Frequently asked questions
These are commonly asked questions about using NSW waterways, including information about getting an aquatic licence, attending aquatic events, and holding your own aquatic event.
Transport for NSW regularly reviews our policies and procedures to minimise government red tape and improve efficiencies for our customers. A review of aquatic licencing was undertaken in 2016 following the implementation of the Marine Safety Regulation 2016 to identify ways to streamline the administration of the licence program. Aquatic licences for sailing events accounted for approximately on fifth of licences issued and were largely issued to clubs containing standard conditions. Sailing events were identified as low risk events that have a minimal impact on other waterway users provided standard conditions are complied with.
Notification is required to provide Transport for NSW and other waterway users with information about the level of activity on NSW waterways. Notification allows waterway managers to provide information about conflicting events to aquatic licence applicants and to minimise the impact of organised activities on other waterway users.
Event organisers are required to provide notification to Transport for NSW at least 6 weeks prior to any sailing event. Event organisers may submit notification for a series of similar activities up to 12 months in advance. For events that are significantly different, a separate notification form will be required.
Transport for NSW publishes information about approved events and waterway closures on this website. Sailing event organisers are encouraged to check this website on a frequent basis for publication of Marine Notices and other approved aquatic events. For further information see: Marine Notices and Approved Aquatic Events.
Exclusive use is required for events that create a higher risk of danger to the public than is normally expected on a waterway. Examples of sailing events that may require exclusive use include:
- a large number of participating vessels are attending the event e.g. interclub races or state/national titles
- a large number of spectators expected to attend the event e.g. the start of the Sydney to Hobart race
- sailing vessel or support craft are travelling at high speeds e.g. events such as Extreme Sailing
- events where vessels may be behaving erratically that may increase the risk of danger to the other waterway users eg. filming activity.
All sailing events that require exclusive use will be required to hold an aquatic licence. If you are unsure whether your event requires exclusive use, please contact Transport for NSW at least 6 weeks prior to the event.
An aquatic licence is no longer required for sailing activities that comply with the conditions in the exemption. Proof of notification should be sufficient evidence for other agencies, however Transport for NSW can provide further information if required.
The exemption conditions have been developed from standard conditions that sailing events have been operating under for a number of years. Organisers of sailing events are still required to develop risk assessments and operational plans and these documents must be reviewed every 12 months. Transport for NSW will conduct random reviews of sailing events operating under the exemption to ensure compliance with the conditions.
Only sailing events are covered by this exemption, however an aquatic licence is not required for some other activities. If a club hosts activities not covered by this exemption or another exemption, the club will be required to hold an aquatic licence for those activities. Please contact Transport for NSW at least 6 weeks prior to the event to discuss.
An Aquatic Licence does not provide any rights of access to navigable waters unless Transport for NSW has declared an exclusion zone for the duration of the activity. All other organised events that do not require an exclusion zone (whether licenced or exempt) are deemed to have a low impact on the waterway and are expected to share the waterway with other users. Organisers are required to identify and notify all impacted stakeholders (including other activity organisers) prior to the activity, so that any conflicting requirements for an area can be identified and mitigated.
Transport for NSW will conduct reviews of the exemption in response to any issues or incidents that arise from events conducted under the exemption. Transport for NSW will contact the person nominated on the nomination form if any changes are made to the exemption. Sailing event organisers are required to contact Transport for NSW to advise of any changes to details supplied on the notification form.
A sailing event is only exempt from the requirement to hold an aquatic licence if all conditions can be met. If you have any concerns about complying with all of the conditions in the exemption, please contact Transport for NSW at least 6 weeks prior to the proposed activity.
If a sailing event does not comply with a condition of the exemption, the organiser of the event may be required to hold an aquatic licence. Penalties of up to $11,000 may apply for conducting an aquatic event without an aquatic licence.