Australia, New South Wales: Anchoring Laws Update
Published: 2017-03-14 00:00:00
This report from a cruiser in Sydney Harbour - 27 February, 2017
We've just received a visit from the Marine Safety people in Sydney Harbour and had an interesting chat about a recent change to Maritime Safety laws in late 2016. This hasn't been published anywhere that we've seen.
Specifically, item 17A from the 2016 Marine Safety Regulations:
MARINE SAFETY REGULATION 2016 - REG 17A
Restrictions on time at anchor
17A Restrictions on time at anchor
(1) The operator of a vessel must not allow a vessel to be at anchor in NSW waters for more than 90 days in any calendar year.
(2) The operator of a vessel must not allow a vessel to be at anchor in any one place in NSW waters for more than 28 days in any calendar year.
Maximum penalty: 50 penalty units.
What is unpleasant is that the Officer I spoke to told me that his office ruled that "any one place" really meant "any one waterway". So the ENTIRETY of Sydney Harbour is considered "One Place" for purposes of this law. In our discussion he said the only way that interpretation would change would be if someone were to get ticketed and fined, then fight that ruling in a court of law and win. He mentioned the fine is something like $750, but the law lists it as "Max 50 penalty units" which could be as high as $5,500.
There is NO EXCEPTION for international yachts or visiting yachts, and this rule applies to the former "International anchorages" of Blackwater, Roselle, and Balls Head Pay. These do not exist any more.
Basically, yachts that visit in Sydney and plan to anchor are welcome for 28 days and no more. Otherwise you must get a mooring or a slip.
This is NOT well publicised, and in fact it is not included in the official PDF of regulations here:
I have subsequently had a conversation with someone who is "fairly high up" in the marine safety division.
He told me that we cruisers weren't a high priority and not really the target, and building a case against one of us would take some time and not likely happen as they have other, much higher priorities. If one moves around between anchorages in the harbour, there really shouldn't be a problem, in other words. The laws are really intended to prevent the floating shanty town anchorages from local liveaboards.
The particular anchorage we were in where the officer approached us is known to have a lot of complaints about anchored boats, both from a couple of people living on shore and from a large rowing club that gets testy if they can't row in a straight line the same way every day.
Nevertheless, the laws exist as written and are being interpreted as stated, so they could be a problem for a cruiser if the officials chose to make it one, since there is no longer an official exemption for foreign vessels.