Earn your boat operator certification


By Joellyn Jackson & Lloyd Richmond

What is BOC?

The Boat Operator Certification program allows you to demonstrate your proficiency and knowledge of a specific set of boating skills.

How many certification levels are there?

The four levels are Inland Navigator, Coastal Navigator, Advanced Coastal Navigator and Offshore Navigator. With IN, you can get endorsements for sail, inland waterways and paddle craft.

Why did USPS develop this program?

USPS responded to a United Nations resolution asking countries to develop boater certification programs that met specific requirements. USPS pioneered the program in the United States.

Why should I care about BOC?

You could save money on boat insurance. Through the USPS Boat Insurance Program, IN and CN can result in a 2.5 percent discount, while ACN and ON earn a 5 percent discount. Check with your insurance company about its discounts for education and certification. In addition, certification may make it easier to rent or charter internationally.

Is BOC a requirement?

BOC is not a requirement. Instructors who plan to teach an on-the-water course component are strongly encouraged to become IN-certified.

What do I need to do to become certified?

To become Inland Navigator-certified, you need to complete these courses and seminars:

  • Safe boating course, America’s Boating Course or basic boating
  • Seamanship or Seamanship 101 and 102
  • Engine Maintenance
  • Marine Electronics or Marine Electrical Systems or ME 101 or VHF/DSC seminar
  • How to Use a Chart or Piloting or Chart Smart or basic boating
  • Basic Weather or Onboard Weather Forecasting or Weather course
  • Using GPS or Piloting or Advanced Piloting (2004/2005 or later)
  • VHF/DSC Marine Radio or ME 102 or Marine Communications

Then you need to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Basic powerboat handling (on the water)
  • Use of fire extinguishers (live fire with your local fire department or using a simulator)

What’s included in the basic on-the-water skills demonstration?

USPS outlines specific actions and skills on the website. Check them out on pages 5–8 of the IN Guide found here.

That seems like a lot of requirements.

Most members who complete Seamanship and boat actively already have these skills. Since the USPS BOC program uses our existing classes and seminars, members have a head start with classes they’ve already taken or can easily access. Twelve “ors” appear in the list of classes required for IN certification, so you have many options for meeting the classroom ­requirements.

How can I figure out what courses and seminars to take?

Log in at USPS and check your training history or contact your squadron educational officer.

When are these courses or seminars being offered?

Check your squadron newsletter’s Educational Department section or log onto the USPS website. Go to the home page, click “Boating Courses,” at then “Locate a Course or Seminar Near You.” If you don’t find the courses or seminars you need, ask your squadron educational officer to offer them.

How much will it cost?

The course catalog has a $44 list price for an IN “passport” and powerboating book. Some squadrons choose to cover the shipping and handling costs for members. Check with your SEO.

What’s a passport?

The BOC examiner uses the passport to document educational requirements and skills completed.

United States Power Squadrons, America's Boating Club logo

The Ensign magazine is an official channel of United States Power Squadrons, America’s Boating Club, a volunteer organization whose members teach boating skills and best practices to help improve the safety of our nation’s waterways. Learn more.