Response to boating queries about coronavirus (COVID-19)

27 October 2020

As restrictions change, updated rules for boaters will be available on the Better Boating Victoria website.


First published: 26 March 2020

Frequently asked questions for boaters and Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) maritime stakeholders regarding operations during a pandemic.

Marine licences and vessel registrations

The cost of boat licensing and registration in 2020-21 will stay the same as 2019-20 amounts, as part of a state government fee freeze. Visit the VicRoads website for details on marine licence fees and vessel registration fees.

Can I still obtain my Marine Licence & PWC endorsement at VicRoads?

  • You can find more information on their site on how to perform transactions online without having to attend a Customer Service Centre. Many transactions can be completed online if you have an existing VicRoads profile.

Can I still register my boat at VicRoads?

  • VicRoads are still issuing Vessel Registrations. You can find more information on their website on how to perform transactions online without having to attend a Customer Service Centre. Many transactions can be completed online if you have an existing VicRoads profile.

Can I still complete a course for my Marine Licence & PWC endorsement through an Accredited Training Provider?

  • Many Accredited Training Providers have advised MSV they are no longer conducting their scheduled courses. This is in line with the current advice from Victoria's Chief Health Officer on social distancing.
  • Course participants should contact their preferred training provider to seek further information on course availability.
  • Alternatively, some Accredited Training Providers have been approved to conduct courses online.

I have a certificate of attainment from a marine licence training provider. It is due to expire in the next few months, but I won’t be going boating until next summer.  If I wait, will I have to do the course again?

  • No. All marine licence course certificates will be accepted by VicRoads if they were issued on or after 1 April 2019. This will apply up until 31 December 2020. We suggest you delay applying for a licence until shortly before you intend going out on your boat.

What about marine licence course certificates issued from now on?

  • They will continue to be valid for 12 months from date of issue.

Do I have to register a boat as soon as I own it?

  • No. You don’t have to register your boat until you intend to operate it. However, if you acquire a boat that is already registered you must advise VicRoads of the transfer of ownership within 14 days. (Operate:  ‘ means to facilitate or control the movement or navigation of a vessel (or a thing connected to a vessel) that is not— (a) at anchor; or (b) made fast to the shore; or (c) aground; or (d) ashore;’)

Do I have to have a marine licence in order to register a boat?

  • No. Anyone aged fourteen or older can register a boat.

Boating activity event (BAE) applicants

Will you continue to process BAE and other regulatory applications?

  • Yes. We will continue to work with waterway managers and other stakeholders to process applications for on-water events where appropriate. This includes applications for boating activity exemptions and exclusion zones.
  • We will also continue to work with waterway managers to process applications for:
  1. work notices
  2. waterway rule changes
  3. Notices to Mariners
  4. urgent safety rules.
  • Please note, as the Victorian Government response to the spread of COVID-19 continues, processing times for applications may be affected.

Should COVID-19 be addressed in BAE applications?

  • Event managers are required to identify and address any safety risks likely to be faced by boating event participants, support staff, volunteers, spectators and bystanders. It is important the risks of COVID-19 are adequately identified, addressed and managed when planning and staging an event.
  • All events must comply with any restrictions imposed by Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government or the Federal Government.

As the manager of an event, how does COVID-19 affect my ‘Safety Duty’?

  • Event managers have a ‘safety duty’, as far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the safety of event participants or persons affected by the event.
  • It is reasonable to conclude event managers are required to consider how the safety of participants, support staff, volunteers, spectators and bystanders will be addressed in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak. This would include consideration of any requirements established by Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government or the Federal Government.

I have an approved event coming up – what should I do?

  • Even though your event application has been approved, subsequent advice from Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government or the Federal Government may impact your application. For example, new social distancing measures may affect the number of people who can participate in your event.
  • It is important your event complies with all requirements relevant for the date the event is to take place, irrespective of when an event application was approved.
  • Follow Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services for the latest updates and adhere to any restrictions imposed by the Federal Government.
  • If you decide to proceed with your event, make sure you consider how you will manage/address all safety risks. The safety of safety of participants, support staff, volunteers, spectators and bystanders should be considered.

I have an approved event, but would like to modify to reduce the number of people involved – what should I do?

I have decided to cancel or reschedule an approved event – what should I do?

  • If an approved event with an associated exclusion zone is cancelled, please contact the relevant waterway manager. Waterway managers are required to revoke the exclusion zone by a Government Gazette notice. Please contact waterways@transportsafety.vic.gov.au if you require assistance.
  • If the event application is still being processed, please advise the relevant waterway manger or us as soon as possible on waterways@transportsafety.vic.gov.au.
  • To reschedule an approved event, please contact the relevant waterway manager or contact waterways@transportsafety.vic.gov.au for support.

Waterway managers

I have received an application from a proponent for a BAE to hold an on-water event. I do not believe the safety risk measures proposed are appropriate. What should I do?

  • As the waterway manager, you must be confident the safety management plan for the event adequately addresses all safety risks. The safety of participants, support staff, volunteers, spectators and bystanders should be considered.
  • If the proposal does not adequately address safety risks – or meet the requirements of Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government or the Federal Government – you must return the application to the proponent and request they consider if/how they can hold the event in a way that adequately addresses risk and/or complies with requirements.
  • In some instances, the proponent may determine to postpone/cancel the event until further notice. Relevant advice is available from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

I have determined the need to change a waterway rule or close a waterway until further notice. Can I do that?

  • A waterway manager, port management body or local port manager can apply for rules to be made for waterways under their control, through mechanisms such as the making of permanent waterway rules (which involves a public consultation process).
  • Additionally, waterway managers can submit to Transport Safety Victoria an application for an Urgent Safety Rule or submit a Work Permit application on their waterway. This can be done by contacting us at waterways@transportsafety.vic.gov.au.

Compliance and investigations

Will MSV still be undertaking compliance activities on the water?

  • The extent of our compliance activities will be dependent on the advice of Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government or the Federal Government.
  • We will continue to monitor compliance, issues and incidents, and to work with our compliance partners to monitor boating activities on our waterways.

What do I do if I see unsafe activity on the water?

  • Always call triple zero (000) if you are involved in or witness an emergency.
  • If you witness dangerous behaviour, please contact Water Police on (03) 9399 7500 and provide details of what you are observing.
  • If you wish to discuss any other matter relating to maritime safety, call us on 1800 223 022 or email us at information@transportsafety.vic.gov.au.

Will you still be undertaking investigations into reported maritime incidents? 

  • Yes. We will continue to monitor incidents and respond and investigate appropriately.

What do I do if I am the master/owner of a domestic commercial vessel (DCV) and am involved in a maritime incident?

  • You must complete an Incident Alert Form #18 immediately and then submit an Incident Report Form #19 within 72 hours. Both forms can be completed and submitted online or downloaded and emailed to AMSA. Reporting a DCV Marine Incident.

Are recreational boating incidents still required to be reported? 

  • Yes, no changes have been made to reporting arrangements.

When and how do I report a recreational boating incident?

  • Where death, injury or property damage occurs on a recreational vessel, report the incident details as soon as possible to police officers present or to the police station nearest to where the accident took place.

Pilotage, licensing & qualifications

Can I still apply for a new Pilot Exempt Master certificate or renew my current or expired one?

  • Yes, however we ask for your patience as there may be delays due to resourcing and system limitations. Also, in response to social distancing requirements, the way we undertake examinations may change. For example, we may use video conferencing.
  • If you are seeking a new PEM certificate or the renewal of PEM certificate, please complete the relevant form (CC13 and CC14 respectively) from the link below and send with all supporting documentation to: TSVqualifications@transportsafety.vic.gov.au
  • Please do not post any documentation as TSV staff are working remotely and will not be able to access these documents.
  • You can access forms on our website.

Will you still be undertaking Pilot and Pilot Exempt Master examinations during the pandemic period?

  • Yes, however in response to social distancing requirements, the way we undertake examinations may change. For example, we may use video conferencing.

Can I still get my Local Knowledge Certificate application processed?

  • Yes, however we ask for your patience as there may be delays due to resourcing and system limitations. Also, in response to social distancing requirements, the way we undertake examinations may change. For example, we may use video conferencing.
  • If you are seeking a new LKC or the renewal of an LKC, please complete the relevant form (CC9 and CC10 respectively) from the link below and send with all supporting documentation to: TSVqualifications@transportsafety.vic.gov.au
  • Please do not post any documentation as TSV staff are working remotely and will not be able to access these documents.
  • You can access forms on our website.

Will I still be able to sit my Local Knowledge Certificate examination?

  • Yes, however in response to social distancing requirements, the way Harbour Masters undertake examinations may change. For example, Harbour Masters may use video conferencing, tele conferencing or online modules.

Will I still be issued my LKC/PEM/Pilot Card?

  • Yes, however we ask for your patience as there may be delays due to resourcing and system limitations.  Staff are working remotely and will post your respective cards out when they are able to access them.

Will you still be able to process evidentiary certificates?

Yes, however we ask for your patience as there may be delays due to resourcing and system limitations.

Impact to MSV business operations

Will Maritime Safety Victoria still be operating throughout the pandemic response?

  • Yes. The Maritime Safety Branch of Transport Safety Victoria remains open for business. Our systems and processes allow for us to work remotely. We have tested for this and will continue to provide services as needed.

Will TSV staff be contactable during the COVID-19 outbreak?

  • Staff can be contacted via their usual telephone numbers or email addresses. Individual staff hours may vary from standard office hours at times.

I need to talk to someone from TSV but don’t know how to make contact. What do I do?

  • Call us on 1800 223 022 and follow the prompts to be connected to a member of the Maritime Safety team. Alternatively, email us at information@transportsafety.vic.gov.au and someone will get back to you.

Will TSV be maintaining a presence at boat shows and seminars?

  • MSV staff have cancelled attendance at all exhibitions and shows for the immediate future.  If you are scheduling an event for later in the year, feel free to get in touch with us on 1800 223 022.

Will my Freedom of Information application still be processed? 

  • Yes, however we ask for your patience as there may be delays due to resourcing and system limitations.

Will I be able to come into the TSV office to submit an application or talk with staff?

  • It is unlikely our office will be open to the public during the COVID-19 outbreak. To be safe, call first on 1800 223 022.

The latest government advice

A boat on a lake at dusk