Licences and permits

Boat licences

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 and who are aged 16 or over don't need to hold a boat licence. For other motor boats 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.

Digital licence

South Australians with a boat operator's licence can digitise their licences using the mySA GOV app.

Special permits for children 12 to 16 years

Children aged between 12 and 16 years can apply for a special permit to operate a recreational vessel in South Australia with the consent of their parent or guardian.

Apply for a boat licence

Eligibility

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 (54.5 KB PDF) to operate a recreational vessel.

How to apply

1. Book and sit the theory exam

About the theory exam

The theory exam consists of a series of multiple choice questions based on information in the Recreational Boating Safety Handbook.

Successful exam results are valid for six months from the date of issue.

Practice the exam online

Exam locations and bookings

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 - phone 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 form Application for a boat operator's licence (246.9 KB PDF) at a Service SA Customer Service Centre, along with:

  • evidence of age and identity
  • evidence of one of these:
    • you have passed the theory exam within the last six months
    • you hold an appropriate qualification or current interstate boat licence
  • a completed medical and eyesight certificate for operating a recreational vessel
  • payment of 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:

Only the organisations listed above provide a 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.

Apply for a special permit

The special permit allows the holder to take sole charge of a motorboat between sunrise and sunset under the following conditions:

  • the vessel
    • is less than four metres in length
    • can't go faster than 10 knots
    • the permit holder and any passengers on the vessel must be wearing an approved life jacket.
  • If the motor boat is more than four metres long or can go faster than 10 knots, the permit holder must be under the direct supervision of a person who holds a boat operator's licence and is at least 18 years old.

A special permit holder can act as an observer for water skiing provided the driver holds a boat operator's licence and is at least 18 years old.

What a permit holder can't do

A special permit holder is not permitted to:

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

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.

How to apply

1. Complete an application form

Application for a special permit to operate a recreational vessel. (297.6 KB PDF)

Your parent or guardian must also sign the application.

2. Book a theory exam

A booking is required for sitting the exam at any metropolitan Service SA customer service centre. You must visit the centre in person to make the booking.

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

The theory exam can be done at any Service SA customer service centre between 9.00 am and 4.00 pm Monday to Friday.

3. Prepare for the theory exam

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

The boat licence theory online exam 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 theory exam

The exam 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 which must be answered correctly before proceeding with the remaining questions.

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 exam. You'll need this form in order to take the practical test.

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

5. Prepare for the practical test

Practice operating a boat under the supervision of an adult boat operators licence holder. 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 a speed of 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 on board your boat in semi-protected and unprotected waters
  • have knowledge of the recognised water ski signals - these signals can be found in the special permit to operate a recreational vessel (2.0 MB PDF) brochure.

6. Practical test

You must pass the practical test within six months of passing the theory exam.

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
  • between 3.1 and 6 metres in length
  • capable of a speed of at least 15 knots.

On the day of the test, 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 practical test the examining officer will sign and stamp the application form as evidence that you have passed the test.

7. Lodge your application

Lodge your application at a Service SA customer service centre, along with:

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

Once you are 16 you must apply to DPTI for a boat operator's licence and pay the appropriate fee.

Update licence details

If you have a boat operator's licence, special permit or boat registration you must notify a change of name, address or medical condition within 14 days. An authorised person may require you to produce your boat licence or special permit within a specified period, usually 48 hours.

If you have changed your name, lost or destroyed your licence you will need to replace your licence.

Changing your address

1. Supporting documents

You'll need your SA vehicle licence number or client number. If you don't have one you must use the options below:

  • registration papers
  • full name
  • date of birth
  • previous address.

2. Fill out and lodge the form

Online

Start now

By phone

Phone Service SA 13 10 84.

In person or by post

Fill out advice of change of name or address (102.2 KB PDF)

Take the form to a Service SA customer service centre or post to:

GPO Box 1533
Adelaide SA 5001

Changing your name

1. Supporting documents

You must provide one of the following:

  • marriage certificate issued by Registrar Births, Deaths and Marriages (commemorative certificates are not acceptable)
  • change of name registration with Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry
  • deed poll certificate (previously issued by Lands Title Office)
  • divorce papers - Decree Nisi or Absolute (indicating the name being reverted to).

2. Complete the form

Fill out Advice of change of name or address (102.2 KB PDF).

3. Lodgement

In person

Take your form and original copies of your supporting documents to a Service SA customer service centre.

Post

GPO Box 1533
Adelaide SA 5001

You may send in copies of evidence of identity documents that have been certified by a Justice of the Peace.

Change to medical condition

If you hold a boat licence or special permit you must notify a change in your medical condition within 14 days.

You can provide notification of any physical or mental impairment that may affect your ability to operate a boat or other vessel by visiting a Service SA customer service centre or by phone on 13 10 84.

Replace a boat licence

If you have lost or destroyed your licence, or changed your name you will need a replacement licence.

A fee is payable for a replacement boat licence, unless the replacement is required because of a change of name.

1. Evidence of identity

Collect the original documents to provide your evidence of identity.

2. Application form

Replacement boat operator's licence or special permit to operate a recreational vessel (529.2 KB PDF)

3. Lodgement

In person

Take your application and originals of your evidence of identity documents to a Service SA customer service centre with the fee payable.

Payment can be by cheque, Visa or Mastercard.

Post

GPO Box 1533
Adelaide 5001

You may send in copies of evidence of identity documents that have been certified by a Justice of the Peace.

Send the fee by cheque.

Fees

These fees are effective from 1 July 2018.

Theory tests

  • Special permit theory test - $20.00
  • Boat operator's licence theory test - $43.00

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

Licences and special permits

  • Licence issued to person who held special permit - $17.00
  • Licence issued to person who did not hold special permit  - $41.00
  • Special permit issue - $17.00
  • Replacement licence or special permit - $17.00

Related information

Contact


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Page last updated 16 August 2018

Provided by:
Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure
URL:
https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/boating-and-marine/boat-operators-licences-and-permits/boat-licences
Last Updated:
16/08/18
Printed on:
15/11/18
Copyright statement:
SA.GOV.AU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence. © Copyright 2018