“New” boat license: how it has changed and what can be improved

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New boating license – The analysis two years after the ministerial decree came into force

Two years after the entry into force of the MIMS 10/08/2021 decree, the one that transformed the exam to take a boating license, a forum held at the Genoa Boat Show tried to assess the merits and demerits of the new regulations coming into effect. In fact, the decree envisages a two-year review of the rules, and the establishment of a semi-permanent round table between the different authorities and institutions involved: boating schools, harbor master’s offices and ministries.

New boat license: what has worked two years after enactment

Among the major changes introduced by the decree was the establishment of a unified national database for theory tests. The quizzes and chart tests required for the driver’s license are now given to candidates randomly, taken from the national and public collection. This database has made it objective and transparent for candidates, who previously found different quizzes and tests depending on the captaincy where they took the exam. The theory exam now involves a quiz of 20 multiple-choice questions (three options, only one correct) that is passed with at least 16 correct answers. For charting, there are five single-answer questions and one chance of error for the “within” license, and four charting exercises with one chance of error for the “beyond” license. The exam programs have also been revamped and are closer to the reality of boating, emphasizing some previously undervalued aspects such as knowledge of environmental regulations, meteorology and safety.

Boating license: how many license categories are there

  • Category A: qualifies to command watercraft, pleasure craft up to 24 meters and personal watercraft. It is divided in turn into “within 23 miles” and “without the 12-mile limit,” “motor only” or “sail and motor.”
  • Category B: qualifies to command boats over 24 meters.
  • Category C: qualifies for nautical direction of watercraft and pleasure craft.
  • Category D: special qualification for the command of watercraft, pleasure craft, and personal watercraft (special in relation to some special characteristics of the craft or the candidate’s disabilities).

Particularly in the charting test (provided for the “no limit” category A license), a candidate who fails the test may decide to “downgrade” to the “within 12 miles” license and continue the exam. This assessment allows you not to have to retake the exam if you have passed the first part, the quiz part. The possibility of updating and supplementing one’s license from “within” to “beyond” at a later date is also offered.


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Also introduced by the decree was arequirement for at least 5 hours of practice at sea, which are conducted by nautical schools. This rule was introduced to increase the candidate’s awareness at sea, and also extends to private candidates. Overall, the regulations simplified access to the boating license, instituting the criterion of objectivity at least for the theory test, since the practical one is still entrusted to the unquestionable judgment of the officers of the harbormaster’s office where the exam is held. The procedure for switching from “within” to “over” licenses has also been made easier. In addition, the candidate has the opportunity to retake the theory tests within the terms of the petition, and to keep the theory good and retake the practical test (if failed) within thirty days of the first attempt.

Boating license: what can be improved

During the discussion, the need for unification and digitization of the bureaucratic branch related to nautical practices emerged. The first step was the establishment of the unique quiz database, but it is not enough. Another pressing need is for aDriver’s License Registry. On this point, authorities have announced that a decree is coming out, currently at the Council of State, that will allow the establishment of a single repository, simplifying administrative procedures and raising security levels.

In fact, one of the problems faced by a candidate today is that of slow paperwork. And on this point there is still a lot of randomness between one captain’s office and another. Many capitancies have experienced delays and exam queues due to the break for Covid 19, and even today several candidates find themselves having to wait more than 6 months to take the exam. These delays often lead to the extension of the application for admission, which is set at 3+3 months, and even on this point there is diversity among the capitancies. There should be a move toward uniformity that ensures certain times for the candidate.

Another point is that related to category B licenses. In fact, in order to obtain this license, it is mandatory to certify 5 hours of driving a boat over 24 meters used as a “school ship.” At present, however, such boats are not in the availability of almost any, or no, boat schools. Therefore, the issue on obtaining a category B boating license remains a point of discussion in view of the next decree, or its subsequent revisions.

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