Exemption for low-powered kayaks and canoes now permanent

1 July 2020

Paddlers of certain low-powered kayaks and canoes are now permanently exempt from licensing and registration rules in Victoria, following a trial exemption that ran from 1 January 2018 to 30 June 2020.

The exemption applies to the owners and masters of kayaks and canoes powered by an electric motor of no more than 40 pounds thrust (1 horsepower or 750 watts). In all other respects these vessels are regulated as powerboats.

The exemption is detailed in a Victoria Government Gazette notice and explained below with guidance from Maritime Safety Victoria experts.

Conditions

There are a number of conditions that apply to this exemption.

Speed

The vessel must not be operated at a speed exceeding 5 knots. Five knots is 9.26 kilometres per hour; equivalent to a fast walking pace.

Safety equipment

The following safety equipment must be carried as a minimum on the specified waters.

Inland waters:

  • a bailer (if there is no electric or manual bilge pumping system)
  • a bilge pump if the vessel has a bilge or underfloor compartment that is not airtight
  • an alternative means of propulsion (a paddle or fitted pedal mechanism)
  • a waterproof buoyant torch
  • one of the following items -
    • a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch; or
    • a personal locator beacon (PLB).

Enclosed waters and coastal waters within 2 nautical miles of the shore:

  • a bailer (if there is no electric or manual bilge pumping system)
  • a bilge pump if the vessel has a bilge or underfloor compartment that is not airtight
  • an alternative means of propulsion (a paddle or fitted pedal mechanism)
  • a waterproof buoyant torch
  • one of the following items -
    • a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch; or
    • an emergency positioning indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or a personal locator beacon (PLB); or
    • a marine radio; or
    • two hand-held orange smoke signals; or
    • two hand-held red distress flares.

Coastal waters more than 2 nautical miles from shore:

  • a bailer (if there is no electric or manual bilge pumping system)
  • a bilge pump if the vessel has a bilge or underfloor compartment that is not airtight
  • an alternative means of propulsion (a paddle or fitted pedal mechanism)
  • two red flares, two orange smoke signals and one rocket parachute flare
  • a compass
  • a marine radio
  • a registered emergency positioning indicating radio beacon (EPIRB)
  • a waterproof buoyant torch.

Requirements

In addition to the conditions related to the exemption, owners and operators must comply with the general rules for powered vessels.

Lifejacket wear

The following lifejackets must be worn by all occupants at all times when the vessel is underway:

  • On inland waters – a Type 1, 2 or 3 lifejacket(Level 100+, Level 50 or Level 50s)
  • On enclosed and coastal waters – a Type 1 lifejacket (Level 100+)

Waterway rules

Operators of all vessels must comply with state and local waterway rules – such as speed and distance rules, and vessel prohibited zones – detailed in the Vessel Operating and Zoning Rules (VOZR), and obey waterway safety signage.

Victorian waterway rules are detailed at transportsafety.vic.gov.au/msv/waterways

Further reading

Equipment guidance

Select the appropriate motor

Consider the following questions:

  • Freshwater or saltwater? Do not use a motor that is designed only for freshwater use in brackish or sea water
  • What sort of controls will suit your use? Remote control, foot control, tiller, ‘smart’ systems that will hold your position? If you are fishing from the kayak you probably won’t have a free hand
  • Does the motor have a kill switch? If you fall out of the boat and it keeps going you lose the opportunity to use the buoyancy of the boat to stay afloat
  • Can the motor bracket and tiller arrangement be easily stowed into a position that allows you to paddle freely when necessary? A motor with a fixed transom mount bracket fitted immediately behind the seating position may not allow you to do this
  • How many amps per hour will the motor use, at the speeds you are intending? Will this give you adequate time on the water? How heavy will the battery be to give you the appropriate range? As a very rough guide, an electric motor at full speed will draw 1 amp per hour for every lb of thrust. How much time you will get at lower speed settings will depend upon how many settings your motor has. Check the manufacturer’s specifications
  • Does your motor and battery have enough endurance to get you home, with a reserve in case you are heading against wind or current on your return journey?

Select the appropriate battery

  • Select a battery of a type that is specified by the manufacturer. A deep cycle battery designed for marine use will deliver sustained power over a long period. A battery designed solely for starting motors (cranking battery) will not generally be suitable for continuous running, or for supporting other equipment such as fish finders, radios and chart plotters
  • Select a battery with the appropriate voltage and amps for your motor. Don’t run a deep cycle battery down much below 50 percent if you can help it, and charge it up again as soon as you can.

Fitting the motor and battery

  • How heavy is the combined motor and battery? A typical deep cycle 12 v 70-amp marine battery will weigh around 17 kg. A 35-amp battery will weigh just over half that. Add on 5 -10 kg for the motor and bracket, and this is a significant weight on the craft
  • Consider the maximum load capacity of your craft to ensure that along with motor, battery, fishing gear and yourself – you still retain adequate freeboard to be stable in a variety of conditions
  • It is strongly recommended that you only fit motors to kayaks using brackets and fittings that are specifically designed for the purpose. You should exercise great care if you drill or cut into watertight cavities as you will not be able to bail out water from these spaces
  • Consider installing foam buoyancy within voids to provide buoyancy to the total mass of load that is carried.
  • Fit the battery as low as you can in the kayak to help with stability, and secure it so that it will not move.

Accessories

You should consider:

  • a battery meter to monitor power use, if one is not fitted to the motor
  • a fuse kit or circuit breaker to protect the motor
  • a good quality battery charger that is appropriate for the battery
  • zinc anodes to prolong the life of the motor
  • a ‘kill switch’ to stop the motor if the operator is ejected from the vessel.

Got a question about the low-powered paddle craft exemption? Email education@transportsafety.vic.gov.au

A motor attached to a kayak