What lifejacket do I need?

It’s important to identify what lifejacket you should use. This will depend on your operational requirements and on what type best fits you and your crew.

Lifejackets come in many styles and sizes for different purposes and environmental conditions. Many remain compact and out of the way until you hit the water, with some inflating automatically.

Domestic commercial vessel owners and operators must assess the risk of personnel going overboard on their vessel and address this in their safety management system. This is a legal requirement under the general safety duties.  

Australian law also requires you to have either Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) or coastal lifejackets on your vessel, depending on your operational area. This is covered in more detail in the table below.  

SOLAS and coastal lifejackets are designed to be worn while abandoning a vessel. Some can be bulky, with flotation material at the front so an unconscious person will automatically roll onto their back. They also have reflective tape and a whistle to attract attention.  

SOLAS and coastal lifejackets are made to different standards. SOLAS lifejackets designed to help people stay afloat in water for long periods of time, while awaiting rescue. 

Certain models of inflatable lifejackets also meet the NSCV requirements for coastal lifejackets—if they are manufactured to the correct standard. Because inflatable life jackets are less cumbersome to wear than traditional coastal and SOLAS lifejackets, they may be more comfortable to wear during normal activities on a vessel to reduce the risk of drowning if you fall overboard.  

Operational area Lifejacket requirement 

B Extended offshore 

B Offshore 

Adult SOLAS lifejacket with light for 100% complement*, plus child size SOLAS lifejacket with light for the greater of: 10% of the total capacity of passengers, or the number of children of mass less than 32kg

C Restricted offshore 

C Restricted offshore – specified areas 

Coastal lifejacket** with light for 100% complement*

D - partially smooth water 

E – smooth water 

Coastal lifejacket** for 100% complement*

Note: The requirements may be different if you operate under an exemption or under grandfathering arrangements. 

* 100% complement means the maximum number of crew and passengers the vessel is permitted to carry for its service category in compliance with the whole of the NSCV.

** Certain models of personal flotation device (PFD) are acceptable for use as a coastal lifejacket if they are manufactured to one of the following standards. 

Lifejacket requirements are covered in the following regulations: 

Last updated: 13 November 2023