Boat or Personal Watercraft

To drive a powered vessel for recreational purposes on NSW waterways at a speed of 10 knots (18.5 km/h) or more, you need a boat driver licence. You need a licence to drive a Personal Watercraft (PWC) at any speed.

When is a licence required?

The speed at which you drive your boat will determine whether you need a licence.

If you drive a powered vessel for recreational purposes on NSW waters, at a speed of 10 knots (18.5km/h) or more, you must have a boat driver licence. Ten knots 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).

You must have a PWC licence to drive a PWC at any speed.

Exemptions from holding a licence

If you hold a commercial Certificate of competency as a master, mate or coxswain you are not required to hold a general boat driving licence or PWC licence in NSW.

This exemption does not apply to engineering certificates, general purpose hands or masters of vehicular ferries in chains. More information about commercial vessel qualifications.

Types of licence

There are four different types of licence:

  • General licence
  • Young Adult general licence
  • PWC licence
  • Young Adult PWC licence

General licence

This licence permits people aged 16 years and over to drive any vessel (except a PWC) at 10 knots or more.

Young Adult general licence

This is a restricted licence for those aged from 12 to under 16 years.

A Young Adult general licence holder must:

  • Be accompanied by the holder of a general licence in the vessel when travelling at 10 knots or more
  • Never exceed 20 knots
  • Never travel at 10 knots or more after sunset and before sunrise
  • Never travel at 10 knots or more when towing a person
  • Not drive in any race, display, regatta or exhibition without prior consent from Roads and Maritime
  • Never operate a PWC (unless also holding a Young Adult PWC licence).

PWC licence

A special licence is required to drive a PWC regardless of what speed it is driven. To obtain an initial PWC licence, you must pass the general licence test before you can attempt the PWC licence test.

If you already hold a general licence, you can upgrade to a PWC licence at any time.

There are important safety considerations when driving a PWC – see the PWC (jetski) Ride Right campaign for more information.

Young Adult PWC licence

This is a restricted licence for those aged from 12 to under 16 years and who wish to drive a PWC.

The conditions of this licence are the same as for the Young Adult general licence.

A Young Adult PWC licence holder must be accompanied by a PWC licence holder on the PWC, when driving at a speed of 10 knots or more.

Applying for a general licence or PWC licence

Before you can apply for an initial general licence or PWC licence, you’ll need to:

Once you’ve met these requirements, you can apply for a licence by attending a registry or service centre in person and providing:

  • Proof that you meet the requirements
  • A completed licence application form
  • Acceptable proof of identity
  • Payment for the licence fee
  • Young adult applicants must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who must provide acceptable proof of identity
  • PWC licence applicants must also provide two passport-acceptable photos.

Licence period

General licences and PWC licences are issued for one, three or five years. You’ll save money by selecting a three or five year licence.

Young adult licences are issued for one year only, and will expire on the licence holder’s birthday.

Exemption of commercial qualifications

If you wish to operate or work on a vessel used for commercial purposes, you must obtain the relevant Certificate of competency. See Commercial vessels for more information.

People who hold a Certificate of competency as a master, mate or coxswain do not have to hold a general 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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