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Do I Need a Marine (Boat) Licence To Operate a Canoe or Kayak If It Has a Motor in Victoria? 

This is a question that I am being asked more and more as the word slowly starts to filter out to everyone.  The simple answer is YES.  In Victoria, any vessel that has a motor on it must be registered.  To drive a registered vessel, you must have a Marine (boat) licence. 

So to go into a bit more detail, here are the rules taken from the Victorian - Marine Safety Act 2010 and the Marine Safety Regulations - 2012.  It might take a few reads but bear with me as we work through it. 


First of all, a vessel is anything used as a means of transportation on the water.  Therefore a canoe or kayak is a vessel.

Marine Safety Act 2010 - 4B Meaning Of A Recreational Vessel

(1)  For the purposes of this Act, a vessel is a recreational vessel if -

(a)  the vessel is used or intended to be used for the purpose of recreation or sport and not for hire or reward.  

 A powerboat means a recreational vessel that has an engine, engines, motor or motors that is or are used, or that is or are capable of being used, for propulsion.

 Therefore, a canoe or kayak fitted with any type of motor, regardless of size and power and whether the motor is operating or not, is now deemed to be a powerboat. 

Marine Safety Act 2010 - S37 Offence If Recreational Vessel Not Registered

(2)  A master (driver) of a recreational vessel must not operate a recreational vessel on State waters unless that vessel -

(a) is registered under this Part; or

(b)  exempted from registration—

(i)  by the regulations; or

(ii) by a notice given by the Safety Director under section 260

This means that all recreational vessels that are deemed to be powerboats i.e. a vessel with any type of motor used or capable of being used for propulsion must be registered. 

But what is this exemption they refer to above in (2)(b)? 

Marine Safety Regulations 2012 - Part 2 Registration Of Vessels - Division 1 - Registration Of Vessels

10 -  Exemptions From Registration

For the purposes of section 37(1)(b)(i) and (2)(b)(i) of the Act, the following vessels are exempted from registration—

(a)  a recreational tender;

(b)  a vessel that is not a powerboat;

(c)  a domestic commercial vessel;

Therefore a powerboat, e.g. a canoe or kayak with a motor, is not exempted from registration. 

OK, so now we know that a canoe or kayak that has any type of motor fitted to it must to be registered.  But do we need a licence to operate it? 

Marine Safety Act 2010 - S46 Offence To Be A Master Of Registered Recreational Vessel Without A Marine Licence Or In Breach Of Conditions Of Marine Licence

(1)  A person must not be the master of a registered recreational vessel unless the person holds a marine licence.


  • So, we know that a canoe or kayak with a motor must be registered.  If it isn't registered, an offence is committed.  
  • We also know that to drive a registered vessel you must have a Marine Licence.  If you don't have a Marine Licence you are committing an offence.  
  • The maximum penalty for these offences is 20 penalty units.  
  • How much is a penalty unit?  As at July 2015, a penalty unit is $151.67.  20 penalty units equates to $3033.40. OUCH!  Typically you would receive a penalty notice which would be a great deal less but that money is still better in your pockets than theirs.

If you have questions about anything at all don't hesitate to give me a call to discuss your queries. 

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