Bylaw 218 Navigation Safety

Council adopted the Navigation Safety Bylaw 218 ('the Bylaw') in November 2012 and it came into effect on 1 December 2012.

Vessel RegistrationThe Bylaw has recently been reviewed and Council decided some changes were needed to better ensure the safety of people and to reduce conflicts between activities. The amended Bylaw was approved by Council on 19 September 2019 to take effect on 1 October 2019.

The key provisions to be aware of are:

  • Certain areas of the harbour are set aside for specified predominant recreational purposes (priority activities) as indicated by the maps in the Bylaw. These zones do not give sole right of use but when those priority activities are taking place other harbour users should act appropriately, e.g. avoid the area (see clause 2.2 and maps 3, 5 and 6).
  • There is a Moving Prohibited Zone and Total Exclusion Zone around any vessel of 3000 GRT or more (the bigger size fishing vessels and up). This means big ships have exclusive rights to the cut and smaller vessels should not enter the cut when big ships are there (clause 2.3).
  • A Harbour Transit Lane has been established allowing vessels to legally exceed 5 knots when transiting the port provided they stay on the red beacon side of the channel and do not approach within 50 metres of any other vessel within the transit lane or port (clause 2.4).
  • There is an exclusion zone of 50m around any of the wharves or vessels tied to the wharves (clause 2.5). 
  • The person in charge of a recreational vessel that is six metres or less in length must ensure everyone of board wears a properly secured and appropriately sized lifejacket unless the person is sleeping below deck and the vessel is at anchor, moored or berthed (other exemptions apply, see clause 2.7).
  • Vessels six metres or more in length must be identified and registered (unless the identification is a Yachting NZ or affiliated club registration or the vessel’s trailer registration number). There is no cost to register and you can submit the details of the vessel and the owner’s contact details on our Vessel Registration page.
    Vessels less than six metres need to have the owner’s name and contact details marked somewhere on the vessel (see clause 2.26).
  • People wanting to place a marker buoy need to obtain the permission of the Harbourmaster and clearly label the buoy (clause 2.16).
  • A person is to be nominated as the person in charge of a vessel (clause 2.27).
  • Two forms of communication to be carried on vessels with an exemption for non-powered vessels less than six metres in length that need to carry one form of distress signal (such as a whistle, flare or phone, see clause 2.28).
  • A lookout is to be provided when a vessel is towing a person at all speeds (clause 2.11).
  • Licenses are required from council to operate a commercial vessel (clause 2.24).

The Nelson marina is included in this Bylaw. Penalties and infringements are contained within the Bylaw.

Harbourmaster Directions in relation to:

  • Signals for ships around the Harbour exclusion zones (for Pilots and PEC Masters)
  • MARPOL Annex VI and the use of scrubbers (for PNL and ships agents)

Click here to download Harbourmaster's Direction December 2022

More information

If you have any queries relating to the Bylaw please do not hesitate to contact the Harbourmaster


Phone: 0800 NNHarbour (0800 664 272)