Safe vessel loading and stability

Overloading is dangerous and may seriously reduce the stability and seaworthiness of your vessel.

For example, overloading your boat may reduce freeboard, making your boat less able to resist waves and more likely to be swamped.

Stability is different depending on what type of vessel you are operating. Unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer, the maximum number of people that can be carried in a recreational vessel is represented in the table below:

Length of vessel   Maximum passengers*
Less than 3 m Two people
3 m to less than 3.5 m Three people
3.5 m to less than 4.5 m Four people
4.5 m to less than 5 m Five people
5 m to less than 5.5 m Six people
5.5 m to less than 6 m Seven people

In calculating the number of people on board a vessel:

  • a child up to and including one year of age is not counted
  • each child over one year and under 12 years is counted as 0.5 a person.

On recreational vessels with individual cockpits (for example, decked canoes or kayaks), the number of persons carried on the vessel must not exceed the number of individual cockpits, irrespective of the age of the person.


This is the maximum carrying capacity for good conditions. A reduction in the maximum number of persons should be made if planning to operate in adverse conditions or on the open sea.

  • Weight of a person is assumed to be 75 kg per person, with an additional allowance of 15 kg per person for personal gear.
  • A reduction in the number of persons should be made when equipment and supplies exceed total weight allocated.
  • For vessels 6 m in length and more, refer to the manufacturer's recommendation for carrying capacity or contact Maritime Safety Victoria on 1800 223 022.

Vessel stability

Overloading your boat may seriously reduce stability, making your boat more likely to capsize.

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