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Boat Licences

The speed at which a boat is driven determines whether a person needs to be licensed. Any person who drives a powered vessel for recreational purposes on NSW waters at a speed of 10 knots (18.5 km/h) or more must have a boat driver’s licence. Ten knots is the speed at which most accelerating boats will start to plane – that is rise up and skim on top of the water instead of ploughing through it. The exception is anyone who drives a personal watercraft (PWC) at ANY speed must have a PWC Licence.

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Types of Licence

General Licence

A licence for people aged 16 years and over to drive any vessel, except a PWC at 10 knots or more.

General Young Adult Licence

A restricted licence for those aged from 12 to under 16 years. A Young Adult Licensee must:

(1) be accompanied by the holder of a General Licence in the vessel when travelling at 10 knots or more
(2) never exceed 20 knots
(3) never travel at 10 knots or more after sunset and before sunrise
(4) never travel at 10 knots or more when towing a person
(5) not drive in any race, display, regatta or exhibition without prior consent from the Maritime and
(6) never operate a PWC unless the holder of a Young Adult PWC Licence.

PWC Ride Right CampaignPersonal Watercraft (PWC) Licence

A special licence is required to drive a PWC regardless of what speed it is driven. To obtain an initialPWC Licence, the General Licence test must be passed before the PWC test can be attempted. Persons who hold a General Licence can upgrade to a PWC Licence at any time. For more information about PWC safety view the 'Ride Right' Campaign.

Young Adult PWC Licence

A restricted licence for those aged from 12 to under 16 years who wish to drive a PWC. The same conditions which apply to the General Young Adult Licence apply to this licence. A Young Adult PWC Licence holder must be accompanied by a PWC Licence holder on the personal watercraft when operating at a speed of 10 knots or more.

For more information about PWC safety view the 'Ride Right' Campaign.

Licence Period

A General Licence or PWC Licence is available for either one, three or five years . You will save money by selecting a three or five year licence. Young Adult Licences are only available for one year and expire on the applicant's birthday. Licences are initially issued as paper licences, followed by a plastic card. All PWC Licences are issued as plastic photo licence cards. Boat Licence fees.

Commercial Qualifications

An appropriate Certificate of Competency is required to take charge of vessels used for commercial purposes. To obtain these qualifications you will need to have records of your boating experience, complete approved training courses and meet minimum medical and eyesight standards. Holders of certificates of competency as master, mate or coxswain are exempt from the requirement to hold a general boat driving licence or PWC licence. This exemption does not apply to engineering certificates, general purpose hands or masters of vehicular ferry in chains. More details on Commercial Qualifications...

How to Get a Boat Licence

Safe Boating Handbook Boating Licence Practical Logbook PWC Handbook
Boating Handbook Boating Licence
Practical Logbook
PWC Handbook

To obtain an initial general or Personal Watercraft (PWC) licence applicants must:

  • Complete the compulsory General Licence Boating Safety Course and for PWC applicants the PWC Licence Boating Safety Course. Courses may be completed online, by purchasing a DVD for viewing at home, or by attending a course in person. See How to comply with the Boating Safety Course requirements for more information.
  • Provide evidence of practical boating experience; and
  • Successfully undertake the general licence knowledge test and for PWC applicants the PWC licence knowledge test at a Maritime Service Centre, Motor Registry or recognised training provider (RTP). Bookings for tests are required, please contact your local Maritime Service Centre or Motor Registry to book for your test prior to attending the office.   

The Boating Safety Course(s) must be undertaken before the licence test(s) can be attempted however, practical boating experience can be completed at any stage although a boat licence will not be issued until all 3 components have been successfully completed.

Applicants wishing to upgrade their existing general licence to a PWC licence are not required to provide evidence of practical boating experience and need only comply with PWC Licence Boating Safety Course and PWC licence test requirements.

The general licence knowledge test comprises 40 questions of which the first 15 must all be answered correctly and the PWC licence knowledge test contains 15 questions of which a minimum of 12 must be answered correctly.

The PWC licence knowledge test cannot be attempted until the general licence knowledge test has been successfully completed.

The Maritime Boating Handbook provides essential boating information for operating a vessel for recreational purposes on NSW waters. It is strongly advised that licence applicants study the handbook prior to completing the boating safety course and practical experience requirements and undertaking the knowledge test(s).

How to comply with Boating Safety Course requirements.

Boating Safety Course requirements can be met by one of the following:

  1. By viewing the Boating Safety Course online.


  2. By purchasing a DVD of the course for viewing at home.


  3. Attending a Boating Safety Course conducted by Maritime or Marine Rescue NSW. Maritime seminar venues and dates.

An alternative to completing a Boating Safety Course for the requirement to obtain a licence and undertaking the licence test is to successfully undertake a course conducted by one of the following Recognised Training Providers (RTP). For details on these courses click on the link below:

The following Certificates from Yachting Australia are also recognised as satisfying the full requirements (including the practical component) for a general boat licence:

  • Powerboat Program  (formerly known as National Powerboat Training Scheme)
  • National Yacht Cruising Scheme
  • RYA – YA Yacht Training Program (Motor) (formerly known as National Motor Cruising Scheme)
Safe Boating Handbook Details on Boating Safety Course requirements and to the Boating Handbook. PWC Handbook Details on PWC rules and the PWC Handbook

How to comply with practical boating experience requirements

To gain the required practical boating experience the following options are available:

  • Undertake a practical boating course with one of the above RTP, or
  • Completing a Competency Log

If the practical boating course option is selected, for which a fee is payable, the applicant will, on completion of the course, be issued a Certificate of Completion by the RTP which must be presented to Maritime when applying for before a boat licence.

If the logbook option is selected, the applicant must complete a minimum of three trips in a powered vessel under power. Trip details must be recorded in the logbook and be verified by an experienced skipper (a person who holds, as a minimum, a current and valid NSW or interstate Boat Driver Licence and has at any stage held a Boat Driver Licence for at least three (3) consecutive years).

Only trips undertaken within 12 months of the date of applying for the issue of a boat licence will be recognised for the purpose of satisfying practical experience requirements.

Boating Licence Practical Logbook Details on practical boating experience requirements and to download a copy of the
Boating Licence Practical Logbook.
Important Information For Questions and Answers on the Practical Boating requirement click here

Proof of Identity

To ensure the accuracy of records held by Maritime, applicants must provide acceptable Proof of Identity (POI) when conducting a business transaction. Except for PWC licences, POI is not required

for renewal of products.

POI documents must be original or certified copies and POI requirements can be met by providing a NSW Photo Driver’s Licence and, for young adults, an Australian Full Birth Certificate.

For a full list of acceptable POI documents view the Proof of Identity brochure on our website or telephone 13 12 56.


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