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For-Hire Vessel Operator Licensing Program


A: The For-Hire licensing requirement applies to operators of powered vessels carrying four or more passengers for money or other consideration on California waters not under Federal jurisdiction. Water skiers being towed are considered as passengers.
A: Waters not considered under Federal jurisdiction are those which cannot be navigated to the sea or to another state. Examples are: Salton Sea, Clear Lake, Lake Shasta, and rivers flowing into Lake Shasta.
• Applicants must be at least eighteen (18) years old.
• Applicants must have at least one year's experience in operating the type of boat on the type of water for which the license is requested. In certain cases, other experience or training may be substituted.
• Applicants must be in good physical condition in order to provide for safe operation of a vessel.
• Applicants must possess adequate knowledge and have the skill necessary for safe operation of a passenger vessel. Written and practical (on-the water) examinations are given.

* Note: If you have a valid Coast Guard Motorboat Operator's License, you may be issued a State license without further examination, including a waiver of the Medical Report. It will be necessary for the Coast Guard license or a copy to be reviewed by the Division before a State license can be issued.
A: Submit a completed cover letter, application, medical exam, and three boat handling/character references to the Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW). The application forms and study materials may be downloaded or can be sent to you upon request.
A: There is currently no fee for the license. DBW will process your application, administer the written and practical examinations, review your medical report, and issue the license at no cost to you. You are responsible for obtaining the medical examination and may be required to pay a fee for that service.
A: Any licensed physician may give the medical examination; however, the report must be made on DBW's form and obtained at your expense.
A: The written examination is usually administered on the same day as the practical examination. When your license application is processed, you will be called and a mutually agreeable date and location will be selected. Please note that it is required that the For-Hire license process be completed within (90) days from date of the initial exam. Thus, all forms should be completed thoroughly and in entirety prior to participating in the exam.
A: The license is effective for five years. To renew, you must submit an application and a current medical examination report.

For-Hire Vessel Operator's License Forms:
For-Hire License Cover Sheet
     • For-Hire License Application    
     • Statement of Boat Handling Ability and Moral Character
     • Medical Examination Report


Written Exam Preparation:
The following subjects are suggested for study in preparation for the written examination:
      1. California Boating Safety Course  
      2. ABCs of the California Boating
      3. Life Jackets and the Law
      4. Harbors and Navigation Code, Article 3
      5. Title 14, Article 4 of the California Code of Regulations
      6. Title 14, Article 4.5 of the California Code of Regulations
      7. Title 14, Article 5 of the California Code of Regulations 
      8. Title 14, Article 6 of the California Code of Regulations
      9. Title 14, Article 7 of the California Code of Regulations 
      10. Special Requirements For Passenger Vessels For-Hire Operations
      11. American Red Cross First-Aid training
The subjects covered on the examination include the following:
Safe Boat Operation
     • State Laws and Regulations:
          - Navigation Rules
          - Vessel Operation/Equipment
          - Lighting
          - Waterway Marking System
          - For-Hire License
          - Vessel Registration
          - Accident Reporting
 • Fire Prevention
 • Vessel Maintenance
 • First Aid

For more information about the For-Hire Vessel Operator’s Licensing Program, please contact:

Brian Carroll
DPR – Division of Boating and Waterways
For-Hire Licensing
One Capitol Mall, Suite 500
Sacramento, CA  95814
(916) 327-1835