Boat or Personal Watercraft licence

If you’re 12 years or over, you can apply for a boat or personal watercraft licence. The type of licence you’ll need depends on the type of vessel you plan to drive. Find out whether you need a licence, and which type you’ll need.

When is a boat or personal watercraft licence required?

General boat driving licence

The speed you drive a boat determines whether you need a licence. If you drive a powered vessel for recreational purposes on NSW waters, at a speed of 10 knots (18.5 Kilometres per hour) or more, you must have a boat driving licence.

This licence permits people aged 12 years and over to drive any vessel (except a PWC) at 10 knots or more. This is the speed at which most accelerating boats will start to plane (rise up and skim on top of the water, instead of ploughing through it).

PWC driving licence

You must have a personal watercraft (PWC) driving licence to drive a PWC at any speed. A PWC is a vessel with a fully enclosed hull that may be driven standing up, lying down, sitting astride or kneeling, and includes jet powered surfboards and jetskis.

People who hold a general boat driving licence can upgrade to a PWC driving licence at any time. To hold a PWC driving licence you must have a general boat licence.

Restrictions for licence holders under 16 years

If you’re aged between 12 and 16 years, there are some restrictions on your boat driving licence or PWC driving licence.

Licence holders under 16 years of age must not drive a PWC or vessel:

  • at a speed greater than 20 knots (37 kilometres per hour), or
  • in any race, display, regatta, exhibition or similar operation, or
  • between sunset and sunrise, or
  • while the vessel is towing anyone.

If driving a vessel other than a PWC at a speed of 10 knots or more:

  • you must have someone with a general boat driving licence who is 16 years of age or older present in the vessel
  • you must not drive at these speeds between sunset and sunrise
  • you must not tow anyone.

If driving a PWC at a speed of 10 knots or more:

  • you must have someone with a PWC licence who is 16 years of age or older present on the PWC
  • you must not drive at these speeds while towing anyone.

Exceptions may apply if you have an aquatic licence or an approved PWC Hire and Drive tour operation.

Applying for a general boat licence or PWC licence

General boat and PWC driving licences are issued for 1, 3, 5 or 10 years. Your licence card will be posted to you. You'll receive a temporary paper licence, which you can use until your new card arrives. Digital boat licences are also available.

To apply for a general boat or PWC driving licence, you’ll need to meet different requirements:

Alternatively, successful completion of certain Australian Sailing courses is recognised as satisfying the full requirements for a general boating driving licence. Other qualifications may also be recognised. For more information, call 13 77 88.

Apply for a general boat licence

  • PWC licence:
    • you must already hold a general boat driving licence
    • you must pass the PWC knowledge test 

Apply for a PWC licence

When you need to carry your boat or PWC licence

You must carry your licence at all times when you are driving a PWC, or a boat if you are driving over 10 knots. You must produce it for inspection when requested by a Transport for NSW Boating Safety Officer, NSW Police Officer or other authorised officer.

Owners of vessels must be able to identify the person driving their vessel at all times, even if the owner is not on board at the time.

Licence holders and owners of vessels should notify us of any changes to personal details or address, or penalties may apply.

People with commercial vessel qualifications

If you wish to operate or work on a vessel used for commercial purposes, you must get a relevant certificate of competency. Find out about qualifications and training on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s website.

People who hold a certificate of competency as a master, mate or coxswain do not have to hold a general boat licence or PWC licence to drive vessels recreationally.

This exemption does not apply to general purpose hands, masters of vehicular ferries in chains or people who hold engineering certificates (MED).

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