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Press Release

Reminder: All Boaters Must Have License

July 02, 2003

With the increase of boating activities during the summer months, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Marine Police Division wants to remind all boaters about license requirements.

Alabama law requires that anyone 12 years old or older who operates a motorized vessel (including personal watercraft) on state waters must have an operator’s license or certification. Non-residents have a 45-day grace period per calendar year before having to obtain an operator’s license.

The Boating Safety Enhancement Act of 2001, effective January 1, 2002, changed the legal age to operate a vessel alone to 14 years old.  Any licensed operator under the age of 14 must be accompanied by someone at least 21 years old who possesses a valid license. However, there are a few exceptions:

1.  An Alabama resident who was 12 years old by January 1, 2002 may operate alone after obtaining a vessel license.

2.  An Alabama resident who has obtained a vessel license prior to January 1, 2002, regardless of age, may operate alone.

3.  A non-resident, 12-14 years old, who has obtained a vessel license either in this state or his home state prior to January 1, 2002, or is 14 years old or older may operate alone.

There are several ways to obtain your boater's certification.  You can take the certification exam at the driver's license examiners office, take the state-approved online course at www.boat-ed.com , or you may attend an approved boating course such as the Marine Police Boating Basics Course, the U.S. Power Squadron Boating Course, or the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Course. With each online or classroom course successfully completed, a certificate will be issued.  This certificate should then be taken to the examiner's office. A one-time fee of $5 cash will be charged as an application fee if you have a current Alabama’s driver’s license.  If you are a non-resident, or non-licensed driver, the cost is $23 for the issuance fee.

The operator's certification appears on the driver's license as a class and will automatically renew each time the license is renewed, unless the certification is revoked. If you are not a licensed driver, but have not been suspended or revoked, you may get a "vessel only" license. If you live out of state but boat over 45 days per year in Alabama, you will need to get a non-resident boat operator's license.

Many boaters mistakenly believe that if they have been "grandfathered in," they are exempt from the certification process altogether.  According to the law, all boat operators must get certified.  If you were born on or before April 28, 1954, you are exempt only from taking a written test.  You must still get the endorsement on your driver's license. If you were not born by that date, you must first take and pass a written test.

For information on classes being taught in various locations statewide, contact the Marine Police Division at (334) 242-3673 or 1-800-432-7389.

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