We regularly get asked about what type of licenses do you need for boating here in Hong Kong, are there any extra qualifications needed? So we have decided to put this information on the website for any one who is looking for such answers.

Buying and using your boat in Hong Kong
If you plan to buy a boat in Hong Kong, and use it locally too. You need to have local license for your boat, so your boat has a local license number. You need to have license to drive (sail) the boat (something like your car driving license) and you also need to have a license which qualifies you to handle marine engines. So you need to first get your boat licensed locally. To get this license, you have to contact Hong Kong’s marine department. Normally you can download necessary forms from their website or call them and ask them things in more details. The process is not so difficult, and as long as you have verifiable documents, everything is legal and legitimate, you don’t have to worry about anything. You can only get the boat registered locally if you have an Hong Kong Identity card or a locally registered company.

When you purchase a new boat, a professional agent will give you all necessary documents such as builder’s certificates, proof that engine is IMO certified, Invoices, shipping and insurance documents, some other documents and pictures that Hong Kong’s marine department will require etc.. It is also a good idea to ask your agent to help you register the boat when you are buying it from them to save you the hassle of going back and forth and missing small documents or signatures. If you are buying a used boat, it is easier, because the used boat in Hong Kong should already have a local license which you will only need to transfer. This process is easier than getting the new license. Ask your yacht broker to help you to transfer the boat for you. If you have bought the boat privately then you can also hire some brokers just to do the transfer for you for a small fee.

Getting a pleasure vessel operator and engineer license ( Hong Kong’s boat driving license)

First of all, to operate any motor yacht or even a speed boat with an engine, you need 2 types of licenses in Hong Kong. One is an operator’s license and other is an Pleasure vessel engineer’s license. The operator’s license is for basically maneuvering the boat and and the Engineer’s license is to be able to understand the operation and basic concept of marine engines.
So if you only have one license which is an operator’s license, and you want to take a motor yacht out in Hong Kong waters, then you have to make sure that you ask some one who has the engineer’s license to join you.

Pleasure vessel Operator license Grade 2 : This Grade 2 license holder is allowed to operate any motor yacht less than 15 meters in length (which is about 50 feet).
Engineer’s Grade 2 license : This Grade 2 Engineer’s license holder is allowed to operate engines with maximum 1500KW of total power on the boat. Which is about 2000 hp in total power. So if you have twin engines, it should not be more than 1000 hp each.
Well, the fact is that, not many boat with 15 meters in length will have twin 1000 hp engines. The maximum a sensible boat builder would put in would be 2 x 700hp engines, which would be total of 1400 hp, Which is around a 1000 KW.

After you pass the Pleasure vessel operator Grade 2 license, you need to wait for at least a year to apply for a pleasure vessel operator Grade 1 license.
Pleasure vessel operator license Grade 1 : This allows you to operate pleasure vessel of any size. So the size is basically unlimited.
Engineer’s Grade 1 license : This allows you unlimited power on a pleasure yacht only.

Contact of Hong Kong Marine department head office.
Tel:(852) 2542 3711 Fax:(852) 2541 7194
Address: Harbour Building, 38 Pier Road, Central, Hong Kong

Exam to get the boating license
The Grade 2 exams for both operators and engineer’s license are multiple choice exams which are normally taken in the head office of the marine department of Hong Kong in Central (Hong Kong).
For Grade 1 exam of pleasure vessel operator there is a oral examination. The Engineer’s exam however is multiple choice exam.

Self Study or join a course
Although the exams are not very difficult but they will have some tricky questions, if you just read a book and expect to pass the exam then you are in for a surprise. We recommend you join any of the pleasure vessel licensing course in Hong Kong, you can search for them on the internet. These courses will also require you to go through some past exam papers to make you understand what type of questions will be there. There will be questions regarding some morse codes, some type of questions where you have to recognize the type of boats by their lights and surely some important questions on fire safety

In case of emergency, contact the Hong Kong marine rescue on 22337999 or the Hong Kong vessel traffic centre on 22337801. If you don’t have a telephone signal then use your VHF, tune into channels 12, 14 or 67.

Some tips

While boating in Hong Kong, make sure you don’t carry more people in your boat than the limit in your boat’s certificate of ownership. The Hong Kong’s marine police will impose heavy penalties on you, cancellation of license, heavy fines or arrest, if you are carrying more people. Since there have been some accidents on the sea in Hong Kong in the past few years. The marine police and marine department is in no mood to let minor things go. So be careful and never make such stupid mistakes.
Make sure all your navigation lights are working, your signal such as your horn is working and it’s a good idea to have a working VHF too incase you go to a place where you loose mobile phone signal.
Check your fuel tanks before you leave, Plan your trip well. Understand what is the distance you are traveling and your engine’s fuel consumption and make sure you have enough fuel to go back and forth and a little extra, incase you decide to hang around while leaving your engines turned on. You will be surprised knowing how fast your idling engine may also suck up your fuel. Especially if your generator or air conditioning is turned on.
If you have kids on the boat, please make sure that your life jackets are of proper size and have head rest for kids. It’s most unfortunate that kids cannot hold their heads for long in the water or can pass out easily. You need to have the right type of life saving equipment onboard. Also make sure your fire extinguisher is maintained and is the right one. Carry flares or other signal devices if you can, don’t expect other boaters to hear your screams and presume you need help. Don’t even presume that you are near the shore so you won’t need signals. Lot of deaths happen when accidents occur very near the shore.
When a person falls off the boat, the first thing you do is turn off the engine. Never ever make an attempt to drive your boat near the person on sea to rescue him or her. There have been plenty of such mistakes. It’s very easy for a person to get sucked into the propellers since the water is flowing through the propellers of your boat. Best idea is to turn off your boat engines, throw a life ring , or put on a life jacket yourself and jump into the sea.

Hope you find this article helpful, please feel free to contact us incase we have missed something or if any of the information is not right.
Happy Boating


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