Mooring and anchoring on NSW waterways
Mooring and anchoring your boat safely helps protect people and the environment. Learn about rules and places to secure your vessel in NSW.
Places to secure your vessel
Moorings and anchors are used to secure a vessel in a particular location.
A mooring is something you can tie your vessel to. It may be a buoy, a marina berth pontoon or jetty.
An anchorage is a place where you can stop and secure your vessel using its anchor. In an anchorage, there may also be courtesy moorings you can tie your vessel to instead.
Knowing where and how to moor and anchor your vessel safely helps protect you, other vessels and the environment.
Some waterways have specific mooring areas. There are rules to help you navigate safely through and near these areas.
- be aware of mooring area locations – take extra care at night as moored vessels may not be lit
- keep a proper lookout for people in the water, small dinghies and trailing ropes
- keep a minimum distance – when travelling at 6 knots or more in a powered vessel you must keep a minimum of 30m from any moored vessel. If that's not possible, you must keep a safe distance and travel at a safe speed.
It's recommended that you know the different types of moorings on NSW waterways. You can identify a mooring type by the colour of its buoy:
- pink buoy – free moorings available to the public for a 24-hour period
- yellow buoy – private moorings that you need a licence for
- orange buoy – commercial moorings for licensed businesses – for example, charters, commercial fishing and boat repairs
- red buoy – club moorings for boating and sailing clubs
- blue buoy – emergency moorings for police and Transport for NSW (Maritime) staff to store vessels.
Moorings are often identified on local maps or charts, or see the private mooring map.
You must have a licence or be authorised to use private, commercial or emergency moorings. For more information or to apply for a licence, see moorings.
If your mooring is over a seagrass bed, it's recommended that you use a seagrass-friendly mooring to protect marine life. If you need to move your mooring, contact Transport for NSW (Maritime) to check your options.
How to moor your vessel safely
To moor your vessel safely:
- Slow down almost to a stop, manoeuvre slowly and keep wash to a minimum.
- Consider winds and currents – it's usually easiest to approach the mooring towards the wind or current.
- Point the bow towards the mooring buoy, then reverse to stop the vessel just before the bow hits the buoy. Put the engine into neutral and pick up the mooring.
When you're tying up to a wharf or marina berth:
- Keep your vessel secure by tying it up with rope to both the bow and stern.
- If the mooring site has bollards or rings, tie to those a short distance beyond the bow or stern.
- Be aware of the rise and fall of the tide.
When you're leaving a mooring, wharf or marina berth:
- Start your engine and have it in idle before you untie.
- Check your surroundings and other traffic before you untie.
- Make sure all ropes are inside the vessel and not trailing in the water where they can be caught in the propeller.
- Keep wash to a minimum.
Safe anchorages are places where you can anchor or moor your vessel temporarily, protected from wind, waves and currents. Be aware that some anchorages are only safe in certain wind or swell directions.
Check maps and signage for where to anchor safely, and for designated non-anchoring areas. Be aware that some areas – such as those with seagrasses – may not have signs.
You must not anchor:
- in a navigation channel
- anywhere you might obstruct other vessels' access to or from wharves, launching ramps or moorings
- within 200m of underwater cables.
Look out for 'Submarine Cable' signs. These underwater cables carry electrical power or telecommunication signals.
If your anchor becomes snagged in a cable, do not pull it out. Cut the anchor line as close as possible to the anchor.
- near historic shipwrecks
- on bomboras, shallow rocks, reefs, banks or shoals
- in sensitive habitats, such as shallow areas with seagrasses.
The Boating in Cabbage Tree Bay Fact sheet (PDF 354.59KB) includes important tips for boaters entering waterways with known seagrasses, or aquatic reserves and other sensitive environments.
How to anchor your vessel safely
Before you go on the water, make sure you have the right size and type of anchor for your vessel and the sea bed.
When preparing to anchor:
- Slow down and minimise your wash – do this well in advance if you're anchoring near other anchored or moored vessels.
- Have your anchor and line ready. Make sure that the other end is secured to the vessel.
To anchor safely:
- Lower the anchor to the bottom and let the vessel travel backwards until enough line is let out. Allow 3 times as much line as the depth of water.
- If the weather deteriorates, or in strong currents, increase the line to depth ratio to 5:1 or more.
- Always anchor by the bow not the stern – anchoring by the stern can result in swamping and flooding.
- Watch your feet – getting the line wrapped around a foot is a common anchoring incident.
- Take into account local tides and possible wind changes when choosing your anchoring position.
- Make sure you have enough swing room to keep your vessel away from other nearby vessels or hazards. This is especially important at crowded anchorages, if you plan to stay overnight, or leave your vessel unattended.
- Take a few minutes to make sure your anchor has held. If in doubt, check your position against nearby landmarks.
- Check your anchor regularly if winds or currents are strong.
Occupation of waters by a vessel
Please note the following NSW marine legislation that deals with the occupation of NSW waters by a vessel:
- Marine Safety Regulation 2016; clause 17A; Restrictions on time at anchor:
- The operator of a vessel must not allow a vessel to be at anchor in NSW waters for more than 90 days in any calendar year.
- The operator of a vessel must not allow a vessel to be at anchor in any one place in NSW waters for more than 28 days in any calendar year.
Transport for NSW considers 'at anchor' to include a vessel made fast to the shore, and 'any place’ is considered to be a single bay or section of a waterway where the river is clearly recognised in sections.
Any vessel occupation outside of these parameters requires a mooring licence (or some other lawful occupation agreement).
In accordance with Ports and Maritime Administration Act 1995 – 85B - Use of moorings by vessels, a person must not cause a vessel to occupy a mooring in any navigable waters except in accordance with a mooring licence issued by the Authority in accordance with the regulations.
The following information is also relevant to vessel occupation under clause 17A:
- the vessel must be lawfully registered
- the vessel must not add risk to the environment (there are several aspects to this statement)
- the interpretation of clause 17A includes a vessel at anchor and/or affixed to the shore in some way (e.g. tied to a tree)
- the location where the vessel is ‘anchored’ needs to be suitable and may be subject to a Safety (or other) Direction by an Authorised Officer if considered unsafe or due to other factors such as land use constraints that a council or other lawful landholder may enact.