Operating guidelines for superyachts on Sydney Harbour
This information is designed to help superyachts prepare for a visit to Sydney Harbour and to assist them operating while in the harbour.
What's a superyacht?
How do you know if your vessel needs to follow 'superyacht' guidelines for operating on Sydney Harbour?
Your vessel is a 'superyacht' if it's both:
- a recreational vessel 30m and over in length (LOA), and
- used for private (non-commercial) operations.
As a superyacht operator travelling on Sydney Harbour you must follow the relevant legislation and Harbour Master Directions (See Port Authority of NSW and information below).
Pilots and certificates
According to Harbour Master Directions (See Port Authority of NSW) pilotage of vessels is compulsory on Sydney Harbour:
- for vessels 30m and over in length
- except in the cases below.
Pilotage is not compulsory for (unless legally notified otherwise):
- A vessel with a Master who holds a relevant Marine Pilotage Exemption Certificate.
- A vessel with a Master who holds a relevant Certificate of Local Knowledge.
- A vessel less than 30m in length. Note: a vessel less than 30m in length that is engaged in towing or pushing with a combined length of ≥ 30m, is not exempt from pilotage).
- A seaplane.
- A recreational vessel. Note: Foreign vessels and regulated Australian vessels are not considered recreational vessels. See Navigation Act 2012 (Commonwealth legislation).
- A vessel with an order exempting it from pilotage.
A vessel master should request these services if in doubt regarding:
- the procedures on the harbour or
- an ability to safely manoeuvre within the harbour.
Sometimes the Harbour Master may require a pilot to conduct the vessel on its movement into, out of or within the port.
Rules for operating on the harbour
Superyachts are free to enter and move around Sydney Harbour if the operator complies with these rules:
- Superyacht masters must follow the Harbour Master Directions.
- Superyachts on Sydney Harbour, or in 5 nautical miles of port limits, must at all times:
- maintain a listening watch on VHF Ch 13
- report to Sydney VTS on VHF Ch 13 at the required times
- follow all directions issued by Sydney VTS.
- Superyacht masters must be aware of, and comply with restrictions and all other requirements for operating on Sydney Harbour.
- International Regulations (COLREGs) and NSW Special Rules of the Road contained within Schedule 4 of the Marine Safety Regulation 2016.
To view or download the complete Harbour Master Directions for Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay, see NSW Ports Authority.
Also see Rules for boating on Sydney Harbour
Priority over sail
Masters of superyachts under sail must give way to ferries displaying an orange diamond shape. This grants ferries priority over sailing vessels by day.
Passage of seagoing ships and Naval Vessels
Vessels must not impede the passage of:
- seagoing ships
- vessels under the conduct of a pilot, or
- exempt master or naval vessels inside the shipping channel or fairway.
Hovercraft, high speed ferries and Rivercats
These vessels carry the normal lights for a power-driven vessel under way and also exhibit an all-round flashing yellow light. This light does not provide any priority over sailing vessels.
Cruising and sightseeing traffic flow
All vessels should navigate in a generally anti-clockwise direction around Sydney Harbour.
Personal Watercraft (PWC)
Operating a PWC (as defined in the Marine Safety Regulation 2016) on Sydney Harbour is prohibited.
Restricted access areas
Vessels may enter when there's no closure notice on the Pyrmont Bridge electronic notice panel (displayed in the centre of the bridge).
Contact the bridge controller to check on closures on Channel 13.
Property NSW controls Cockle Bay. Vessels may berth at the visitor’s marina on the eastern side of the Bay, for a fee. Using wharves on the western and southern sides is by arrangement with Property NSW only.
Sydney Cove (Circular Quay)
Circular Quay is a ferry and passenger ship terminal. Access for recreational vessels is prohibited without prior written permission from Transport for NSW (Maritime). See Schedule 6, Marine Safety Regulation 2016.
The timber wharf in Campbells Cove can be used as a superyacht berth for vessels up to 60m in length. It's within the Sydney Cove restricted area.
Prior approval to enter is required. Contact Sydney Superyacht Marina or any of the local superyacht agents.
Naval Waters are indicated on charts for the area. A vessel may enter these waters, although Naval authorities are at liberty to restrict access when necessary. A vessel may not anchor in Naval Waters.
For security reasons, people are prohibited from climbing, attaching themselves or helping another person to attach themselves to a naval vessel.
A moving exclusion zone operates for naval vessels underway in NSW waters. This zone extends 200m from bow and 60m on either side and astern of a naval vessel. A ‘distance off’ of 60m from a naval vessel which is moored, anchored or berthed applies at all times. Yellow buoys delineate prohibited zones around Garden Island and other naval installations. Penalties apply.
Waters west of Silverwater Bridge are closed to all vessels other than ferries.
Charter Wharf Booking System
The Charter Wharf Booking System is designed to provide commercial operators use of Charter Wharves on Sydney Harbour.
Commonly used docks
Rose Bay Wharf
- Floating pontoon next to the ferry wharf (size limit of 20 tonnes / 15 minutes only).
Darling Harbour – Cockle Bay Wharf
- To book a berth, call +61 2 9211 5383 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pyrmont Bridge can open or has a clearance height of 6.05m.
Taronga Zoo Wharf
- Ferry wharf (ferries have right of way).
All other ferry wharves within Sydney Harbour can be used, keeping in mind ferries have right of way.