Marine alcohol and drug laws

Find out about the consequences of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while boating.

Amendments have been made to the Western Australian Marine Act 1982 to set limits for blood alcohol or illicit substances for skippers and allow drug and alcohol testing on WA waterways. 

Skippers navigating a vessel are now subject to the same drug and alcohol limits and penalties as those in place for WA drivers.

Read the media statement to find out more about the changes.

For enquires and questions please email

Law changes

  • New offences targeting unsafe operation of vessels;
  • Department of Transport (DoT) and WA Police Force officers will be able to test skippers for drugs or alcohol;
  • limits set for levels of blood alcohol or drugs when navigating a vessel: and
  • increased penalties for skippers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The laws bring WA in line with jurisdictions across Australia and deliver a consistent safety message to skippers and drivers.

What vessels will the laws apply to?

The laws apply to all types of recreational vessels including personal water craft, sailboats, dinghies and tenders. 

The new laws will also apply to some types of motorised craft, such as electric hydrofoil boards.

The laws will not apply to other types of paddle craft, windsurfers, kiteboards and other types of non-motorised craft.

Drug and alcohol limits

The blood alcohol content limit is 0.05 and graduated penalties for being above this limit align with road laws in WA, including 0.05, 0.08 and 0.15.

The drugs captured by the laws align to the Road Traffic Act 1974 and the Road Traffic (Drug Driving) Regulations 2007 and cover a range of substances including but not limited to:

  • cannabis;
  • ice or speed; and  
  • MDMA and ecstasy.


The penalties under the new laws reflect penalties for similar offences on the road.

Under the prescribed BAC limits, if you operate a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and it is your first offence, you face:

  • a $1,000 infringement, or a fine up to $1,250 for excess of 0.05 BAC; or
  • a fine between $750 and $2,250 and 6 months disqualification for excess of 0.08 BAC

Increased fines and periods of disqualification will apply for repeat offenders.

Navigating a vessel while under the influence and causing death, attracts a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Your Recreational Skipper’s Ticket (RST) may be disqualified and if you test above the limit for drugs or alcohol, you may also receive a notice temporarily prohibiting you from operating a vessel.

You will be directed to leave the vessel in a safe place or give control of the vessel to a WA Police or DoT officer, or suitably qualified passenger.

Under the WA Marine Act, officers have authority to deal with vessels that are a hazard or obstruction in state waters, and this may include taking a vessel into safe custody.

When will testing occur?

DoT and WA Police officers can test skippers they suspect are under the influence of alcohol or drugs and incapable of safe navigation.

Mandatory testing will be conducted after boating incidents which result in serious injury or death.

If officers are not able to identify the skipper, all people who were on board the vessel at the time of the incident could be tested.

Vessels that are secured, either at anchor, to a mooring or jetty are not considered to be operating. However, like on the road, officers can conduct a drug or alcohol test if:

  • they suspect that skipper has recently been operating the vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; or
  • a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol attempts to operate a vessel.

Don't go overboard on alcohol

Whether you are going fishing, skiing, diving or just cruising, when you mix alcohol with boating the consequences can be fatal. 

In a boat, the combination of wind, waves and the sun can all magnify the effects of alcohol and negatively impact your judgement and skills. This applies to everyone on board; the skipper and the passengers.

Frequently asked questions

As the skipper, can I still have a drink on the water?

It will be an offence for anyone operating or in charge of a vessel to exceed the alcohol and drug limits contained in the new legislation.

The new legislation does not change the rules around where alcohol may be consumed.

If you are planning on operating a vessel, it is safest not to drink at all.

If I am the skipper and I suspect I am over the limit can someone else drive the boat?

A person operating a vessel must hold appropriate qualifications for that type of vessel. For most motorised vessels this means that they must hold a valid RST. 

In some cases, a person without a RST can operate a vessel under the supervision of another person. 

A skipper who is over the limit will be breaking the law if they allow an unqualified person, who does not themselves hold a RST, to operate a vessel under their supervision. 

The situation is similar to a learner driver on the road. Road law prohibits a person with a driver’s licence from giving instructions to a learner, while the instructor is above the limit.

The skipper of a vessel must not allow any person who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol to operate the vessel.

Will there be a zero alcohol limit for skippers who are under 18 years of age?

Currently there is not enough evidence to suggest that there is a high prevalence of incidents involving skippers under 18 years of age who are skippering vessels while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, to warrant special blood alcohol content (BAC)limits. This position will be reconsidered if additional evidence emerges following introduction of the laws.

Under the Road Traffic Act 1974, a 0.00 BAC limit applies to learner and probationary drivers. There is currently no direct equivalent to a probationary or learner driver under marine legislation. However, skippers must still comply with the Liquor Control Act 1988, which prohibits the supply of alcohol to a child under 18 years of age. 

As a skipper am I responsible for my passengers who drink whilst on the water?

The new laws apply to those operating a vessel.

As skipper you are always responsible for the safety and wellbeing of people on board your vessel and the safety of other water users.

In an emergency, the ability of a passenger to take life-saving action will be limited if they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Excessive consumption of alcohol or use of illicit substances while on the water can pose additional risks to a person’s safety.

Is there a guide to ensure I don’t go above the limit when I am the skipper?

For men the guide is two standard drinks for the first hour and one standard drink for each hour after. For women it is one standard drink each hour.

However, this is only a guide. The body’s absorption of alcohol, and blood alcohol content is influenced by numerous factors.

A person’s blood alcohol content can be influenced by factors such as:

  • body size
  • whether food has been eaten or not
  • percentage of body fat
  • how fast an individual’s body processes alcohol
  • gender
  • how often alcohol is consumed.
  • type of alcohol consumed (% al/vol).

Normal factors in the marine environment like the sun, wind, noise, vibration of the vessel and wave action can cause a kind of fatigue. These factors alone can reduce reaction times almost as much as being drunk. Adding consumption of alcohol or drugs to these factors intensifies their effects and multiplies the risk of an incident on the water.

RST Disqualification

Will there be a demerit system on my RST similar to my driver’s licence?

The RST qualification does not currently include a demerit point system.

If my skipper qualification is cancelled in another state due to drug or alcohol offences, can I attain my RST in WA whilst under penalty or cancellation?


A person who holds a recreational boating qualification issued by another state who is suspended or disqualified from operating a recreational vessel for drug or alcohol related offences, will be deemed to be ineligible to hold or obtain an RST in WA for the period of suspension or disqualification.

Do the new laws apply to hire vessels where an RST is not required?


The laws apply to all vessels, including commercial vessels and hire and drive vessels, regardless of whether an RST is required.

Can I lose my car licence if I drink too much whilst on a boat?

There are currently no plans for a marine alcohol or drug offence to result in disqualification of a driver’s licence.

Will I be permitted to operate a friend’s boat (in their presence) if I have been caught with a previous high alcohol or drug reading?

The new legislation will make it an offence for a person who is disqualified to be operating a vessel for which a RST is required, even under another person’s supervision. 

This is the same situation as on the roads.

Can I be tested on land at the ramps?

Yes, you can be tested at a boat ramp.

DoT and WA Police officers continue to use a coordinated approach to the enforcement of drug and alcohol laws on land and water.

The new on-water laws substantially reflect the laws on WA’s roads meaning that any officer can undertake testing on land or water, using the same equipment.

Page last updated: Thu May 2 2024 12:19:36 PM