Transport and Main Roads have Guidelines for Masters operating superyachts in the Southport Pilotage area.  The aims of the Guidelines are to assist superyacht (private recreational ships with a length of more than 24m) Masters to prepare for a visit to the Gold Coast and provide a reference document during their visit.  We’ve summarised the Guidelines in this article to give you a quick overview.  Download the Guidelines for full details.

Superyachts are free to enter and move around the Southport Pilotage Area as long as:

  • the Guidelines are followed
  • you are aware of all restrictions (outlined in the guidelines)
  • you familiarise yourself with the latest navigation warnings, shipping movements and weather information
  • you are compliant with the Convention on the International Regulations for Prevention of Collision at Sea 1972 (COLREGS), and
  • you maintain a listening watch on VHF Ch16 and follow all directions issued by Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ).


If your ship is more that 50m in length you will need to use the services of a pilot, unless your Master holds a valid Pilotage Exemption Certificate for the pilotage area.  Of course if you have any doubt regarding your ability to safely manoeuvre within the pilotage area you are encouraged to seek the services of a pilot.

Maximum ship sizes

A minimum under keel clearance (UKC) of 1.0 metre is required in the Gold Coast Seaway Entrance.  A minimum UKC of 0.5 metres is required in all other areas of the Southport Broadwater.

The Seaway to Southport Yacht Club allows a maximum length of 65m and maximum draught of 3m, while the Seaway to Marine Precinct, Coomera allows a maximum length of 60m and a maximum draught of 2.1m.

Recreational activities, helicopters and seaplanes

The Southport Broadwater is an extremely busy area for recreational activities, particularly on weekends, so care is required in navigating the area.  Particularly watch out for surfers paddling across the Seaway.  Helicopters are permitted and seaplanes use the area.  See the guidelines for areas seaplanes use.

Extreme weather contingency plans

All marinas have their own contingency plans and in extreme weather conditions, the Regional Director (Gold Coast), or others as delegated, may give directions in relation to ships in the Southport area which you must comply with immediately.  There is a list of general preventative measures to take in case of extreme weather.

Dangerous goods

No dangerous goods can be brought into or handled in the pilotage area until notification is provided to the MSQ Gold Coast Office (see the list of dangers that dangerous goods may present).

Customs and quarantine

Foreign boats must first clear customs and quarantine in Brisbane or other nominated Australian port.

Boat licenses and certificates of competency

In Queensland, a marine license is required to operate a recreational boat, which is powered by a motor greater than 4.5 kW (over 6 HP) and additionally you must have a personal watercraft (PWC) license to operate a personal watercraft.  From January 2013, new recreational boat license applicants wanting to operate a boat 12 metres or more will need to obtain an advanced recreational marine driver licence endorsement.


Legislation requires all ships over 15m in length to have insurance sufficient to pay for potential pollution clean up, salvage and wreck removal.  See the list of requirements that the insurance policy must meet.


Your tender doesn’t need to be registered, but it must be marked on the exterior with the word ‘tender’ and the primary ship registration numbers, at least 75 mm high.

Anchoring restrictions

A deep anchorage is available for transient ships east of the South Channel between beacons S6 and S8.  A seven-day anchoring limit applies to all ships in this area.

All Gold Coast waterways are subject to anchoring and mooring restrictions. Information can be sought from the office of MSQ, Gold Coast.

Berthing and ship facilities

  • Southport has four main marinas where you can berth ships up to 65m in length: Southport Yacht Club (up to 55m);
  • Mariners Cove (up to 30m);
  • Marina Mirage (up to 65m) and
  • Palazzo Versace (up to 32m).

See the guidelines for berth depths.

The Gold Coast City Marina and Shipyard at Coomera can accommodate super yachts seeking refits, blasting, paintwork and new builds. Masters should check proposed marina berth design loadings. Direct access to water is available via the 150 tonne travel lift.  Berthing of ships up to 50 metres in length can be achieved and the depth of water at the marina is 3.5 metres lowest astronomical tide.

Bridges across waterways

There are three bridges in the vicinity of the Southport Broadwater:

  • Sovereign Islands Bridge (5m clearance at highest astronomical tide);
  • Ephraim Island Bridge (5.9m clearance at highest astronomical tide), and
  • The Gold Coast Bridge (4.5m clearance at highest astronomical tide).

Speed limits

You must keep your speed to a limit where the ship’s wash doesn’t cause a marine incident or damage to the shoreline.

  • The Coomera River has a speed limit of 6 knots for ships 8m and over in length.
  • The South Channel has a speed limit of 6 knots commencing immediately north of beacons S11 and S12, south to the Gold Coast Bridge.
  • The Southport Broadwater and North Channels have a 40 knot limit; however, because of the need to limit your wash you are required to limit your ship to maneuvering speeds only. As a general principle, ships over 20m LOA should travel at speeds up to 10 knots within smooth water limits, where the speed limit is set at 40 knots.


Discharges of oil, noxious liquid substances, sewage and garbage from ships are prohibited in Queensland coastal waters and pilotage areas.  It is an offence to discharge untreated or treated sewage in certain areas throughout the Southport Pilotage Area.  Refer to the Gold Coast office of MSQ or the links in the guidelines for guidance.  Pump out facilities are listed in Table 1 of the guidelines.

Oil and chemical pollutants

Clean bilges help reduce pollution. Use absorbents to mop up excess oil or fuel, wash your bilge with biodegradable degreasers or detergents and dispose of any cleaning residue ashore.

If oil does spill into the water, use absorbents to mop it up and let the Harbour Master, marina manager or port authority know so that it can be cleaned up as soon as possible. Do not use dispersants or other cleaning chemicals because they can increase the toxic effects of oil spills.

The Master of your ship must report a discharge, or probable discharge, without delay by contacting MSQ.  Ships without telephones can call the Gold Coast Seaway Tower and ask their report to be passed to MSQ.

Marine Incidents

If you are involved in any of the marine incidents listed in the guidelines (involving two or more ships) your ship’s master must assist the other ship/s and people and stay at the scene until no more assistance is needed and provide your details to all the other ship’s masters involved.

Marine incidents must be reported to a Shipping Inspector within 48 hours of the incident occurring.

Protected animals and habitat

The Moreton Bay Marine Park is situated to the north of the Gold Coast Seaway.  The habitats found in the marine park support a diversity of marine fauna and flora including more than 1,000 species of fish that share the waters with six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles and several threatened species such as grey nurse sharks and dugong. The marine park is also important for other marine mammals such as humpback whales and dolphins.  See the guidelines for full details of time limits, permits, anchoring, speeds and special care around wildlife, particularly shorebirds and whales.


  • See page 21 of the guidelines for a full list of emergency contacts.
  • Shipping Inspectors are MSQ Marine Officers, officers of Queensland Water Police and Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol.
  • MSQ Gold Coast office by phone on +61 7 5539 7300 or after hours on +61 4 0775 2884 (0407 752 884 using Australian telephone networks).
  • Gold Coast Seaway Tower on VHF channels 16 or 73.

Useful links