When do you need a boat license?

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When do you need a boat license? A question that many will have asked themselves and which, especially for newcomers, is not always easy to understand at first. So let’s shed some light on when a boat license is needed and why.

When do you need a boat license?

In order to be clear about when a boating license is needed, first of all, it is necessary to understand in what scope one is moving. Mainly there are three benchmarks:

  • The type of boat you intend to sail with
  • The power rating of the motorization on board
  • The distance (in miles) from the coast to which you intend to, or can, sail

Regardless of the obligation, there are navigation rules that must be known in any case. Here is a vademecum of
15 basic rules for navigating safely.

The article continues below.


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When a boat license is needed – Vessel, boat, ship

The first distinction concerns the type of hull on which one sails: pleasure craft, pleasure boat, pleasure vessel. These are the three main categories and dictate, as we shall see, specific conditions. Therefore:

  • Recreational vessel is defined as any boat with a registration length NOT exceeding 9.99 meters, whether motorboat or sailboat;
  • Pleasure craft is defined as any boat over 10 meters in length, whether sail or motor;
  • Finally, recreational vessel means any motor or sailing vessel intended for recreational navigation and having an overall length of more than 24 meters.

Boating license: when NOT needed

A boating license is not needed to operate watercraft (up to 10 meters overall length) and boats that sail within and not beyond the limit of 6 nautical miles from the coast.

Added to these limits is the need for engines of less than 40.8 horsepower (30 kW) or, in any case, having a displacement of less than 750 cc if two-stroke carbureted; less than 1000 cc if 4-stroke outboard carbureted; less than 1300 cc if 4-stroke inboard carbureted (2000 cc if diesel).

In addition, driving watercraft or boats within 6 miles with an engine of less than 40.8 hp requires 16 and 18 years of age, respectively. In turn, no license is required for floating sailboats (up to 10 m outboard) with auxiliary engine, always respecting the 6-mile limit from the coast.

The goiter, the most classic of vessels for which, often, a license is not required

So, to recap, a boat license is NOT needed on a motor boat if the following three specific conditions are present: if the boat is a watercraft (<10 m LOA) having an engine of not more than 40.8 hp (30 kW) or less than 750 cc (2-stroke), 1000cc (4-stroke outboard), 1300 (4-stroke inboard), 2000 cc (inboard diesel) and not sailing outside the maximum limit of 6 miles from the coast.

Boat license: when you need it

A boating license, on the other hand, is first and foremost necessary if you want to operate watercraft or boats that sail beyond 6 miles from the coast. That said, it is also mandatory if the engine exceeds 40.8 hp (30 kW) or has a displacement of more than 750 cc, if two-stroke carbureted, 1000 cc, if four-stroke outboard carbureted, 1300 CC, if four-stroke inboard carbureted, 2000 cc if diesel. To obtain a license within 12 miles or without limits you must be at least 18 years old. For sailboats with auxiliary engines, this type of license is equally necessary if you go more than six miles from the coast.

Lilybaeum Lipari 31
Lilybaeum Lipari 31, classified as a watercraft given its length of 9.6 meters, but requiring a license based on motorization

In terms of practical distinction, then, the boating license is divided into two distinct bands, “within 12 miles” and “unlimited.” That is, according to the types, one is qualified to command recreational vessels (within 24 meters in length overall) sailing within a limit of 12 miles from the coast, rather than, trivially, with no limit of distance from the coast at all. The shoreline-limit license, however, does not preclude the conduct of vessels certified for unlimited navigation, although it does require that this take place within the 12-mile limit.

A Grand Banks 42, an excellent example of a pleasure boat

Finally, in order to command units defined as recreational vessels, and thus exceeding 24 meters in length, prior possession of an unrestricted license for a minimum duration of at least 3 years is required. The holder of a recreational vessel license may also drive all recreational vessels less than 24 meters in length, whether sail or motor, including motor sailers and sailboats with auxiliary engines.

Sanlorenzo SD90
Sanlorenzo SD90, with its 27-meter outboard is not contemplated even with a recreational boat captain’s license

N.B. – For more specific parameters and constantly updated information, please consult the official channels of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport


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