Get boat or personal watercraft (PWC) licence
Follow these steps to apply for a general boat or PWC licence for the first time in NSW.
There are two classes of boat licence:
- General boat licence (GBL) and
- Personal Watercraft (PWC) licence.
To get a PWC driving licence you need to get a general boat licence first.
You can apply for a general boat licence from age 12. There are licence restrictions for people under age 16.
Steps to get your licence
Here are the steps to get your general boat or PWC licence.
Check when you need a licence
You need a licence to drive a vessel for recreational purposes on NSW waters if:
- you plan to drive the vessel at 10 knots (18.5 km/h) or more, or
- the vessel is a personal watercraft (PWC).
You don't need a licence for:
- driving a powerboat under 10 knots, or sailing boat using its engine under 10 knots
- sailing a sailing boat without an engine
- using paddlecraft such as canoe, kayak or surf ski, or rowing vessels such as a row boat
- using a sailboard or kiteboard.
What about commercial use
To operate a vessel for commercial purposes, you need a Certificate of competency. If you have this and you’re a master, mate or coxswain you can drive vessels recreationally without a boat or PWC licence.
Get evidence of practical experience
To apply for a general boat licence you need to provide evidence of practical boating experience.
You can do this by either:
- completing a Boating Licence Practical Logbook (PDF 1019.39KB) with an experienced skipper present, or
- completing an approved practical boat course with an Authorised Training Provider. They can also take you through other steps towards getting your licence.
See practical boating experience to find out how.
To upgrade to a PWC licence
To upgrade to a PWC licence you don’t need evidence of practical experience. But you do need to sit the PWC licence knowledge test (see next step).
Book and pass the knowledge test
Submit your application
Before you submit your application, make sure you have ready:
- proof of identity (see note below* if you’re under 16)
- eyesight test or report results (you may be tested at a service centre when you apply)
- information on any medical condition or physical disability that could affect your driving (see Your health)
- evidence of practical boating experience
- evidence of qualifications (if you did training and testing at an Authorised Training Provider)
- payment for the test fee (if you haven’t already sat your test)
- payment of the licence fee
- two passport-acceptable photos if you're applying for a PWC licence
- Application for a PWC licence form (PDF 105.29KB) if you're applying for a PWC licence
- Application for General Boat Driving Licence (available from a service centre or training provider).
*If you're under 16 you must have a parent or legal guardian present when you're applying. They'll also need to show their proof of identity.
To submit your documentation you can visit or book an appointment at a service centre, or post it to:
Agency Business Centre
PO Box 21
Parkes NSW 2870
Know the rules of using your licence
Once we grant your licence, you can access it immediately via your Service NSW account and app. You can also use a temporary paper licence until your new card arrives in the post.
Make sure you carry your licence when you’re:
- driving the vessel at 10 knots (approximately 18.5 km/h) or more, or
- driving a personal watercraft (PWC).
See Offences for information on penalties for driving a vessel without a licence. As a vessel owner, you need to be able to identify who is driving your vessel at all times.
As a licence holder you need to:
- present your licence on request to an authorised officer, such as a Transport for NSW Boating Safety Officer or NSW Police Officer
- notify Transport for NSW of any changes to personal details or address
- stay up to date with the latest boating rules and advice.
If you only carry a digital licence make sure your device remains charged and accessible.
For more about rules you must follow when out on the water:
If you’re under age 16
If you’re age 12, 13, 14 or 15, there are some restrictions on your boat driving licence or PWC driving licence.
Licence holders under age 16 years must not drive a PWC or vessel:
- at a speed greater than 20 knots (approximately 37km/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 or PWC 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.