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 500gt (gross tonnes).

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


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.

Boats overtaking graphic.

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).

boats meeting head on graphic.

Vessels under power converging at an angle (crossing)

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

Vessels converging graphic.

When power meets sail

The power boat gives way (unless the sailing yacht 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 over 500gt and to seaplanes taking off or landing
  • Use autopilot devices with caution and not within harbour limits– keep a constant look out.