How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?

While some people avoid or even fear the ocean, others are instinctively drawn to it and are never truly happy until they find themselves sailing across the water. At times they might even feel the need to control the vessel themselves and sail using their own skill and experience. Do you ever feel this urge? If so, you’ll be on the lookout for something called a Skipper’s Ticket (skipper’s license), but where do you find one and how can you go about getting it? How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?

To obtain a Skipper’s Ticket (sometimes referred to as a Certificate of Competence ((CoC)) you will need to complete a course that will include both a written and practical exam. Most instructors will have applicants write their examinations and complete the practical tests on the same day.

Please note, however, that these tests do not include the required hours of experience on the water that must be recorded with an authorized skipper before you can take the test.

How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?
How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?

There are many skipper schools and boating instructors around the country who provide this service so do some research and find the closest training centre near you. Just make sure that the trainers in question have been properly accredited by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

Before we go any further, it’s important to figure out when we’ll need to have a Skipper’s Ticket.

When is a Skipper’s Ticket Required?

A skipper’s ticket is needed when piloting the following vessels

  • Pleasure sailing vessels 9 meters in length or longer
  • Commercial and pleasure motor vessels with 15HP or more

In other words, if you’ve got a sailing boat that’s smaller than 9 meters or a motor-powered one with less than 15HP you normally won’t need a Skipper’s Ticket.

How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?
How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?

Let’s assume that you’ve taken out the measuring tape and realized you need a Skipper’s Ticket. Time to go get one, right? Not so fast, you first need to figure out which one you’ll need to get.

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

What are the Different Types of Skipper Licenses in South Africa?

Skipper licenses are divided into categories depending on where the holder is intending to sail. Usually, the license category is determined by how many nautical miles (NM) the skipper will plan to travel offshore. The categories are as follows –

  • Category A – Vessels travelling at any distance from the shore
  • Category B – Vessels travelling 40Nm or less from the shore
  • Category C – Vessels travelling 15Nm or less from the shore
  • Category D – Vessels travelling 5Nm or less from the shore
  • Category E – Vessels travelling 1Nm or less from the shore
  • Category R – Vessels travelling only on sheltered waters

The license’s category will not only determine how far you will be able to travel but also what requirements you will need to meet as they differ slightly depending on the category in question.

The cost of a skipper’s ticket will vary based on the category in question as well as the business providing the service. The average price for a category E or R CoC should be around R1000 whereas higher categories might cost you anywhere between R2000 – R3000.

What are the Requirements for Skipper’s License in South Africa?

As mentioned, certain categories of licenses will require different things from the applicant. For example, if you want a category C license you will need a minimum of 25 hours logged on a category D license which must be signed off on by a skipper with a category C license or higher.

Simply put, you normally can’t just jump ahead in categories or apply for a higher tier category without prior experience.

How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?
How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?

All that being said, there are general requirements that are needed for licenses which will be listed below, just make sure you do the research and find out the specifics for the category you’re applying for. Some of the common requirements when obtaining a skipper ticket are –

  • 16 years of age or older
  • Copy of ID
  • 2-4 ID/Passport photos
  • Medical Certificate
  • Minimum hours logged and certified by a licensed skipper
  • Certified Copy of Skipper’s ID and license
  • A sworn statement from the skipper attesting to the validity of the hours logged
  • Pass the relevant exams

Beyond a skipper’s ticket to pilot the vessel you will also require a certificate to verify that your vessel is seaworthy.

What is a Certificate of Fitness and When is it Required?

As car owners will know, your vehicle must be certified as roadworthy every year. Eagle-eyed readers will be quick to point out that there are no roads on the ocean, while this is true, your vessel will still need to be certified, except now, it needs to be certified as seaworthy.

This certificate is known as a Certificate of Fitness (CoF) (sometimes referred to as an Approved Marking) and must be approved by either a SAMSA surveyor or by a safety officer from an authorized agency.

CoF’s differ slightly depending on the category but they all entail making sure that your vessel has certain equipment such as life jackets and first aid kits as well as making sure that your craft is sufficiently buoyant. The checklists for each category can be found here.

CoF’s are required in the same instances as CoC’s. This means that vessels with less than 15HP or sailing vessels smaller than 9 meters will not require a CoF.

A CoF is valid for a period of 12 months, after which it must be renewed just like a road vehicle. Interestingly, it is illegal to sell a vessel that is not certified as seaworthy unless the sale is accompanied by a letter noting all issues with the craft. In other words, if you’re trying to sell a boat that isn’t seaworthy, you need to formally notify the buyer of this fact.

How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?

Do you need a Skipper’s Ticket for a Jet Ski? – How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?

Usually yes, you will need a skipper’s ticket for a jet ski, although, this once again comes down to the specifications of the craft. If you have a low-power jet ski under 15HP, you can operate it without a skipper’s ticket, if it has more than that, you will need a license. 

Do you need a Skipper’s Ticket for a Rubber Duck?

As mentioned, power is the key factor here, rubber ducks usually have engine power ranging from between 5HP all the way up to 30HP and even higher, thus your rubber duck’s engine will determine whether or not you need a skipper’s ticket. If it’s higher than 15HP you’ll need a license, lower than that and you should be fine.

In Conclusion –  How do I get a Skippers License in South Africa?

A skipper’s license or ticket is required when operating any craft with more than 15HP or any sailing vessel that is over 9 metres in length. Tickets are divided into categories with higher categories generally allowing the holder to travel further from the coastline. The requirements for getting a ticket will be based on its category.

For instance, to obtain a category E license you will need to pass a written and practical exam as well as spend a set amount of hours on the water as experience. A category B license, by contrast, will require you to pass similar exams but you will also need to spend hours on the sea with a Category C license under the supervision of a skipper with a Category B license or higher.

Licenses can be obtained from various accredited authorities such as boating instructors and sailing schools. The cost of each license will also depend on the category with the prices ranging from around R1000 – R3000 respectively.

Vessels that require a ticket to operate will also require a Certificate of Fitness or CoF, these certificates ensure that the vessel is seaworthy and can be obtained from SAMSA or from an authorised safety officer. Jet Skis and Rubber Ducks that exceed 15HP also require a skipper’s license to operate.

Disclaimer LAW101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Law 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make decisions in line with the South African Governmental Laws currently in place. Although in many instances, our posts cite the constitution, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law. Should you require specific legal advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified legal expert.

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2 Responses

  1. Love the info and will definitely be using it. Was a deep see fisherman year ago and always wanted my own boat and now that I have the opportunity want to acquire my skippers license.

  1. February 25, 2023

    […] It’s important to note that age restrictions may also vary depending on the type of vessel and the waters in which it is operated. For example, there may be different age restrictions for operating a vessel on inland waters versus coastal waters. Therefore, it’s important for applicants to consult the SAMSA guidelines and regulations to ensure that they meet all of the necessary eligibility criteria for the specific type of vessel they wish to operate. […]

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