choose, the best way to enjoy your sport is safely.

Whether you own or just borrow a PWC, it is vital to understand the safety rules and regulations for a PWC in Queensland.

Otherwise you risk getting an ‘on-the-spot fine’.

Personal watercraft licensing is compulsory for all PWC operators to hold a Personal Watercraft Licence (PWCL).

This is a separate licence from the existing Recreational Marine Driver Licence (RMDL).

You are required to have a PWC licence if you are a new operator or currently own a PWC, or even if you are just borrowing a mate’s ski just to have a go.

All licence applicants must complete an approved BoatSafe course for personal watercraft operations before being eligible for a licence.

A valid Recreational Marine Drivers Licence is a prerequisite for the PWC licence.

Personal watercraft registration

All PWC must be registered. Registration symbols must be:

  • displayed on both sides
  • at least 100mm high
  • legible from 30 metres
  • clearly visible in contrasting colour to your craft
  • easily seen if your craft is underway.

The registration label must be displayed on the port (left) side of your craft, adjacent to the registration symbols.

Ride smart sticker

A Ride Smart sticker must be affixed to the PWC and visible to the operator at all times.

Safety equipment for personal watercraft Personal flotation devices (PFDs)
All PWC operators and passengers must wear the correct type of PFD at all times.
  • PFD Type 2, 3 or a wetsuit with inbuilt flotation approved as PFD type 3 in smooth water limits.
  • PFD Type 2 in partially smooth and offshore water limits.

Navigation lights

PWCs travelling at night or at times of reduced visibility must show navigation lights,  sidelights and either an all round white light or a stern and masthead light.


If you travel more than two nautical miles offshore, when beyond smooth and partially smooth waters, you must carry an Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).

Remember, your EPIRB must now be a 406 MHz digital EPIRB.

You must register your 406 MHz beacon with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and display the registration sticker on the beacon.

You must also advise AMSA of any changes to ownership and vessel details.

Safety equipment which carries a manufacturer’s expiry date must be serviced by the manufacturer (or authorised service agent) by the expiry date and replaced before the nominated expiry date.

Personal watercraft distance and speed

It is important you do not exceed set speed limits for your safety and everyone else using the water.

Do not travel at speeds where your wash can cause damage to the shoreline, other boats or injury to others. Consider the density of traffic in the area to determine a safe speed.

When riding a PWC the following distances must be adhered to; or reduce speed to 6 knots (approx 11km/hr) within 60 metres from:

  • people in the water
  • from anchored or moored boats, boat ramps, jetties or pontoons
  • the shore
  • boundary of bathing reserve.

Exceptions apply to ‘6 knots within 60 metres’ from the shore under the following conditions:

  • the waterway is less than 120 metres wide
  • the PWC operator is operating the jet ski in as close as practicable to a straight line to transit the area
  • the PWC operator stays as close as is practicable to the centre of the waterway or a market channel
  • the PWC is being used in waterskiing/towing.

In coastal waters, freestyling or wave jumping is restricted to:

  • outside 200 metres of the shore if dwellings are within 100 metres of the shore line, and are in the vicinity of the waters where PWC is operating. Coastal waters do not include dams and inland waters.

Water Limits

Because Queensland’s waterways are so diverse there are designated water limits affecting the types of regulated safety equipment required.

There are three types of limits:

  • smooth waters include rivers, creeks, streams and lakes, waters within breakwaters or revetments and within half a nautical mile from land within partially smooth limits and other waters specified in legislation
  • partially smooth waters are determined by Maritime Safety Queensland and are specified in legislation
  • open waters are areas beyond these limits.

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A complete list of maps showing these areas can be found on Maritime Safety Queensland’s website at

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