Boat licenses – regulations differ Australia-wide

Although some may argue with the claim, Australia has a more or less standard system for automotive licences.

Nothing could be further from that than the current situation regarding licences to operate a power boat.

In NSW, no licence at all is required to drive a boat if it is not capable of going faster than 10 knots. The boat could be an offshore racer, capable of 60, 70 or 80 knots, but if the driver stays below 10 knot, that does not make it legal.
Funnily sailboats that might only go at 8 knots under power, are often racing at 20+ knots in inshore waters like Sydney Harbour under sail, without a license but that is another story.

Head north into Queensland and you’re faced with a totally different system where a licence is required to operate any vessel at all if it sports an engine larger than 6hp.

The licence is not simply handed over; applicants must undertake a training program (there are accredited training ‘schools’ throughout Queensland) and the licence test, unlike NSW, includes a practical component.

I don’t know the exact details, but Western Australia is believed to have modelled its licence regulations to mirror Queensland.

To the best of my knowledge, Victoria is much the same as NSW with all driving a boat above 10 knots requiring a licence.

The two states cooperate in Murray River waterways, recognising each other’s licences due to the river comprising the state border.

In South Australia, anyone operating a boat that is engine-powered must be licensed, no matter the speed, no matter whether the engine is running or not.

It’s a model well worth further investigation.

Down to our island state, Tasmania, and speed is not a factor; simply anyone operating a boat powered by an engine or 4hp or more is required to be licensed.

Speaking to The Australian newspaper, Andrew Williamson, of the Australian Institute or Marine and Power Engineers, has called for mandatory licensing of all recreational boaters using Sydney Harbour.

He believes the current regulations were apparently designed for waterways 'that aren’t all that active.'

'Sydney is a working harbour with a busy commercial and passenger network and if the status quo remains there will be further fatalities,' he declared.