How do you get a boat license in Australia?
26th May 2021 Jack O'Rourke
Obtaining a boating license in Australia depends on which State and Territory you reside in, as each has different laws regarding recreational boat licences. With the exception of the Northern Territory, all states require a boat licence to master a motorised vessel.
In Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia, the skipper must carry a licence when operating the boat, but in NSW in particular this has been made easier by loading a digital version of your licence on MyServiceNSW. In Queensland, the person driving the boat must be able to produce proof of identity that can verify your boat licence online. In South Australia and Tasmania if you are asked to produce your boat licence, you must do so within 48 hours and 14 days, respectively.
Most states require an additional licence for PWCs, except for Western Australia and South Australia.
The handy part is that most states and territories do recognise other marine licenses from other states and countries, making it easier to go boating throughout the country.
If your licence has an expiry date, it needs to be renewed within the renewal period or you risk having to go through the application process.
In most states licence applicants are required to pass both a theory and a practical test that covers boating safety, including safety equipment, vessel preparation, trip planning, how to maneuver a boat and what to do in an emergency.
The handbook that accompanies these tests has information on understanding weather and tides, safe speed, navigation marks and signs (aids to navigation) and vessel lights and signals.
Here's how to get a boat license in each state:
New South Wales
In NSW and the ACT you need a boat license to operate a powered vessel over a speed of 10 knots. Once you are over the age of 12 you are permitted to apply for one but there are restrictions for boaters aged 12 to 16 years. Your PWC license can be incorporated into your boat license, but both licences are compulsory.
A test is not required if an applicant can prove past experience either through practical boating training conducted by a registered training provider, or completing a Boating Licence Practical Logbook.
When sitting a boat licence knowledge test applicants need to prove that they meet the requirements, and provide an application form, proof of identity, and the licence fee.
On Victorian waters, you need to be 16 years old to apply for a marine licence in order to operate a motorised boat. Additionally, a PWC endorsement can be added to the marine licence. Separate tests need to be completed for the marine licence and PWC.
Sitting a test at a VicRoads requires evidence of identity documents, an application form, an eyesight test, and payment of fees.
Courses are also provided by approved trainers, who can conduct the licensing tests after applicants have completed the course. A typical theory course runs over four hours.
The marine licence knowledge test has 30 multiple choice questions and you’ll need to get at least 26 questions right to pass.
In Queensland, a marine license is needed to operate a boat that has an engine power of more than 4.5kW. You must have both a recreational marine licence and a PWC licence to operate a PWC.
You don't need to carry your licence with you on the water, but you must have proof of identity. A big plus is that once you have your Queensland marine licence, it is valid for life.
To get a Queensland marine licence, you must complete and pass a BoatSafe course which requires a medical fitness disclosure statement. You can apply for your marine licence at your nearest transport and motoring customer service centre or QGAP office that provides marine licensing services.
In WA, boaters 14 years and older need a Recreational Skipper’s Ticket (RST) to operate a PWC and recreational vessels with an engine over 6hp.
To get a Recreational Skippers Ticket you will need to be assessed by an authorised assessor.
The RST is a certificate of competency, not a licence. It is purely about demonstrating the minimum knowledge and practical skills needed to operate a boat safely on the water. It is based on a set of marine safety competencies that have been agreed nationally. The assessment of these competencies will be in two sections: theory and practical.
In South Australia you must hold a current boat operator's licence to operate any type of recreational vessel fitted with an engine, regardless of the size of the boat or its engine.
SA Customer Service Centres conduct the theory exam. Applicants need to be 16 years or older and must provide proof of age and identity, a medical and eyesight certificate, the exam fee and boat operator’s licence fee. Pass the exam and apply for a licence on the spot.
Tasmanians require to operate a vessel 4hp or more (except for a hire and drive vessel). A Provisional Licence is available for children aged between 12 and 17 years of age. To drive a PWC, they need to complete an extra course and test to get an endorsement on the motorboat licence.
Motor Boat Licences can only be obtained by completing a BoatSafe Practical Course with an Accredited Provider. The motor boat licence is valid for a three year period
Meanwhile, in New Zealand you don’t need a boat licence on a recreational boat, but laws around are still enforced and it is up to the boaters to know the rules.
If you are looking for more information a good place to start is by checking your state maritime authority’s website. These sites typically provide approved training providers, practice tests, study guides, recreational boating safety handbooks, and what type of a recreational licence is required.
No matter which state you're in, the skipper of a recreational vessel is required to know and abide by maritime law. Ultimately, everyone on board is responsible for their individual and collective safety, and the safety of those in the vicinity of the vessel.