When you own any car or bike in South Africa, you must get a registration and a license plate, right? The same logic applies to boats and other vessels as well. However, not all boats need to get registration in South Africa. there are certain differences to registering your boat with South African authorities. In this article, we will discuss registering your recreational boat in South Africa.

Registering your Recreational Boat in South Africa

Boat registration depends on the vessel type and its purpose. However, boat registration can have different meanings in South Africa. Not all the recreational boats require a registration. And unless your boat is not used for commercial purposes, you will not require any sort of ‘licensing’ as well.¬†

What does that mean? Let us take a look.

a. Vessels under 9m with an engine of 15hp or less

Depending on the yacht club in your area, you may or may not have to get an approved marking or a safety certificate for your vessel.

However, according to the National Small Vessel Safety Regulations of 2007, a recreational vessel of less than 9m in length and an engine of 15hp or less does not need an approved marking or a safety certificate. Furthermore, it adds that the skipper does not require a CoC, meaning a Skipper License.

Such vessels still need to meet the construction and safety equipment standards as defined in the NSVS Regulations. The standards of safety equipment and which equipment to carry onboard are determined by your local yacht club. These yacht clubs are generally authorised by SAMSA, so do not worry about getting into trouble for following local regulations.

b. Vessels of 9m or more with an engine above 15hp

According to the National Small Vessel Safety regulations, all recreational vessels of the above standards must have a valid safety certificate‚ÄĒeither a Certificate of Fitness (CoF) or a Local General Safety Certificate (LGSC). If your boat is either more than 9m long or if it has more than 15hp of engine, then you will need the registration.

Recreational vessels of the above characteristics require the following documents on board:

  • A valid Safety Certificate (CoF or LGSC),
  • A certified skipper onboard to operate the vessel (the license must match the boat’s category), and
  • A valid Ship Station for vessels with VHF Radio or other radio equipment such as MF/HF SSB radio or an EPIRB system (in this case, the skipper will need a valid Radio Operator’s Certificate).

The Certificate of Fitness has a one-year validity to ensure your boat is regularly inspected and is in pristine condition. To avoid the process from scratch, renew your CoF before it expires.

Apart from that, you will also have to get ‘approved markings’ which is technically your boat’s license plate.

The Process of Getting an Approved Marking

Unless exempted, all small vessels of 9m and above in length are required to get an approved marking. As per the regulations, the process of getting an approved marking for your vessel begins with getting a Certificate of Listing.

You get the Certificate of Listing after an Authorized Agency like South African Sailing carries out a safety inspection of your vessel. Once your vessel gets listed, you will get the listing number in accordance with your boat type. A sailboat would get an ‘SA’ listing and a powerboat would get a ‘ZA’ listing.

Small Vessel Categories

The category of your small vessel defines how far can you take your boat away from the shore or if you can take your boat to the sea at all. This applies to Recreational and Commercial vessels alike. There are 6 categories in total.

  1. Category A vessels operate at any distance from the shore;
  2. Category B vessels operate at less than 40 Nautical Miles (nm) from the shore;
  3. Category C vessels operate at less than 15 Nautical Miles from the shore;
  4. Category D vessels operate at less than 5 Nautical Miles from the shore;
  5. Category E vessels operate at not more than 1 Nautical Mile from the shore and 15 Nautical Miles from an approved launch site.
  6. Category R vessels operate solely on inland waters*.

Inland Waters are defined as all water areas accessible to the public and contained within ports and fishing harbours, lagoons, rivers, dams, wetlands, and lakes within South African Borders.

For survey-related information, visit the South African Small Craft Association website, an agency authorised by SAMSA.


Getting your small vessel registered is crucial in South Africa. Complying with regulations helps the authorities keep the recreational areas safe and secure for you and others. In this article, we talked about how to get your boat registered in South Africa.

You should contact the Authorised Agencies to get your vessels registered. Although the agencies have some power, SAMSA is directly responsible for assessing your vessel’s eligibility for registration.

The information presented in this article has been extracted from the following links. Make sure you give them a read.

If you are looking for a Skipper’s License in South Africa, Skipper Training SA can help you. For more information, take a look at our website or connect with us today.

Registering your Recreational Boat in South Africa