Rules of the road at sea

Power boats should give way to boats under sail. Within Northland harbours, all boats (whether under power or sail) are required to keep well clear of ships over 500 gross tonnes.

Please refer to "Maritime Rule Part 22: Collision Prevention" on for full details on collision prevention rules at sea.

Diagram of boat overtaking. Overtaking

All boats, sail or power, overtaking from astern (behind) must keep clear until they are well past the boat being overtaken. The boat in front may not be aware of your presence or intentions.


Diagram of boats meeting head on. Vessels under power meeting head on

Must each alter course to starboard so the oncoming vessel passes on your port (left) side (the opposite to road traffic).


Diagram of boats converging.Vessels under power converging at an angle (crossing)

Give way to boats on your starboard (right) side.


When power meets sail

The power boat gives way (unless the other boat is overtaking).

In narrow channels - all boats must…

  • Keep as far over to the starboard side of the channel as practicable.
  • Not anchor in a channel.
  • Not cross a channel if this impedes a larger boat which has no room to manoeuvre.

Within harbour limits…

  • Boats must give way to ships and to seaplanes taking off or landing.
  • Use autopilot devices with caution – keep a good lookout at all times.

Remember: 5 knots or less when within 50 metres of another vessel at all times.