Distress flares are used to raise the alarm and also to act to pinpoint a location to assist search and rescue parties to come to the vessel in distress.

  • Within Tasmania, flares are not required for vessels less than 6 metres operating in smooth waters
  • Read the instructions on distress flares carefully to ensure familiarity with the method of operation. Different brands of signals have different methods of ignition
  •  Ensure passengers also know how to ignite them
  • Check the expiry date and to replace any out-of-date product
  • Out of date flares must not be placed into general municipality rubbish collections. This can cause fires at collection points and cause injury to workers.
  • Flares must be approved to Australian Standard AS2092.

Red Handflare

These can be seen from a range of up to 10km at sea level on a clear, dark night and up to 20km from the air. It burns for over 60 seconds with an intense 15,000-candela red light. They can be seen in daylight over a shorter range.

Boat owners should note that some companies have changed the design of the red hand flare.  If you have purchased new flares recently, it would be worthwhile taking them out of the package and reading the instructions or checking the company’s website for up to date firing instructions.

Pains Wessex Red Hand flare

The attached information sheet has been supplied by Pains Wessex

Data Sheet Red Handflare

Orange Handsmoke Signal

The smoke flare is for day use only. It provides a vivid and expanding cloud of dense orange smoke visible for more than 60 seconds and can be seen from 4km away at sea level and even further from and aircraft. Always hold the flare to leeward when using it.

Pains Wessex Orange Hand flare

The attached information sheet has been supplied by Pains Wessex

Data Sheet Aurora Orange Handsmoke

Parachute Rocket Flare

This is a handheld, self-contained distress rocket, ejecting a parachute with a suspended red flare at 300 metres altitude. It burns for 40 seconds at a brilliant 30,000 candela. It can be seen for 15km by day and 40km or more by night.

Pains Wessex Red Parachute

The attached information sheet has been supplied by Pains Wessex

Data Sheet Para Red Rocket

WatersFlare Requirement
Smooth WatersRecommended
Partially Smooth Waters
(Sheltered Waters)
2 x Red Hand Flares
2 x Orange Smoke Flares
Open and Coastal Waters2 x Red Hand Flares
2 x Orange Smoke Flares
2 x Red Parachute Rockets

Disposal of Flares

The Australian Maritime College, who has disposed of old the flares for some time, has advised MAST that this arrangement can no longer continue. VMRs will no longer collect flares and under no circumstances should they be disposed of in household rubbish. MAST will be working with Workplace Safety, who is the agency responsible for dangerous goods, in an endeavour to find a solution regarding safe disposal. We hope both agencies will be able to issue a joint public notice as soon as practical.

These do not currently meet Australian Standards and consequently cannot be used to replace pyrotechnic flares.  It is understood AMSA is looking at laser flares and in the future they may become a standard safety item.

Information on one particular model can be found at Greatland Laser.


Laser flare

Laser flare