Unseaworthy boats

Boat owners and skippers must make sure their boat is seaworthy and passengers are kept safe.

Unseaworthiness is often due to a lack of proper safety equipment on board. Safety equipment left at home or in the car is of no use on the water.

Determining seaworthiness includes:

  • Inspecting vessel structure for corrosion, cracks, and general wear and tear
  • Checking for water and fuel leaks
  • Testing steering gear for stiffness and treating cables with correct lubricant
  • Ensuring the bung is suitable and in good condition
  • Clearing self-draining holes
  • Checking drain flaps and greasing if necessary
  • Protecting the hull and decks - keeping them clean and properly waxed
  • Cleaning fibreglass with fresh water and a nonabrasive soap if necessary, using a soft brush to help remove debris caught in crevices
  • Patching any minor cracks, as well as gouges or chips in fibreglass gel coat, more serious cracks should be repaired by a qualified boat repairer
  • using a good metal wax to keep aluminium and stainless steel parts clean and polished, they can corrode quickly near salt water
  • checking all screws, bolts and other fittings.

Using an unseaworthy boat is an offence and the owner or skipper may be prosecuted. An authorised person may direct the responsible person to retrieve an unseaworthy boat and fix any deficiencies before using it again.

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Page last updated 18 August 2020

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Department for Infrastructure and Transport
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