Licences and permits

Boat licences

Before you take control of a motorboat, make sure you have a valid licence, permit or a current commercial qualification (eg coxswain or master certificate) and your correct name and address is on the licence or certificate.

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 can apply for a boat operator's licence exemption. 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.

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.

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 PDF) form at a Service SA Customer Service Centre, along with:

  • evidence of age and identity
  • evidence that you have passed the theory exam or hold an appropriate qualification or current interstate boat licence
  • a completed medical and eyesight certificate to operate a recreational vessel
  • payment for 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 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.

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 personal flotation device.
  • 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 for the 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.

These fees are effective from 1 July 2017.

Type of theory testFee
Special permit theory test $19.00
Boat operator's licence theory test                                 $42.00

3. Prepare for the exam

Prepare for the exam by familiarising yourself with boating rules, regulations and safety equipment carriage requirements in the Recreational Boating Safety Handbook (11.6 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 undertake the practical test.

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 8260 0220 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, with the following:

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

  • Your SA vehicle licence number or Client number to do this. If you don't have SA vehicle licence number or Client number you must use the options below
  • registration papers
  • full name
  • date of birth
  • previous address.

2. Fill out and lodge the form

Changing your name

1. Supporting documents

This can be one of the following:

  • marriage certificate issued by Registrar Births, Deaths & 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

Download, print and complete advice of change of name or address (98.5 KB PDF).

3. Lodgement

  • In person - take your completed form to a Service SA customer service centre. You will need to bring the original versions of your supporting documents.
  • Post to:
    GPO Box 1533
    Adelaide 5001.

    If you are posting in your application, you may send in certified copies of evidence of identity documents. You must take your original evidence of identity documents to a Justice of the Peace to have the copies certified.

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. Collect original documents

Collect the original documents to provide your evidence of identity.

2. Download, print and complete

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

3. Lodge your application

Lodge your application with your evidence of identity documents:

  • in person at a Service SA customer service centre with the fee payable. If you are taking your application into a Service SA customer service centre you will need to bring in original documents.
  • by post to:
    GPO Box 1533
    Adelaide 5001 If you are posting in your application, you may send in certified copies of evidence of identity documents. You must take your original evidence of identity documents to a Justice of the Peace to have the copies certified.
    Send the fee payable by either cheque, Visa or MasterCard.

Fees

These fees are effective from 1 July 2017.

Theory tests

  • Special permit theory test - $19.00
  • Boat operator's licence theory test - $42.00

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.

Licences and special permits

  • Licence issued to person who held special permit - $17.00
  • Licence issued to person who did not hold special permit  - $40.00
  • Special permit issue - $17.00
  • Replacement licence/special permit - $17.00

Related information

Contact

Service SA customer service centre
Marine transport safety contacts
Service SA customer service centre


Was this page useful?

We can't respond to any comment made here. If you need a response, please use our contact page.

Page last updated 26 July 2017

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:
26/07/17
Printed on:
18/08/17
Copyright statement:
SA.GOV.AU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. © Copyright 2016