The oversight of commercial boating in Massachusetts falls under the jurisdiction of the state's Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), which issues permits for activities such as commercial fishing and ensures adherence to relevant regulations. The U.S. Coast Guard manages federal regulations, overseeing safety inspections and enforcing boating safety regulations for commercial vessels. This industry significantly contributes to the state's economy and culture, offering employment opportunities, supporting local businesses, and allowing individuals to relish Massachusetts' waterways' beauty.

All operators affiliated with GetMyBoat must comply with local guidelines and operate within legal boundaries. This necessitates obtaining proper registrations, passes, permits, meeting vessel and captain requirements, utilizing designated docks and permitted boating areas for commercial activities, and abiding by additional regulations set forth by local laws and facility rules. To assist with this, we've compiled essential information for boating in Massachusetts.


To ensure the safety of passengers, adhere to legal requirements, and protect your boat rental business, it's crucial to obtain the right insurance. The specific coverage needed may differ depending on the location, considering factors such as the boat's passenger capacity and the nature of the activities. To receive assistance in determining the appropriate coverage, don't hesitate to reach out to our affiliate, Boat Charter Insurance.

Age Requirements:

  • Individuals under the age of 12 are allowed to operate a motorboat on Massachusetts waters only when they are accompanied on board and under the direct supervision of a capable person who is 18 years of age or older.
  • For those aged 12 to 15, operating a motorboat in Massachusetts waters is permitted under the following conditions:
      • Successful completion of a state-approved boating education course, or
      • Being on board and directly supervised by a competent person who is 18 years of age or older.
  • Individuals who are 16 years of age or older may operate a motorboat on Massachusetts waters without any age-related restrictions.

Please note that it is illegal to lease or rent a Personal Watercraft (PWC) to anyone under 16 years of age. Additionally, it is illegal to lease or rent a PWC to someone aged 16 or 17 who does not possess the necessary Boating Safety Certificate.

USCG License:

It's vital that every boat captain holds an appropriate U.S. Coast Guard license correlating with the size and type of their vessel. For boats accommodating up to six passengers, a 6-pack license is necessary, while those accommodating more than six passengers require a Master Captain's license. Captains are instrumental in upholding the safety of their charter vessels and the welfare of all passengers on board. To delve deeper into captain's licenses, feel free to explore the Mariners Learning System website for further information.

Required Licenses:

Commercial boaters in Massachusetts are required to obtain the necessary permits needed to operate legally. The type of permit(s) required depends on the type of activity being conducted.

  • Fishing License: It comes in two forms: Boat License and Individual License. The Boat License allows anyone on the vessel to fish, whereas the Individual License is exclusive to the holder.
  • Vessel Operating License: This license is mandatory for all commercial vessels in Massachusetts waters. The fee varies based on the vessel's size. Many states and cities necessitate an operating license for commercial vessels, which typically ensures compliance with safety and environmental standards.
  • All commercial boats in Boston must hold a valid annual license from the Boston Inspectional Services Department (ISD). Certain boats may also require additional permits for services like food or mooring from the ISD.
  • Additional Licenses: Depending on your vessel's specific activities, additional licenses from state or local authorities might be necessary. For example, permits could be required for navigating particular water bodies or engaging in activities like diving or whale watching.

Kindly reach out to the Division of Marine Fisheries(DMF) and the specific County where you intend to operate to acquire further details regarding the required operating permits.

Registration and Titling:

All motorized boats operating in Massachusetts public waterways, including motorized fishing boats, canoes, and sailboats with motors, are obligated to be registered. Boats that are 12 feet or longer, regardless of their power, and sailboats 18 feet or longer, regardless of power, require titling. Non-motorized boats are not required to be registered. More information can be found on the Mass website.

Passenger Pick Up/ Drop Off:

Numerous places provide designated passenger areas for boat drop-offs and pickups when renting. Before finalizing your arrangements, make sure to check the pickup and drop-off policies with the marina or dock.

  • Fort Point Pier:Located at 21 Wormwood St #215, Boston, MA 02210
  • Wellfleet Town Pier: Located at 255 Commercial St, Wellfleet, MA 02667

Vessel safety equipment:

All motorboats must carry personal flotation devices (PFDs), a fire extinguisher, navigation lights, a sound signaling device, an anchor, chain, and line.More information on requirements can be found in the MA Boaters Handbook.

Additional Information:

  • Anchoring is forbidden in the Charles River between the Charles River Dam and the Boston Harbor walk for commercial boats.
  • Speed limits within Boston Harbor are set at 5 knots or less within 300 feet of the shore, 10 knots or less within 1,000 feet of the shore, and 15 knots or less in open water.
  • No wake zones, found near marinas, swimming areas, and sensitive zones, necessitate that commercial boats operate without creating a wake.
  • Commercial fishing in Boston Harbor is subject to various limitations, contingent on the targeted fish species and seasonal factors.
  • Commercial boats carrying more than six passengers or more than 12 passengers (if all are over 12 years old) must possess a valid Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection (COI).
  • Operations in restricted areas like the Boston Inner Harbor or the Charles River necessitate a valid Boston Harbormaster's Office Special Use Permit (SUP).
  • Commercial boats operating for hire are mandated to have a valid Boston Harbormaster's Office Commercial Boat License (CBL).
  • Displaying a valid Boston Harbormaster's Office Commercial Vessel Decal on the vessel is mandatory.

More information on boating in Massachusetts can be obtained by contacting DMF at (617) 626-1520 or by emailing