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Home Boat Insurance Boating license needed

Do I need a licence for my boat?

Have you just purchased a boat, such as a powerboat, sailboat or rowboat? Then you may be asking yourself whether you need a license to take it out on the water. It is of course important that you have sufficient basic knowledge of the relevant laws, regulations and safety precautions to take when you go out on the water. But are you also required to have a boating license, and if so what kind of license should you have?

When you purchase boat insurance, you will be asked if you hold a boating license. Don't have a boating license? Then this is not always a problem, because you do not have to have a license for every boat. Whether you need a license depends on the maximum speed and length of the boat. There are also different rules per country. In the Netherlands: can the boat go faster than 20 km/h, or is the boat longer than 15 meters? Then you need a boating license.

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Boat length

Whether you need a boating license depends in part on the length of the boat. Anyone may drive a sailboat, rowboat, pedal boat or canoe, as long as it is smaller than 7 meters. There is no age limit to this. For boats between 7 meters and 15 meters, the driver must be at least 16 years old. For all boats longer than 15 meters, you need a boating license. In addition, the driver of the boat must be at least 18 years old.

Thus, if a boat is 14.95 meters (and cannot go faster than 20 km/h) you, as an adult, may simply sail it without a license. Of course, it is very important to have sufficient knowledge and skills before taking such a large boat out on the water. It is quite different from sailing a small dinghy.

HP boat

If you want to know if you need a boating license, you don't need to look at the number of HP of the boat. This plays no role in this. It does look at the maximum speed of the boat. If a powerboat can go faster than 20 mph, it is a fast powerboat and you need a license. A dinghy with more than 5 HP, can usually go faster than 20 km per hour. Therefore, you will still need a boating license for that.

Boat speed has to do with several factors. For example, with the construction of the boat, the shape of the underwater hull and maintenance. We look at how fast the boat can go when it is going full throttle. Is this more than 20 km/h? Then you need a boating license. Once you get your boating license, you may sail any boat.

In the Netherlands, you need a small boat license when sailing with:

  • A watercraft, jet ski, dinghy or motorboat with a length of less than 15 metres that can go faster than 20 km/h.
  • A vessel with a length of 15 to 25 meters that you do not use commercially.
  • A ship for commercial transport with a length between 15 and 20 metres.
  • A tug or pusher that you use to tow, carry alongside or push a vessel up to 20 meters in length.

When do you need a boating licence?

Whether you need a boating license depends in part on the length of the boat or the maximum speed of the boat.

Vessel Minimum age Sailing License
Sailing and rowing boats shorter than 7 metres No No
Open motorboat, less than 7 metres, max. 13 km/h 12 years No
Motor boat, large ship and sailing boat longer than 7 metres, max. 20 km/h 16 years old No
All boats longer than 15 metres 18 years old Yes
Fast motor boat* 18 years old Yes

What is a fast motorboat?

Fast motorboats are all boats which can go faster than 20 kilometres per hour. This also applies to water scooters, jet skis and rubber boats, as soon as the combination of boat and engine can sail faster than 20 kilometres per hour. To drive a fast motorboat, you have to be at least 18 years old and you have to have a sailing licence. Your boat must also be registered with the Rijksdienst voor Wegverkeer (RDW).

Risk of fine

Also, if you drive a boat smaller than 15 meters at a speed slower than 20 km/h during an inspection, while your boat can reach this speed and you do not have a license, you risk a fine of €550. Moreover, in case of an accident without a license, the insurance will not pay out. A dinghy with an engine starting at 5 hp can easily go faster than 20 km/hour.

Do you have a pleasure craft less than 15 meters in length and do not have a boating license? Then we advise you to check what the maximum speed is that you can achieve with your boat in combination with the engine. If this speed exceeds 20 km/hour, we advise you to obtain the small boat license or to limit the engine so that the combination cannot exceed 20 km/hour.


Take out boat insurance

Through our website, you can easily and quickly compare and purchase very affordable boat insurance! Once you have submitted an application, in most cases you will have provisional coverage the same day. To find the best boat insurance it is important that you compare insurance policies. This way you will find the boat insurance that best suits your personal situation. When comparing boat insurance, you need to pay attention to two things: the coverage you want and the cruising area where you will be sailing with the boat. Do you want only basic coverage or will you opt for the most comprehensive insurance? Are you planning to sail only in the Netherlands, or would you also like to take your boat abroad? This all affects the amount of the premium. Calculate online the premium and take out the boat insurance of your choice!

Like a boating license, boat insurance is not always mandatory. Find out when you should buy boat insurance here.

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