Do I need a licence to drive a tinny?
The short answer is maybe. In most states and territories you will need a licence to drive a tinny depending on the speed, and in some cases, the power of the engine you’re operating. We’ve broken down the rules for boat licences state by state (and territory), so you can determine what applies to you.
And **spoiler alert** you can drive a tinny in the NT without a licence, because you don’t need a licence to operate a boat there. At all. So, if you’re in the NT, we just saved you some reading.
Otherwise, here’s what you need to know!
New South Wales – speed not size
In NSW, the type of boating licence you require is based on the speed you drive at. If you’re driving a powered boat for recreational purposes at 10 knots or more, you’ll need to have a boating licence.
A licence of this type allows anyone aged 12 or older to drive any kind of vessel at a speed of 10 knots plus (except for a personal watercraft (PWC)). Why? Because 10 knots is when most accelerating boats begin to plane (when a boat rises up and skims along the surface of the water, rather than move through it).
So, if you’re planning to drive a tinny at 10 knots or more, you will need a licence for NSW waters. Head here for more on boat licences in NSW.
The Australian Capital Territory – same as NSW
The Capital’s boat licence requirements are similar to those of NSW. Once again, it’s not the size of the boat that determines the licence type, but the speed you’re planning to travel at. Just like NSW, you’ll need a licence if you’re traveling at 10 knots or more.
Only those over 12 years of age can apply for a recreational boating licence in the ACT. And, if you’re looking to drive a PWC, you’ll need a separate licence for this too. You’ll also need to apply for a permit to boat on many of the lakes in the ACT, although non-powered crafts tend to be exempt.
Head here to apply for a boating licence in the ACT.
Queensland – power matters most
In Queensland it’s the engine power of a boat that determines what kind of boating licence you require. If you’re operating a watercraft with an engine power of over 4.5 kilowatts, you’ll need a licence to do so.
On top of this, you’ll need to have a personal watercraft license and a recreational marine licence. You’ll also have to be at least 16 years old and successfully pass a BoatSafe course (or have a valid marine licence from interstate or overseas).
Head here for more on getting your boat licence in Queensland.
South Australia – engine = licence
In South Australia, anyone operating a recreational boat with an engine, regardless of its size, needs to have a licence. It doesn’t matter whether the engine is being used or not, if it has one, you need a permit.
If you’re visiting SA and have a valid interstate boating licence, you have permission to operate a motorised boat in the state for up to 90 days. After this time you are required to apply for an SA boating licence.
Here is more info on securing a boat licence in SA.
Tasmania – 4 horsepower or more
If you’re operating a boat in Tasmania that hits 4 horsepower or more, you’ll need a boating licence. Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST) says this applies to recreational vessels but not hire and drive watercrafts.
Before securing a boating licence, you’ll also need to successfully finish a BoatSafe Practical Course, which you can complete at an Accredited Provider in Tasmania, for a fee. Your boating licence is then valid for three years.
Read more about securing a boating licence in Tasmania, here.
Victoria – any powered recreational boat
Every person who wants to be the master of a recreational powerboat in Victoria, needs to have a boat licence. According to Maritime Safety Victoria, this includes canoes, kayaks and other paddle crafts, as well as motored sailing boats (no matter what the engine size).
Licences in Victoria last for a period of five years, and it is an offence to operate a powered recreational craft without having the licence in your physical possession. Restricted licences are also available for individuals between the ages of 12 and 16.
Find out more about boat licences in Victoria.
Western Australia – 6 horsepower or more
In WA, you’ll need a Recreational Skipper’s Ticket if you’re operating a vessel powered by six horsepower or more. A Skipper’s Ticket is the same as a boating licence in WA, although it does not need to be renewed and there are no ongoing fees to keep the ticket current.
According to the WA Department of Transport, individuals under 14 years of age are ineligible to apply for a Skipper’s Ticket. Commercial seafarers do need one too, however they may have prior commercial training recognised as an equivalent to the ticket.
This website has all you need to know getting a Skipper’s Ticket in WA.
Northern Territory – no licence required
The NT is the only place in Australia where a person does not need a licence to drive a boat (or register one). So, by default, you won’t need a licence to drive a tinny there. You can of course still be charged for disobeying boating laws in the NT, and individuals who break the law may be prosecuted.
As you already know, being safe on the water – by taking care of your passengers and those around you, is so important. Stay within designated speed limits and drive cautiously at all times.
For more detailed information about boating in the NT, head here.
Need quality cover for your tinny?
We offer comprehensive cover for boats, tinnies and PWCs all over Australia. For a free, no obligation quote, please contact us. And, no matter where you are in Australia, stay safe and enjoy your time boating in one of the most amazing parts of the world.