Apply for a boat licence

You must have a current boat operator's licence to operate a recreational vessel fitted with an engine, regardless of the size of the vessel or engine, or whether the engine is operating or not.

Holders of a current commercial qualification such as a coxswain or master certificate also can operate a recreational vessel 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.


You must be at least 16 years of age to apply for a boat operator's licence. Children who are at least 12 years old but not yet 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 181.4 KB to operate a recreational vessel.

Theory exam

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 doing an online practice exam.

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 9.00 am and 4.00 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and between 9:30 am and 4:00 pm 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 246.9 KB form at a Service SA Customer Service Centre, along with:

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:

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.


These fees are effective from 1 July 2016

Type of theory test Fee
Special permit theory test $19.00
Boat operator's licence theory test                                 $41.00

There is no fee for the practical test to obtain a special permit, however the applicant must provide a suitable boat (including safety equipment) for the test.

The fees listed in the table below are effective from 1 July 2016.

Boat licence and permit fees
Type of licence or special permit issued Fee
Licence issued to person who held special permit $17.00
Licence issued to person who did not hold special permit $39.00
Special permit issue $17.00
Replacement licence/special permit $17.00

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Page last updated: 2 September 2016