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, or whether the engine is being used at the time. If you hold a current commercial qualification like a coxswain or master certificate you can operate a recreational vessel fitted with an engine.
Operators of kayaks and canoes fitted with an electric motor of not more than 150 newtons can apply for a boat operator’s licence exemption. A licence is not required if you are at least 12 years of age, are under the direct supervision of a person with a boat operator’s licence and do not exceed 10 knots.
If you are visiting South Australia and have a current interstate boat licence, you may operate a motorboat in South Australia for up to 90 days. After 90 days you need to apply for a South Australian boat operator’s licence.
If requested by an authorised person, you must present your boat operator’s licence, permit or commercial certificate within 48 hours.
You must be at least 16 years of age to apply for a boat operator’s licence. Children aged between 12 and 16 may apply for a special permit to operate a recreational vessel.
Before you start
Evidence of identity – You need to provide documents showing evidence of age and identity in order to apply.
Medical conditions – You must disclose any medical conditions including a disability and the need to wear glasses or contact lenses. The eyesight and medical standards for a boat operator’s licence are the same as for a motor vehicle driver’s licence. To disclose a medical condition, you must fill out your details and get your doctor or optometrist to complete and sign the medical and eyesight certificate to operate a recreational vessel.
The boat licence theory exam confirms that you know the rules and safety requirements of operating a motorboat.
The exam consists of a series of multiple choice questions, which are based on information in the Recreational Boating Safety Handbook. You can prepare for your boat licence exam by reading the handbook and visiting www.ondeck.sa.gov.au to complete an online practice exam.
Successful exam results are valid for six months from the date of issue.
You do not need to sit the theory exam if you hold an appropriate qualification or current interstate boat licence.
How to apply
1. Book and sit the theory exam
The theory exam is given at Service SA Customer Service Centres between 9.00am and 4.00pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and between 9.30am and 4.00pm on Wednesday (except public holidays).
Bookings are essential for metropolitan centres, and can be made by phoning 13 10 84.
You need to provide evidence of age and identity and pay the theory test fee before sitting the exam.
2. Lodge the application form
Complete and lodge the application for a boat operator’s licence form at a Service SA Customer Service Centre, along with:
• evidence of age and identity
• evidence that either:
– you have passed the theory exam within the last six months; or
– you hold an appropriate qualification or current interstate boat licence
• a completed medical and eyesight certificate to operate a recreational vessel
• payment for your licence fee.
If you meet all the requirements, the licence will be issued to you on the spot.
Boat licence test exemptions
You do not need to sit a boat licence theory exam in order to apply for a boat operator’s licence in South Australia if you have any one of the following:
• an interstate licence to operate a motor boat, including a Western Australian Skippers Ticket licences current or expired less than six months ago
• a commercial certificate of competency such as a coxswain or master certificate issued by a state or territory authority or the Australian Maritime Safety Authority current or expired less than six months ago
• undertaken an approved course and received one of the following certificates:
• Basic Seamanship Certificate issued by the Australian Coastguard
• Certificate of Completion of Seamanship course issued by the South Australian Sea Rescue Squadron
• Certificate of Completion–Start Power Boating issued by organisations affiliated with Yachting Australia
• Certificate of Completion–Powerboat Handling issued by organisations affiliated with Yachting Australia
• Certificate of Competency issued by the Australian Cruise Academy College on Murray
• a certificate showing completion of a South Australian boating licence course provided by the South Australian Boating Licence Course, which is a registered training organisation.
• a Certificate of Satisfactory Course Completion for SA Recreational Boat Operators Licence Course provided by ABC – Australian Boating College /www.abcboating.com
Only the organisations listed above provide a South Australian Government-approved training program and issue certificates that are accepted in lieu of the theory exam. The Government approves the training module content only; no assessment is made of the conduct, fees and charges of training providers.
If you have any doubts about a private boating licence course, contact the provider and find out whether the training program is approved and what kind of certificate will be issued on completion.