New rules & regs of the navigation since February 15th, 2016

*The Federal Council has adapted various rules & regs of the navigation laws, which apply since February 15th, 2016.

We have compiled the essential changes concerning the boat exams for you.*

Validation of other radar licenses

Official radar licenses which are issued based on other approved rules by the authorities are considered equivalent to BSV radar licenses. They are listed on the swiss licenses by an according code. The Federal Traffic Service lists foreign licenses which can be converted and validated.

Medical requirements

Visual and aural capacity are considered sufficient if the requirements according to the pertinent legislation are :

  • for visual capacity : group 3 – starting July 1st group 1 (road traffic : cat A, B, A1, B1, F, G, M)

  • for aural capacity : group 2 (road traffic cat. C, D, C1, D1)

The requirements for the visual capacity test and its validity (24 months) are regulated by art. 9, chapter 1 and 3 of the pertinent laws. The examination has to be performed by a medical doctor or an approved certified optician.

Noise / smoke / exhaust gases / fuel

Refering to boatside engine noises, according to the new regs, the following limits may not be exeeded:

  • the maximum allowable noise factor on engine-driven sportboats with power not exeeding 10 kW is set at 67dB(A)

  • for multi-engine boats with power not exeeding 10 kW on each engine, the noise factor can be increased by 3dB(A)

  • the maximum allowable noise factor of boats other than those listed under 1 and 2, is set at 72 dB(A)

Emission rules

  • The new governing emission rules and related controls are new since February 15, 2016 and conform to the requirements set forth in the regs concerning boat engines as well as generators generating electrical current on board

  • Engines installed on certified boats can be operated insofar as they have sucessfully passed the according control and as they still meet the requirements of conformity for the issuance of an emission type certificate

  • Engines which have been imported to Switzerland before December 31, 1994 or have been manufactured in Switzerland before that date may still be operated, exept two-stroke engines

Boat licenses of boats driven by two-stroke engines and do not hold a conformity declaration or an emission type certificate according to the new VASm regulations can only be operated until December 31, 2017.

Forthgoing emission inspections (tests)

Along with the new regulation of requirements of boat engines on swiss inland waters (VASm), new export rules will be rleased during 2016 and replace the current AB-SAV rules.

However, the following regulations will not be affected: delays between tests, extent of the forthgoing tests, requirements set forth for operators of specialized test facilities, on-board availability of the test result document.

Categories of sport & pleasure boats

New: the EU (united Europe) sports & pleasure boat directives now define draft categories rather than design categories.

The rules and related requirements regarding wind strength and wave height according to classificatin A-D remain unchanged. Classification of waters, offshore, beyond shore area, within or in proximity of shore and protected waters do no longer exist.

Minimum equipment

New: on the following boat types, adequate lines and ropes must be carried on board:

  • rowing boats

  • sailing boats up to 15 sq.m. (m2)

  • powerboats up to 30 kW of power

On boats without below-deck accomodation but equipped with self-draining equipment, there is no longer the requirement of carrying a scoop or bucket on board.

Inspection and maintenance of fire extinguishers or fire extinguishing installation have to be performed in accordance within the delays set by the manufacturer. The delay may not exeed 3 years.

Rescue devices for competition-capable watersports devices

Stand-up paddle boards have been included in the list of competition-capable watersport devices.

On rivers or on lakes within or outside the outer shore-zone the norms concerning swimming aids are now applied.

Boats which must give way (priority)

New: Dthe term „passenger liner“ is now replaced with “priority ship“ (day identification mark: green ball, night identification green 360° all-around light).

Exept for blue-light or special sound signals, the following right of way rules apply (when passing or crossing):

  • all boats give right of way to priority boats (during daytime green ball / green 360° all-around light during night operations)

  • all boats give right to cargo ships – exept priority boats

  • all boats give right of way to professional fishing boats – exept priority boats and cargo ships

  • all boats give right of way to sailing boats – exept priority boats, cargo ships and professional fishing boats which can clearly be identified as such

  • all engine-driven boats give right of way to rowing boats – exept priority boats, cargo ships, professional

  • windsurfers and kitesurfers give right of way to all other boats.

Convoys count as priority boats. Passenger liners have right of way over all other prioriy boats

The path of a converging priority boat must be kept clear of traffic

Behaviour when diverting

Boats without priority must allow enough space to the other boats for maneuvring. They must respect a horizontal separationn of at least 50 meters from convoys, professional fishing boats which can be properly identified as such. This distance is increased to 200 meters if passing behind professional fishing boats.

For priority boats, the distances must be selected so as to avoid interfering or endangering them.

Shore area

The rules concerning the shore areas did not significantly change. The only change is that only boats with less than 2 kW power are allowed cruising within the inner shore area.

Utilizing waterski, wakeboard, kiteboards, surfboards and similar gear, as well as „diving scooters“

A „diving scooter“ is an engine-driven vehicle that tows one or more divers under water.

They may only be used for under water operations. Operations on the surface are only allowed for rescue purposes and on short distances, i.e. to launch or retreive the vehicle.

Diving scooters may only be used by divers who:

  • belong to the authorities, the police, the army or a rescue service

  • operate commercially or

  • operate within a research program

Lights – visibility range and power

Visibility range of lights on boats – exept for sports and pleasure craft – must be at least (dark night and clear air) :

Bright light :

  • 4 km (ca. 2,2 NM) for white or yellow lights

  • 3 km (ca. 1,62 NM) for red or green lights

Normal light :

  • 2 km (ca. 1,1, NM) for white or yellow lights

  • 1,5 km (ca. 0,81 NM) for red or green lights

Minimum visibility range of lights of sports and pleasure craft of a length of less than 12 meters:

  • separate or combined lateral lights: 1 NM (ca. 1,85 km)

  • top lights, stern lights or white 360° all-around lights: 2 NM (ca. 3,7 km)

  • the port and starboard sectors of 3-colour top-lights: 1 NM / the stem sector: 2 NM

Minimum visibility range of lights of sports and pleasure craft of a length of more than 12 meters but less than 20 meters:

  • separate or combined lateral lights, stern lights and all sectors of 3-coloured top-lights: 2 NM (ca. 3,7 km)

  • top-lights: 3 NM (ca. 5,55 km)

Minimum visibility range of lights of sports and pleasure craft of a length of more than 20 meters or more:

  • separate lateral lights and stern lights: 2 NM (ca. 3,7 km)

  • top-lights: 5 NM (ca. 9,25 km)

Types of lights

Lateral lights

Lateral lights must be installed at the same height above waterline.

Top light (bow light)

The distance of the top light from the point where a line between the side lights and the centerline of the boat intersect must now be 1 meter minimum (formerly 0,5 meters).

Stern light

On boats – exept sports and pleasure craft – the stern light musst be installed on the centerline of the boat. On sports and pleasure craft the stern light must be installed as close as possible to the stern.

360° all-around light

360° all-around lights must allways be installed on the centerline oft he boat.

Combined lateral lights

Combined lateral lights must be installed in the forward section and centerline of the boat.

3-colour top light

The 3-colour top light combines lateral lights and stern light and must be installed as close as possible to the mast top.


If an installation of the top light or all-aroung light on the centerline is not possible, on powerboats of less than 12 meters these can be installed displaced sideways.

In this case a combined lateral light must be installed on – or as near as possible – centerline.

Special light combinations or signs

Engine-driven boats

On sports and pleasure craft not exeeding 7 meters and with a speed over ground of no more than 7 knots (ca. 13 km/h), a white all-around light is authorized, as long as this is registered in the ship’s license.

Engineless boats

Sailing boats which cruise only under sail – by night and under bad visibility conditions - may be equipped with 2 vertically overlapping all-around lights (as long as they are not equipped with a 3-colour top light).

These must be installed where they can be best seen. The upper light is red, the lower light is green.

Furthermore, the prescribed lateral lights and the stern light must be installed.

Transitional provisions:

Certified boats with lights that conform to the former regulations may still be used.

Boats registered or utilized in the EU or Switzerland before January 18, 2017 which abide to this regulation may still be marketed in Switzerland.

They may be utilized as long as they meet the requirements fort he issuance of a boat license.

Theory exam towards the driver’s license

The theory exam is now valid for 24 months. If an applicant does not pass the practical exam within 24 months, the theory exam has to be repeated. The delay of the theory exam can no longer be extended.

Customs regulations


Boats from abroad being imported to Switzerland must be declared to customs when entering the country. The arrival must be made at a designated custom service where the boat must be logged in for registration.

Customs import procedures for boats require presentation of all necessary documents (invoice, bill of sale, boat license, etc.).

The customs fees are the same for new and used boats and range from CHF 30 to CHF 45 per 100 kg empty weight. VAT (8 %) will be charged based on selling price, including import duties (transport, insurance, custom fees).

For swiss registration, customs will release a customs declaration (form 15.10) to be used by the Cantonal Navigation Service.

Failure to abide to these rules is punishable.

Repairs, maintenance and modifications outside the contry

Swiss registered boats may be temporarily exported outside the country for repairs, maintenance, improvements etc. without further customs proceedings. Non-registered boats must announce their temporary export at customs services.

Additional equipment added abroad (i.e. equipment, parts, etc.) is subject to custom fees and VAT.

This must be registered with customs upon re-entry and documented with the relevant documents (invoices, contracts, etc.)

Temporary utilization of foreign registered boats

Individuals residing in Switzerland

Individuals residing in Switzerland may not use or let use boats which have not been cleared by customs.

However a maximum of 12 trips (3 days re-entry delay) abroad within one year is allowed.

To qualify, a customs declaration for that temporary use must be requested at the customs service.

The resulting dues must be secured by an according deposit.

An informal import ist not allowed.

With a non-cleared boat, you may only temporarily cruise on swiss waters without the according customs notification if you don’t dock or anchor along swiss shores. Precise local regs and rules can be obtained through the local customs services.

Individuals risiding abroad

Foreign residents may use their boat in Switzerland as follows:

  • up to 1 month: informal and without customs authorization

  • more than 1 month and up to 1 year: with customs authorization (form 15.32), which can be obtained through a customs service

  • more than 1 year: customs cleared and taxes paid

Special cases

Special rules apply to boats which:

  • stay on drydock or « wintering »

  • if a sale is pending

  • for a temporary exhibit in Switzerland

Traveling and purchases abroad

When returning from abroad, travelers must carry an official travel document (identification) and spontaneously declare goods or animals at the competent customs service.

Additional information / contact

Border and customs services can be found on:

Border and customs services can be found on:

Present study documents towards the boat exams powerboats and sailing boats, cat. A/D

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