Navigating the open waters is an exhilarating experience that many Australians enjoy. Whether you’re interested in recreational boating, jet-skiing, or more, ensuring you’re licenced is critical. Different states have distinct rules, guidelines, and application processes for acquiring a boating licence.
In this comprehensive guide, we will break down the steps required to get a boating licence in every Australian state. This way, you can be sure you’re legally and confidently navigating the waters in your preferred region. As you navigate the world of marine licensing, don’t forget to secure your watercraft with a trusted insurance partner. Coast Insurance offers tailored insurance packages to ensure your adventures are protected.
New South Wales (NSW)
Information on obtaining a NSW boating or personal watercraft licence can be found on the official government site here. Here’s a breakdown:
Types of licences
- General boat licence (GBL).
- Personal watercraft (PWC) licence. Note: To acquire a PWC licence, you first need a GBL.
- GBL can be applied from the age of 12.
- Licence restrictions apply for individuals under the age of 16.
Steps to obtain a licence
1.Understand licensing needs
- licence required for driving a vessel recreationally in NSW waters if:
- Speed exceeds 10 knots (18.5 km/h).
- It’s a personal watercraft (PWC).
- No licence is necessary for:
- Powerboats or sailing boats using engines under 10 knots.
- Sailing boats without an engine.
- Paddlecrafts (canoes, kayaks) and rowing vessels.
- Sailboards or kiteboards.
For commercial use, a Certificate of Competency is necessary. With this, you can drive vessels recreationally without needing a GBL or PWC licence.
2. Gather practical boating experience
- For GBL, provide evidence of practical boating experience either by:
- Completing a Boating licence Practical Logbook with an experienced skipper.
- Completing an approved practical boat course via an Authorised Training Provider.
- Upgrading to PWC doesn’t require practical evidence but does need a PWC knowledge test.
3. Schedule and complete the knowledge test
- Pass the boating knowledge test for GBL.
- PWC licence requires the passing of the PWC knowledge test.
- Tests are available at service centres or through authorised training providers.
4. Application submission
Ensure you have the following ready:
- Proof of identity (*those under 16 need a parent or guardian present*).
- Eyesight test/report.
- Information on medical conditions.
- Proof of practical boating experience.
- Payment for test and licence fee.
- Two passport-acceptable photos (for PWC licence).
- Applicable application form (GBL or PWC).
Documentation can be submitted at a service centre or mailed to the provided address.
5. Understand and abide by licence rules
- Licences are accessible immediately online after approval, and a temporary paper licence is provided.
- Always carry your licence when:
- Driving at 10 knots or above.
- Operating a PWC.
Familiarise with the boating rules and obligations for licence holders.
6. Restrictions for licence holders under the age 16
- Do not operate a PWC or vessel:
- At speeds over 20 knots (approximately 37 km/h).
- In races, exhibitions, etc.
- Between sunset and sunrise.
- While towing.
- When driving a vessel at 10 knots or above: Must be accompanied by someone 16 or older with a GBL or PWC licence.
- For PWC operations at 10 knots or more: An older individual (16+) with a PWC licence should be present on the PWC.
Exceptions may apply under specific conditions, such as aquatic event licences or approved PWC Hire and Drive tours. Check the official and up-to-date info on the NSW government page here.
Head to the Victoria government webpage for marine licensing for full info. Here’s a breakdown:
- A marine licence is required to operate a registered boat in Victoria.
- For personal watercrafts (PWC) like jet skis, a PWC endorsement is necessary in addition to the marine licence.
- Must be at least 12 years old for a marine licence.
- 16 years or older for a PWC endorsement.
- Meet standard medical and eyesight requirements.
- Eyesight test.
- Marine licence knowledge test (30 questions, 26 correct answers to pass).
- PWC endorsement test (15 questions, 13 correct answers to pass) for those 16 years or older.
Test locations and results
- Tests can be taken at an accredited Maritime Safety Victoria training provider or booked at a VicRoads Customer Service Centre.
- Results are provided immediately when taken at VicRoads, and passing the test earns the marine licence.
- Obtain the free Victorian Recreational Boating Safety Handbook either from Maritime Safety Victoria or a VicRoads Customer Service Centre.
- Online practice tests are available to help in preparations.
- Valid for 12 months.
- If the marine licence is not paid for within a year of passing, the test must be retaken.
Exemptions from tests
- Holders of an interstate marine licence that hasn’t expired for more than 5 years.
- Those with a valid Certificate of Attainment or a Certificate of Competency from recognised providers.
Restricted marine licence
- Available for individuals below 16 years.
- Restrictions include no vessel operation between sunset and sunrise, no towing, and a speed limit below 10 knots.
- PWC endorsement is only available for those 16 or older.
For full and up-to-date info head to the Victoria government webpage.
You can find all the necessary requirements and information on the Queensland government website. Here’s a breakdown:
- If your boat’s engine power exceeds 4.5kW, a marine licence is mandatory.
- A boat in Queensland should solely be for recreational, school, surf lifesaving, or community purposes. Commercial uses are not permitted.
- To use a personal watercraft, both a recreational marine licence and a personal watercraft licence are needed.
- If a licenced supervisor is aboard, you may operate without a licence, but they must take control when needed.
- To tow someone, like a water skier, you need a valid marine licence.
- Special rules govern hire boats; consult your Maritime Safety Queensland office.
Obtaining a Queensland marine licence
- Prerequisites: 16 years minimum age and completion of a BoatSafe course or hold a valid interstate marine licence.
- During BoatSafe course enrolment, submit a medical fitness disclosure. If health concerns arise, discuss with the course provider for guidance.
- Post successful course completion, the training entity provides a competency statement, which remains valid for 6 months.
- Visit the closest transport and motoring customer service centre or a QGAP office offering marine licensing services (call ahead).
- Complete the marine licence application.
- Present proof of identity.
- Provide the original BoatSafe training competency statement. If misplaced, obtain a replacement from the course provider.
- Pay the applicable fee.
- A receipt will confirm your marine licence type.
- If you have a Queensland driver’s licence, the marine licence details will appear on its reverse.
- Without a Queensland driver’s licence, you’ll receive a marine licence card.
For further info, head to the official webpage.
Western Australia (WA)
In WA, you need to obtain a recreational skipper’s ticket (RST)’. Find more info on WA’s government site here or read our breakdown on how to obtain an RST below:
1. Prepare all RST documents
Before you can take the assessment, ensure you have the following documents:
- Proof of eyesight requirement: Your Western Australian driver’s licence can typically cover both your identity and eyesight requirements.
- Declaration of medical fitness: This ensures you are fit to operate a vessel.
- Proof of identity: A valid Western Australian driver’s licence is preferable.
- Letter of consent: If you’re under 18 years of age, you will need this.
2. Fulfil eyesight and medical fitness requirements
- Eyesight requirements: The standard for operating a recreational powerboat is the same as that for a motor vehicle in WA, which is 6/12 in one eye (with corrective lenses if needed).
- You must not have:
- Epilepsy, fits, giddiness, fainting, or seizures.
- Heart disease.
- High/low blood pressure.
- Type 1 diabetes.
- Any physical or mental disability.
If you have any of the aforementioned conditions, a declaration of medical fitness completed by a medical practitioner is mandatory.
3. Verify your identity
To confirm your identity, present:
- A valid Western Australian driver’s licence, or
- 1 full proof of identity (POI) document, or
- 1 primary plus one secondary POI document.
Make sure that at least one document has your signature. You can present either the originals or certified copies.
4. Take the RST assessment
The RST assessment will evaluate your boating safety knowledge and is divided into:
- Theory section: This consists of 40 multiple-choice questions, with a passing score of 34. It covers rules, regulations, navigation aids, vessel maintenance, trip planning, distress signals, and more.
- Practical section: Here, you’ll embark on a short boating trip, demonstrating at least 56 out of the 62 criteria. Tasks will include safety briefings, starting the motor, logging a voyage plan, simulated man overboard operations, and more.
For further info on obtaining a recreational skipper’s ticket, head to the government website.
South Australia (SA)
You can find up-to-date info on applying for a licence in SA on their site. Here’s a breakdown of the requirements.
About the licence:
- You must be 16 years or older to apply for a boat operator’s licence.
- Children aged between 12 to 16 can apply for a special permit to operate a recreational vessel.
- Evidence of identity: Necessary documents showcasing evidence of age and identity are required.
- Medical conditions: Declare any medical conditions, disabilities, or the need to wear glasses/contact lenses. The medical and eyesight standards for the boat operator’s licence match those for a motor vehicle driver’s licence. To disclose a medical condition, have the medical and eyesight certificate (245.3 KB PDF) for operating a recreational vessel completed and signed by your doctor or optometrist.
1.Book a theory exam
- Bookings for the exam at a Service SA customer service centre are crucial.
- Payment is needed at the time of booking.
- Prior to taking the exam, provide evidence of age and identity, and pay the necessary fee.
2. Prepare for the theory exam
- The theory exam has multiple-choice questions derived from the South Australian Recreational Boating Safety Handbook.
- There are online resources available to practice for the boat licence exam.
3. Sit for the theory exam
- Go to the chosen Service SA customer service centre for the exam and provide your age and identity evidence.
- Passing exam results remain valid for six months from the date they’re issued.
4. Lodge the application form
- Submit the ‘Application for a boat operator’s licence form at a Service SA Customer Service Centre.
- Provide age and identity evidence, evidence of:
- Passing the theory exam in the past six months.
- Holding a valid qualification or current interstate boat licence.
- Attach the filled-out medical and eyesight certificate for operating a recreational vessel.
- Pay your licence fee.
- If all criteria are met, the licence will be issued immediately.
Boat licence test exemptions
You might be exempt from the boat licence theory exam if you possess:
- A current interstate licence to operate a motorboat, or one that expired less than six months ago.
- A commercial certificate of competency like a coxswain or master certificate issued by a state or the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, valid or expired under six months.
Certificates from approved courses by specific organisations, like the Australian Coastguard, South Australian Sea Rescue Squadron, Australian Sailing, Australian Cruise Academy College on Murray, South Australian Boating Licence Course, ABC—Australian Boating College South Australian Division, and Surf Life Saving South Australia.
To apply for your licence in WA or to get more info, head to their website.
The process of applying for a boat licence in Tasmania is outlined on the Tasmanian Government website. Below is a comprehensive guide:
About the licence
- Eligibility: Any individual aged 17 and above can apply for a full boat licence, while those aged between 12 to 16 years can apply for a provisional boat licence.
- Requirement: It’s mandatory to have a licence if you intend to operate a recreational boat with a power of 4 hp or more in Tasmania.
- Duration: All boat licences expire on the same date, with renewals occurring at 3-year intervals. The actual length of your licence depends on when you start it.
- Scope: This licence covers recreational boating. For commercial operations, you need a Certificate of Competency.
Provisional licence restrictions
- Holders must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
- They should not operate a motor boat at night.
- Speed should not exceed 20 knots.
- Towing a skier is prohibited.
- BoatSafe practical course: First and foremost, complete a BoatSafe Practical Course with an accredited provider.
- Service centre: Once the course is completed, head over to the nearest Service Tasmania service centre.
- Provide proof of identity: If you have a Tasmanian driver’s licence, even one that expired up to 2 years prior, it can be used. If not:
- Present at least one Category A document and two Category B documents or two Category A documents and one Category B document.
- At least one of the documents must confirm your current Tasmanian residential address. If not, additional documents might be required.
Pay the application fee: The cost varies based on the applicant’s age and the type of licence. Marine and Safety Tasmania offers a fee calculator on their site to assist applicants in determining the cost.
Payment options at the service centre
- Money order
- Debit and EFTPOS
- Visa and MasterCard
- After completing the application process, a plastic licence card can be acquired for an additional fee. This card typically arrives within 2 weeks.
- If you intend to operate a personal watercraft (PWC), ensure that your motorboat licence is endorsed for this purpose. An additional PWC Course, which can be done along with the BoatSafe course, is necessary.
For more detailed information or further queries, it’s advised to visit the Marine and Safety Tasmania website or contact them directly.
Being out on the water is a privilege and carries responsibilities. Securing the appropriate boating licence for your state ensures you’re operating within the law and have the necessary knowledge for safe water navigation. Remember, every state has its unique procedures and requirements, so always refer to official governmental sites for the most up-to-date information.
Lastly, before heading out on your aquatic adventure, ensure your vessel is protected. Coast Insurance offers specialised marine insurance policies to cover you in any unexpected situation. Ready to set sail with peace of mind? Reach out to Coast Insurance today and let us be your guiding star on all your marine journeys.