Vessel Operator Certification

  • Starting in January 2018, recreational vessel operators will be required to pass a boating exam after which they will be issued a certification card

  • The process will first address individuals 21 and younger and then proceed to include boaters of all ages

  • RBOC worked to keep the program at DBW, rather than DMV, and is serving as an advisor to DBW, USCG and other agencies


A law enacted in 2014 requires an individual to pass an examination and obtain a vessel operator card from the state’s Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) in order to operate a motorized vessel on waterways.

DBW is required to develop the vessel operator card by January 1, 2018. The cards will be issued to individuals who provide proof that they have passed a Division approved examination.

The law allows DBW to charge up to $30 per vessel operator card. A vessel operator card would be valid for the lifetime of the individual and would not need to be renewed.
The operator examination would be available on DBW’s website, along with links to internet examinations from other providers that have been approved by DBW.

Any examination must contain elements consistent with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators boating safety course standards.

Beginning on January 1, 2018, the requirement to possess a Division vessel operator card will apply to operators 20 years of age or younger with a staggered implementation date depending on the age of the individual until it eventually applies to everyone in 2025.

As of February 13, 2017 the status of the implementation of the law is as follows:

  • DBW is on schedule to role out the program over a seven year period starting in 2018, beginning with individuals 20 and younger.
  • The cost of the certificate should be between $6-8.
  • The cost of the course was not included in the legislation. It is likely that the DBW will accept any NASBLA certified training, including BoatUS and other free online courses.