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Boating Offences

The Harbors and Navigation Act 1993 (SA) outlines a number of offences that may apply when operating or acting as a member of a crew on a boat or water vessel.

It is an offence to operate a vessel and be so much under the influence of drugs or alcohol as to be incapable of exercising effective control of the vessel [Harbors and Navigation Act 1993 (SA) s 70(1)]. It is also an offence to be a member of a crew and be so much under the influence of drugs or alcohol as to be incapable of effectively performing the required duties [Harbors and Navigation Act 1993 (SA) s 70(1)].

A maximum penalty of a fine of not less than $1100 and not more than $1600, or a term of imprisonment for not more than 3 months, applies. Higher penalties apply for subsequent offences [Harbors and Navigation Act 1993 (SA) s 70(1)].

Any person who operates a vessel, or a crew member who is engaged in duties affecting the safe navigation of the vessel, must not have a blood alcohol level of 0.05 or above, or any drugs in their system [Harbors and Navigation Act 1993 (SA) s 70(2)]. Different fines apply for these offences depending on the blood alcohol content level and whether it is a first or subsequent offence - see section 70(2) for penalties.

Marine Safety Officers and Police Officers can conduct breath tests [Harbors and Navigation Act 1993 (SA) s 71]. A drug screening test can also be administered by a police officer if a person has submitted to alcotest or breath analysis [Harbors and Navigation Act 1993 (SA) s 72].

It is an offence to refuse to comply with a direction to undertake an alcotest, breath analysis test, or drug screening test [see ss 71(8); 72(10)].

In the event of a boating accident and where a person aged over 10 years is taken to hospital, the treating medical practitioner has a duty to take a sample of the patient's blood to test it for the presence of drugs or alcohol [Harbors and Navigation Act 1993 (SA) s 74].

Specific speed restrictions may also apply in certain circumstances, and an expiation notice or fine may be issued if these limits are not adhered to - see Harbors and Navigation Regulations 2009 (SA) reg 168. Some SA waters may also have specific, local speed restrictions, which are often sign posted near boat ramps and which must also be adhered to.

For more information on boat safety requirements, including in relation to life jackets, speed limits, and boat loading, see the Service SA brochure Safety on the Water.

Boating Offences  :  Last Revised: Tue Mar 20th 2018
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