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 its engine, or whether the engine is being used at the time. 

If you have a current commercial qualification like a coxswain or master certificate you can operate a recreational vessel fitted with an engine.

An exemption from the boat operator's licence requirements may be granted by the Chief Executive, Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure to the operator of a kayak and canoe fitted with an electric motor of not more than 150 newtons.

For more information see  kayaks and canoes fitted with an electric motor


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 a 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 completed at Service SA Customer Service Centres between 9.00 am and 4.00 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; or Wednesday between 9:30 am and 4:00 pm (except public holidays).

Bookings are essential for metropolitan centres, and can be made through Service SA's Contact Centre, phone 13 10 84.

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

You do not need to sit the exam if 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 246.9 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: 22nd September 2015