Apply for a boat licence

You must hold a current boat operator's licence to operate a recreational vessel fitted with an engine regardless of the size of the vessel 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.

Exemption for kayaks and canoes trial period

For a 12 month trial period from 23 July 2014, the Chief Executive (CE) The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) may grant exemptions from the registration, licence and specified safety equipment requirements. The kayak owner or an operator must apply for an exemption.

On the 1 March 2015 that exemption process was extended to include canoes fitted with an electric motor or no more than 150 newtons, with the same conditions and application process that applies to kayaks.

For more information refer to Kayaking and canoeing fitted with an electric motor. 

Note: Some motor manufacturers badge the 150 newton motors as 34lb thrust which is acceptable. 


You must be at least 16 years of age to apply for a boat operator's licence. Children at least 12, and not yet 16 years of age may apply for special permit to operate a recreational vessel.

Before you start

Evidence of identity

Go to evidence of age and identity to organise the identification documents for your application.

Medical conditions

You must disclose any disabilities and any need to wear glasses or contact lenses. If you hold a current motor vehicle driver's licence, it is deemed that you meet the eyesight and medical standards for a boat operator's licence. 

If you have a medical condition to disclose, you will need to complete section one of the medical and eyesight certificate to operate a recreational vessel 46.3 KB. This form must be completed by a medical practitioner or optometrist. Book and attend an appointment with a registered optometrist or doctor taking this form to complete this process.

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

The first section of the exam contains questions which must be answered correctly before proceeding with the remaining questions. 

How to apply

1. Book and pass the theory exam

The theory exam can be done at any Service SA Customer Service Centre between 9.00 am and 4.15 pm Monday to Friday. 

For metropolitan and including Gawler bookings, visit your nearest Service SA Customer Service Centre in person. 

You will need to provide evidence of identity and pay the appropriate fee before sitting the exam.

You do not need to sit the exam if  exempt or you hold an appropriate qualification or current interstate boat licence

2. Lodge the application form

Once you pass the theory exam, complete and lodge the application for a boat operator's licence 93.2 KB form at a Service SA Customer Service Centre, along with:

Your licence will be issued to you on the spot.

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Page last updated: 3rd March 2015