Recreational boat licence

You need a marine licence (also known as a boat licence) to be the master of a recreational powerboat in Victoria

Anyone operating a powered recreational vessel on Victorian waters requires a marine licence. This includes paddle craft (kayaks, canoes etc.) and sailing boats fitted with a motor, regardless of engine size. You must carry your licence with you when operating a vessel.

The Marine Safety Act makes it an offence to be a master of:

  • personal watercraft unless the person holds - and has in their possession - a marine licence endorsed for this type of recreational vessel.

Licences are only issued for a period of five years.

Types of marine licence

Restricted

A restricted licence is required by any person over the age of 12, but under the age of 16, who is operating a powered recreational vessel.

Holders of a restricted marine licence may act as master of a recreational vessel only if:

  1. operating during daylight hours between sunrise and sunset;
  2. operating at speeds of less than 10 knots; and
  3. not operating a vessel that is towing a person, another vessel or object.

Once a restricted master turns 16 years old, the restricted marine licence automatically becomes a marine licence.

PWC endorsed licence

Masters of PWCs must obtain an endorsement on their full or restricted licence in order to operate this type of vessel.

A PWC endorsement may not be issued as a stand alone licence. If an endorsement is required, a marine licence must first be obtained.

Operating under supervison

An unlicensed person may operate a vessel under the direct supervision of a person who is:

  1. Over the age of 18 years;
  2. Licensed and endorsed appropriately for the vessel being operated (for example, if a PWC is being operated, the licence must be endorsed for PWC operation); and
  3. On board the vessel in a position where they are able to take immediate control of the vessel.

Interstate marine licence holders

A person who holds an interstate marine licence, restricted marine licence, or PWC endorsed marine licence may operate the equivalent vessel in Victoria for a period of three months. If the visitor's stay extends beyond three months or the visitor does not have an equivalent interstate marine licence for the vessel they wish to operate, a Victorian marine licence must be obtained.

Note: Interstate visitors are required to observe Victorian regulations including speed restrictions and the wearing of lifejackets at certain times. An exemption applies for visiting vessels for the carriage of safety equipment.

If you are an interstate marine licence holder but have resided in Victoria for more than three months, you must convert your interstate marine licence to a Victorian marine licence. If you have evidence of your equivalent interstate marine licence, you will be exempt from sitting the test run by VicRoads or an accredited training provider.

To convert your marine licence, please bring your existing interstate marine licence and appropriate evidence of identity, to a VicRoads customer service centre (fees apply).

Victorians travelling interstate

We advise all Victorians who travel interstate to comply with local waterway rules. The links below will take you to the maritime safety authority in each state and territory.

Hire and drive vessels

A hire and drive vessel means a vessel (other than a recreational vessel) that is intended to be let for hire and includes vessels hired on a trailer and operated away from the place of hire, including those only capable of a speed less than 10 knots.

The Marine Safety Act requires all masters to hold a marine licence (and any relevant endorsement) to operate a hire and drive vessel capable of a speed greater than 10 knots (18km/h).

A PWC endorsement is required to operate a hired PWC. The hire boat owner will brief clients on the operating requirements of the vessel being hired. All operators, masters and passengers must comply with lifejacket requirements.

Our hiring a charter vessel page provides advice about what to ask before booking a charter to ensure the vessel is safe, operating legally and the crew is qualified.

Commercial maritime certificate holders

A person who holds a valid Certificate of Competency  that is not subject to any conditions relating to the person's health or fitness is exempt from the requirement to hold a marine licence. The definition of a valid Certificate of Competency is as follows:

  • Coxswain Grade 2 NC
  • Coxswain Grade 1 NC
  • Master (Inland waters); Master <24m NC
  • Master <35m NC
  • Mate <80m NC
  • Master <80m NC
  • A notice in writing given to a person by the Safety Director declaring that the person's qualification, certificate or experience is equivalent to a qualification or certificate referred to above.

However, if the person wishes to operate a personal watercraft they will need to obtain a marine licence and a PWC endorsement.