Apply for a special permit

Special Permit holders can now forgo the Special Permit practical examination (on water assessment) with a Department for Infrastructure and Transport Marine Safety Officer (see below for details).

The Special Permit allows the holder:

  • to operate any recreational vessel (other than a personal watercraft) fitted with an engine under the direct supervision of a person who holds a Boat Operator's Licence or a Temporary Boat Operator's Licence; and
  • to act as an observer where a person is being towed by a vessel, provided the operator of the vessel holds a Boat Operator's Licence or a Temporary Boat Operator's Licence and has attained 18 years of age.

If you have passed a Special Permit practical examination you are also able:

  • to operate a recreational vessel between sunrise and sunset that is less than 4 metres in length and has a potential speed of 10 knots or less without supervision, providing the Special Permit holder and any passengers on the vessel are wearing an approved life jacket.

What a Special Permit holder can't do

  • operate a personal watercraft - eg jet ski
  • operate a boat that is towing a water skier.

Before you begin

Evidence of identity

You need to provide documents showing evidence of age and identity when you apply.

Medical conditions

You must disclose any medical conditions including 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 (54.5 KB PDF) to operate a recreational vessel.

How to apply

1. Complete an application form

Application for a special permit to operate a recreational vessel. (327.3 KB PDF)

Your parent or guardian must also sign the application.

2. Book a Special Permit theory examination

Bookings are required for sitting the examination at a Service SA customer service centre. Bookings can be made by calling 13 10 84.  Payment for the test must be made when booking.

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

3. Prepare for the Special Permit theory examination

Prepare for the examination by familiarising yourself with boating rules, regulations and safety equipment carriage requirements in the Recreational Boating Safety Handbook (10.7 MB PDF).

Test your knowledge beforehand with our online practice exam. It contains the information that's required for the Special Permit and confirms that you know the rules and safety requirements of operating a motorboat.

Practice for your boat licence exam online.

4. Take the Special Permit theory examination

The examination consists of a series of multiple-choice questions, which are all based on information in the Recreational Boating Safety Handbook. The first section of the exam contains questions that must be answered correctly before proceeding with the remaining questions.

For those wishing to operate unsupervised

The Service SA customer service centre will complete the relevant sections of your application form and return the form to you after successful completion of the theory examination. You'll need this form to take the Special Permit practical examination.

For those who only wish to operate supervised

The Service SA customer service centre will complete the relevant sections of your application form, at this time you may lodge your application.

Please note successful results are valid for six months only from the date of issue.

5. Special Permit holders who only wish to operate supervised

They must:

  • pass the Special Permit theory examination

Once a Special Permit is granted the holder can:

  • operate any vessel (other than a personal watercraft) under the direct supervision of a person who holds a boat operator’s licence or a temporary boat operator’s licence
  • act as an observer where a person is being towed by a vessel, provided the operator of the vessel holds a Boat Operator's Licence or a Temporary Boat Operator's Licence and has attained18 years of age.

They will have the following condition placed on their Special Permit:

  • must be under the direct supervision of the holder of a boat operator’s licence or a temporary boat operator's licence.

6. Prepare for the Special Permit practical examination (for those wishing to operate unsupervised)

Practice operating a boat under the supervision of the holder of a boat operators licence. Familiarise yourself with the boat that you will use and practise various manoeuvres that will be required during the test.

You will be expected to show that you:

  • can judge speeds of about 4 and 10 knots
  • understand which type of vessels permit holders are permitted to operate
  • have a practical understanding of the give way rules
  • can execute a figure-eight turn at speed
  • can safely retrieve a floating object during a simulated man overboard exercise
  • have a practical understanding of navigation beacons
  • can safely berth your boat alongside a structure such as a landing or jetty
  • can list the safety equipment you would be required to carry onboard your boat in protected, semi-protected and unprotected waters
  • have knowledge of the recognised water ski signals
  • familiarise yourself with the Special Permit test manoeuvres.

7. Special Permit practical examination (for those wishing to operate unsupervised)

You must pass the Special Permit practical examination (on water assessment) within six months of passing the Special Permit theory examination.

Contact a Marine Safety Officer to make an appointment or phone 1300 183 046 to make a booking. There is no fee for the practical test.

You will need to provide your own vessel, which must be:

  • registered and equipped with the required safety equipment
  • less than 4 metres in length
  • cannot go faster than 10 knots.

On the day of the Special Permit practical examination, take your completed application for a Special Permit to operate a recreational vessel, your proof of identity and medical (if applicable) documents.

Once you have passed the Special Permit practical examination the examining officer will sign and stamp the application form as evidence that you have passed the test.

8. Lodge your application

Lodge your application at a Service SA customer service centre within 7 months of passing the Special Permit theory examination, along with:

  • evidence of age and identity
  • evidence that you have passed the Special Permit practical examination (for those wishing to operate unsupervised)
  • medical documents
  • the appropriate fee.

After the application is processed, you will receive a Special Permit which will be valid until the day prior to your 16th birthday.

Once the Special Permit holder has turned 16 the Special Permit is no longer valid.  The Special Permit holder is required to pass a boat licence theory test and pay the appropriate fee to be issued a boat licence.


Page last updated 2 December 2021

Provided by:
Government of South Australia
URL:
https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/boating-and-marine/boat-operators-licences-and-permits/boat-licence/apply-for-a-special-permit
Last Updated:
02/12/21
Printed on:
03/12/21
Copyright statement:
SA.GOV.AU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence. © Copyright 2021
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