Skipper License in South Africa is issued by SAMSA: South Africa Maritime Safety Authority. It was established through the SAMSA Act 5 in 1998. 

If you are operating a boat that has an engine of 15hp or more, then you will need a skipper license. You can use this license as a permit to sail near dams, on rivers and other inland water bodies, harbours, and seas. This depends on the type of license you own. This license is also known as the Certificate of Competency (CoC).

South Africa takes maritime laws and safety very seriously. Unauthorized operations on the sea are charged with high-level punishment, so watch out. This is exactly why you would need a Skipper Licence in South Africa. You can train in a SAMSA-accredited training school to get a Skipper License.

Let’s begin with understanding the type of documents you will need to enrol into a Skipper License course and to obtain a skipper license.

Basic Prerequisites to obtaining a Skipper License in South Africa

  • 16 years of age or older
  • Valid Copy of ID
  • 2-4 ID/Passport photos
  • Medical Certificate
  • Minimum hours logged and certified by a licensed skipper (depends on the type of license you are applying for. More details are given below in the categories.)
  • 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

Note: To fulfil the minimum hour requirement for each course, you can pick up an apprenticeship with an appropriately licensed skipper. If you are serious about sailing, start keeping a log as soon as you start your journey as a sailor. This can go a long way to prove your experience and nautical miles as you climb the ladder.

Skipper License Categories:

R Category License – Sheltered Waters

If you are looking to get into powerboating as a profession, looking for an R-category license or an E-category license is a good option. These are entry-level license categories. The R-category license will allow you to operate within inland water bodies, such as dams, lagoons, rivers, lakes, and around harbours in South Africa.

As a prerequisite for the license, you must have logged 50 hours at dam/rivers or sea under a certified licensed skipper to be able to qualify. For this course, you will have a written exam but have no practical boat training or navigational training. However, the course does provide a training session that abides by the NSRI/SAMSA manual.

E Category License – Day Skipper

This license is required if you wish to set sail on seawater. This license will allow you to sail within 1 nautical mile from the coast and a maximum of 15 nautical miles along the coast.

Along with the basic requirements, you will have to log a minimum of 50 hours strictly at sea. This should be supervised and signed by a certified skipper license holder. There should be proof of skipper’s identity and validity, along with the sworn statement that the hours logged are true and correct.

The exam process has a training session and a written exam. Also, there will also be a short practical exam for sailing and an oral QnA examination.

Note 1: Category R and E are entry-level license courses for aspiring skippers.

Note 2: You can skip an E-class course, and do a C-class course by attending a sea academy. Here, the instructor will help you go through a variety of courses that are equivalent to the C-certificate’s requirements.

C Category License – Day Skipper, 15 Miles Offshore

An advanced license for sailors who are seeking to sail deeper in the sea. With a C-category license, you can travel 15 nautical miles from the coast and 15 nautical miles from an approved launch site.

To obtain a C-Licence, you need to log in a minimum of 25 hours on a minimum category D vessel at sea. To be signed off by a licensed sea skipper with a skipper license C or higher. You will also have to pass the exam on 4 advanced subjects and a practical on navigation.

B Category License – Day Skipper, 40 Miles Offshore

B category is an upgrade from C license and needs a minimum of 25 hours of experimental training signed off by a licensed skipper. With this license, you can sail up to 40 nautical miles into the sea. And of course, you will have to pass the exam to actually obtain the license.


Surf launching endorsement:

Any of the licenses above will not allow you to launch your boat right from the beach. For such, you will need special endorsements from SAMSA. There are two ways in how you can obtain this. Please note that you cannot obtain such endorsements unless you are 18 years of age.

  1. Attend a formal coast course where a SAMSA approved examiner will test the applicant.
  2. Training under a supervisor having a valid sea skipper license with surf launch endorsement. Three launches per day and under different sea and weather conditions. Once the trainer/supervisor is convinced that the candidate is ready, they can provide a signed affidavit under oath – which can be shown to a SAMSA approved examiner. This examiner will test you for two days and if you are successful, you will receive the endorsement.


If you have any questions regarding SAMSA Skipper License, feel free to contact us any time. We will provide the best assistance in obtaining a Skipper License in South Africa.