NJ Boating Laws FAQ

NJ Boating Laws

state police

About the mandatory boating education law

Who can operate a power vessel?

Before operating a power vessel, including a personal watercraft, on the waters of the State of New Jersey, the mandatory boating safety course required by section 2 of P.L. 1987,c.453 (c: 12:7-61) shall be successfully completed as follows:

Persons under the age of 13 may not operate a motor boat in New Jersey.Persons who are at least 13 but less than 16 years of age may only operate a vessel powered solely by an electric motor or a power vessel 12 feet or greater in length powered by a motor or combination of motors less than 10 HP motor after completing an approved Boating Safety Course.All persons who wish to operate a power vessel must possess a NJ Marine Police Boating Safety Certificate. When completing the USPS boating safety course the instructor obtains your NJ certificate.

View NJ Boating Safety Education Minimum age mandatory requirements (PDF).


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I need a boat license?

A:  A boat license is a separate document from a boat safety certificate and is required on non-tidal water (water where the tide does not change) operation. The boat license is not a replacement for a boat safety certificate, it is an additional requirement. To obtain a boat license, go to your nearest NJ Division of Motor Vehicle Commission Facility. Persons must bring their NJ Boat Safety Certificate with them to apply for a boat license if they are required to possess a certificate for vessel operation.

 View Non-Tidal Boat Operators License Requirements (PDF – 23kb)


A boat license is not required for non-powered vessels. Persons operating vessels less than 1 HP, vessels powered by 12 volt electric trolling motors or vessels 12′ or longer with less than 10 total HP are exempt from the license requirement.

Out-of-state residents with written proof of the successful completion of a boat safety course are exempt from the boat license requirement

Q: I took the boating safety course with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, but cannot locate my certificate.

A: Contact the Coast Guard Auxiliary http://nws.cgaux.org/index.html

Q: What is the minimum age to operate a power vessel?

A: There are two minimum ages, 13 years old for vessels powered by electric trolling motors, or vessels 12′ or longer with less than 10 total HP. Operators of all other power vessels, including personal watercraft, must be at least sixteen years old, this includes out-of-state residents.

Q: I plan to operate a jet ski (personal watercraft). Do I need to take a course?

A: All persons operating a jet ski (personal watercraft) must have taken a course and have a NJ Marine Police certificate. Persons under 16 years of age may not operate a Jet Ski (PWC).

Q: Does my boat need to be registered?

A: All power vessels and any vessel longer than 12′ must be registered. Vessels are registered by the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (609)292-6500.

Q: I heard that an “experienced boater” may not have to take a course but merely pass an exam is this true?

A: This option has expired and is no longer available.

Q: I live in another state, do I need a boat safety certificate?

A: Yes – Out-of-state residents are not exempt from the education requirement listed above; however, NJ does honor boat safety certificates from other states issued to a resident of the issuing state . The state also honors boat safety courses for out-of-state residents that are National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved if they are from an in-person course. A person who is 16 years of age or older who has in his possession a certificate proving that the person has taken a comparable course in another state may operate a vessel in NJ waters for 90 days.

Q: Can a person who purchases a boat from a dealer operate it without taking a course first?

A: If the dealer provides the purchaser with an approved pre-purchase instruction course, the purchaser may operate it for 30 days before being required to pass a safety course. It should be noted, however, that for inexperienced boaters, this is the most dangerous period, and a full boating course should be taken.

Q: Is the USPS boating course approved by New Jersey.

A: Yes, the USPS Boating course certificate is recognized by every state.

Q. I took the United States Power Squadrons Boating safety course years ago, does my certificate of completion qualify for a New Jersey Marine Police Certificate?

A: Only if you took the course after January 19,1988.

Q: Do I have to wear a personal flotation device (PFD)?  Download: Did you remember (PDF)

A: All PWC operators and all persons 12 years old and under on any vessel must wear a United States Coast Guard approved personal flotation device while onboard any vessel that is underway. Underway means that the vessel is not anchored or tied to a dock, if it is drifting, sailing or being pushed by a motor it is underway.

The personal flotation device may be removed if the child is inside a fully enclosed, permanent part of the vessel that is designed by the manufacturer to carry passengers.

Although persons 13 years of age or older and persons not on personal watercraft are not required to wear a personal flotation device, there still must be a wearable personal flotation device onboard the vessel that is the correct size for each person. This wearable personal flotation device/s must be readily accessible and in serviceable condition.

Q: How can I get a replacement boating safety certificate (BSC)? or

I have a Certificate of Completion from the United States Power Squadrons Boating orBoat Smart Course. How do I obtain a New Jersey State Boating Safety Certificate? or

I am a member of the United States Power Squadrons living in NJ, but never obtained the New Jersey Marine Police Certificate. How do I obtain it? or

I have a boating safety certificate from the Cost Guard Auxiliary, how do I obtain a New Jersey Boating Safety Certificate.

A: Send a letter to the Marine Services unit of the NJ State Police and include the following information in the letter. If you are requesting a replacement, state this in your letter. If a USPS member living in New Jersey, include a copy of your membership certificate or copy of your Boating course certificate. If you took a Coast Guard Auxiliary course include a copy of the certificate. Walk-in certificate replacement is NOT available.

  1. Full legal name.
  2. Current address (indicate that this is your current address).
  3. Former address (your address at the time the NJ certificate was issued if different from your current address).
  4. Hair color, eye color, date of birth.
  5. Photocopy of the front and back of your drivers license.
  6. Photocopy of your birth certificate if you do not have a drivers license.
  7. Your telephone number with area code
  8. Photocopy of the “pink” copy of the NJ certificate application if you have it. Make sure it is legible by tracing over the information that may be too light to copy well. This is the copy of the application you received when completing the USPS course.
  9. Photocopy of the USPS Certificate of Accomplishment that you received when completing the course.
  10. Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.

 Mailing Address:

New Jersey State Police
Marine Service Unit
Attn: Boating Safety Certificate
PO Box 7068
West Trenton, NJ 08828-0068

If you have additional questions, call the NJ state Police Marine Services Unit at: (609) 882-2000: ext. 6181, but remember they probably are being overwhelmed with phone calls.

If you took the USPS course but are unable to locate your certificate of completion, contact the squadron where you took the course. To locate the squadron, go to usps.org and type in your location. If you do not recall the squadron, or if they cannot locate your record, contact USPS Headquarters at 1-888-367-8777. They may be able to help.