Personal watercraft

A personal watercraft (PWC), also commonly known as a jet ski, is a vessel with a motor that has a fully enclosed hull. It is operated by a person who either sits, stands or kneels on it.

They must be registered for use in South Australia. The following guidelines apply to affixing your registration number, which takes precedence over decorative or customised decals and striping. Your registration number must be:

  • a different colour to the craft
  • fixed on both sides
  • a minimum of 150 mm high if the PWC is more than 3 m long or 100 mm if the PWC is less than 3 m
  • affixed to the hull above the waterline and clearly readable from 50 m in fine, clear conditions.

When personal watercraft can be operated

A personal watercraft can be operated on state waters:

  • after 8:00 am from Monday to Saturday and after 9:00 am on a Sunday until sunset or 8:00 pm on any day
  • at any time between sunrise and sunset on any day, on the River Murray when towing water skiers proving all water skiing rules are complied with.

Rules specific to personal watercraft

The same rules for motorboats apply to personal watercraft with the following additions.

  • Personal watercraft can only be operated by people over 16 years old who hold a boat operator's licence. Special permit holders cannot operate a PWC.
  • The operator and any passengers onboard a personal watercraft must wear a lifejacket Level 50 or Level 50 s at all times.
  • A personal watercraft may tow another person.
  • Unless zoned otherwise a 4 knot speed limit applies to all personal watercraft within 200 metres of the metropolitan shoreline (between Outer Harbour southern breakwater and the southern end of Sellicks Beach) and the backwaters of the River Murray. There are a number of other areas within South Australia where waters with similar restrictions are marked with signs. If in doubt, check with the local council or your local marine safety officer.
  • They must not operate in unprotected waters, beyond two nautical miles seaward from the coast of the mainland and Kangaroo Island, or from the shores of Lakes Albert or Alexandrina, without approval from the CE of DIT.
  • Do not ride a personal watercraft without a code of practice (Ride Smart) sticker correctly affixed. Ride Smart stickers are available free of charge from any Service SA customer service centre. The sticker reminds the operator of rules which are specific to PWC and are a legal requirement.

Operating safely

Except for wearing a personal flotation device, there is no legal requirement to carry safety equipment on your personal watercraft.

For your own safety, you should always attach the ignition cut-out safety line to your lifejacket and consider suitable footwear, goggles and gloves. PWC are increasingly being used for waterskiing. The same rules apply to PWC operators as all powerboat operators, including the requirement to carry an observer who must face the skier at all times.

The PWC must have seating for at least two people and ideally three, in case the skier is injured. It is also advisable to use a PWC that is designed for towing.

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Page last updated 20 May 2022

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