Temporary exemptions and zones
If you want to conduct boating activity or hold an on-water event, you may need an exemption or a modification from a rule to do so. This page explains what boating activity exemptions (BAE) and exclusion zones are; when they are required; and how to apply for them.
It also lists temporary rule changes and exclusion zones on unmanaged waterways and waterways managed by Maritime Safety Victoria.
Read about on-water event managers' safety duties and code of practice.
Definition of boating activities and on-water events
Marine safety legislation and rules are designed to provide for a safe operating environment for a wide range of general boating and on-water activities.
Organised boating activities and on-water events range from sport, to entertainment and even cultural gatherings. They can be commercial ventures, club-based competition or provide a not-for-profit experience for the community. They may be high profile attracting media attention, have a national or international focus or be local volunteer driven.
The organisers may provide their own event team members, or outsource some functions to contractors. Each activity or on-water event is unique and poses its own specific safety risks.
What is a boating activity exemption?
A boating activity exemption (BAE), granted under section 203 of the Marine Safety Act 2010, allows a person or event organiser to conduct organised boating activity or an on-water event or series of events on State waters that would, otherwise, be in contravention of a relevant law, rule or regulation.
A BAE is temporary and can exempt the activity or event from the application of the:
- Marine Safety Act 2010 (Vic) (MSA)
- Marine Safety Regulations 2012 (Vic) (MSR)
- State waterway rules (Vessel Operating & Zoning Rules) (VOZR)
- Regulations made under the Port Management Act 1995 (Vic) (PMA)
When is a BAE required?
If you want to conduct boating activity or hold an on-water event and need an exemption or a modification from a rule to do so a BAE is required for the duration of the event. Common exemptions include:
- 'Vessels racing in close proximity' requires an exemption for vessels exceeding 5 knots within 50 metres of another vessel
- 'Skiers racing in close proximity to vessels' requires an exemption for vessels exceeding 5 knots within 50 metres of a person in the water (in the event of a fall)
- 'Vessels operating in close proximity to on-water infrastructure' requires an exemption to exceed 5 knots within 50 metres of a fixed or floating structure.
- 'Vessels operating in close proximity on a narrow river and under bridges' requires exemptions for vessels exceeding 5 knots within 50 metres of another vessel, within 50 metres of the water's edge and within 50 metres of a fixed or floating structure
- High speed vessels with fire suppression and/or bilge pump systems installed may require an exemption from carrying safety equipment such as a fire extinguisher and bucket
- Persons competing in an organised sporting event that find wearing a lifejacket restrictive and/or impractical may require an exemption from wearing a lifejacket
- An event held in an area that has a speed or other rule restriction may require an exemption from the specific waterway rule as detailed in the VOZR.
The waterway manager may grant 'exclusive use' of an area of waterway to an applicant by establishing an exclusion zone under section 208 of the MSA. An exclusion zone is used to prohibit persons, vessels and all other activities from a specific area of water to create the exclusive area where an activity/event can take place. Exclusion zones can only be created in conjunction with an exemption.
An exclusion zone is a form of control measure that can help keep other persons and vessels away from a higher risk activity/event, and also help control an activity/event by keeping the participants in the specified area for the duration of an event(s). They are typically used for high risk or high speed events.
How to apply
If you wish to apply for a temporary waterway rule change, exemption or an exclusion zone for an on-water event, boating activity or works, you must apply to the relevant waterway manager, port or local port management body for waters under their control or to Maritime Safety Victoria for MSV-managed and unmanaged waterways.
In order for waterway managers to meet the requirements – including assessment, notification to TSV, government gazette and newspaper notices – we recommend that you lodge your application a minimum of three weeks (ideally six weeks) before an event.
How will my application be processed?
Any request for an exemption from or modification to legislation or rules requires an assessment of risk related to the proposed activity (and the exemption requested), and the control measure(s) proposed to mitigate that risk(s) due to the exemption or modification.
An application will not be considered to be complete until all components of the application have been provided. A complete application includes the following:
- All relevant sections of the form are completed
- All relevant documents as per the application are submitted
- Any additional information requested by the waterway manger is submitted within the requested timeframe.
Download this information as a boating exemptions factsheet PDF, 378.4 KB
Current exemptions or works notices
Current declarations and notices relating to temporary rule changes, exemptions and/or waterway closures for boating activity, special events or works on, over or under waters, for waterways where we are the waterway manager or where no waterway manager is appointed.
Goulburn River, from 100m upstream & downstream of Chinaman’s Bridge
Between 12.00 am on 5 March 2023 until 12.00 am on 30 June 2023
- all persons, other than members, officers or personnel of Victoria Police, Victoria State Emergency Service, Victorian Fisheries Authority, Strathbogie Shire Council and Safe Transport Victoria, and
- all vessels, other than those operated by Victoria Police, Victoria State Emergency Service, Victorian Fisheries Authority, Strathbogie Shire Council and Safe Transport Victoria, and vessels expressly authorised by members, officers or personnel of Victoria Police, Victoria State Emergency Service, Victorian Fisheries Authority, Strathbogie Shire Council and Safe Transport Victoria, from entering, or remaining in, the following State waters:
- Goulburn River, 100 metres upstream & downstream of Chinamans Bridge
View the Government Gazette Notice on the Victoria Government Gazette website.
Surfing Victoria 2022-2023 Coastal Waters Season
Various Dates between 3 November 2022 and 31 July 2023
- View the Declaration of Exemptions.
Life Saving Victoria Winter Carnivals
29 April – 2 July