Hiring Out Private Boats in Western Australia Could Cost Owners


Caption: Think twice before renting out your private boat in Western Australia.

Image Credit: Michael_Spencer, CC BY 2.0

Using private boats for commercial purposes might cost owners big time from paying more than $20,000 for a fine by the WA Department of Transport (DoT).

A spokeswoman from the department said, “Under the national law for domestic commercial vessels, penalties for using a private vessel commercially can exceed $20,000.”

She added, “The Department of Transport urges all boat owners to contact DoT’s Commercial Vessel Safety section before renting their vessels out, to ensure they meet all requirements. Any vessel that is used commercially in Australia must be appropriately licensed. This includes vessels that are being offered for hire. Commercial vessels are required to have a commercial licence and must meet strict construction and safety standards. Commercial vessels are also required to have suitably qualified skippers.”

The GetMyBoat Case

GetMyBoat.com offers boat listings from which people can choose a vessel for their days out on the sea. The website welcomes commercial operators, but it also occasionally allows private boat owners to include their vessels on its lists.

Though the site offers hull damage insurance for all their users, the DoT said there are still other issues to consider before listing a boat on the site, emphasising on safety.

However, Mr Petro responded, “Owners had the final say and ultimate responsibility to understand their renters’ boating knowledge and whether or not they want to allow an individual to hire their watercraft. Many owners already have their own system in place to vet potential renters and guests. Regardless, age requirements coincide with the laws and regulations pertaining to the state, province, and country where the boat will be hired.”

A spokeswoman from GetMyBoat also said they’re encouraging boat owners to know and follow local laws.

“Some areas do frown on local owners using their boat ‘commercially’, but we’re seeing the sharing economy challenge these long held assumptions all over the world,” she said. “That said, there is often leeway in even these types of restrictive regulations, such as number of passengers, how the vessel is being used, ‘chartered’ operations, etc, and our insurance does cover those that comply with local laws. If in doubt, we encourage GetMyBoat customers to know their own nautical regulations, read the insurance policy closely, and ask the insurance agent specific questions.”

Kate Lewins, associate professor at Murdoch University Law School, couldn’t comment on specific cases but said people should check if insurance covers both the owner and the renter, as well as know the effects of Australian law on insurance policies.

“There are implications for the vessel owner’s own insurance should a pleasure craft be rented out,” she said. “Hiring out the private pleasure craft may well alter the legal regime of the insurance already held by the insured with its Australian insurer.”

So, people should know all about their insurance to avoid being surprised at paying things they thought were already covered if something goes wrong.