Shawn/ January 3, 2014/ Boating, Singapore, Tips, Tricks and Guides/ 18 comments

To motorise or not to motorise. That really is the question.

Boating in Singapore in a non-motorised inflatable boat is as simple as buying the boat, inflating it and then paddling yourself to freedom… well, almost.

On the other hand, motorising an inflatable boat in Singapore is a tedious process that involves a lot of paperwork and a lot of money.

So which really is best?

If your aim is simply to move slightly offshore, then there is no need to motorise it. However, for safety reasons, you should restrict yourself to the northern shores of Singapore, specifically, the sembawang to yishun area.

Moving too close to the causeway may land you in hot water and moving too close to Ubin may land you in Malaysia, due to strong currents.

I’ve had my PPCDL for quite some time now so these are not just the words of an ill-informed boater. At least I hope not. There are a lot of things that you’ll learn if you take up a PPCDL.

The general rule of thumb is, if your only source of propulsion is a paddle, then there is no need to register your boat. Aside from kayaks and canoes (which have been expressly exempted from registrations – with some limitations), the moment you put a motor, electric or gas, you will have to register it.

One of the biggest investments in registering your boat will be the transponder. Whether it be AIS or Singapore’s HARTS, it’ll cost you close to or even over S$1000. The other big investment will be time. The rules (and places to find the rules) aren’t intuitive for a previously inexperienced guy like me. It took me over 6 months before I finally found out how to register my boat. Some of the items seem impossible to find. For example, marine flares are controlled items. Yet you are required to have it before registering. Luckily for me, I have an uncle who works in the marine industry who managed to get some for me. I still have no idea where to get them.

On the other hand, if you don’t motorise the boat, you generally don’t need all that crap. From what I know, the rules are slightly gray in that area but everyday you can see people in small boats or sampans paddling near the shore, as (I feel) they rightly should be allowed to.  The one thing you should bring though, is an all round white light. While unregistered boats are technically exempt from this requirement, the coast guard might pay you a visit if you don’t have it because they might suspect you of illegally landing. In fact, they did pay us a visit one cold dark night. They declined to take a photo though they were very nice about it (it was exciting for us!).

I registered my boat.

My aim was to be able to take my family to one of the southern islands on a whim, so getting a motorised inflatable was a no brainer – the berthing costs for a normal boat were something I could not afford at the time.

Alas, they never did join me for a trip of any kind. In fact, by the time they finally agreed to go, the floating restaurant I wanted to take them to had closed down, my second engine had died (first was crap, second one was close to death but fought till the bitter end), and the boat was damaged, yet again.

I’ve since moved on to a hardshell peddle kayak. Though in the future, I intend to either get a “proper boat”, or another inflatable (though one with much better quality). Or maybe both!

Afterword: I realise I am missing a fair bit of information on the topic. If anyone has questions, please post them in the comments section below. Otherwise, I hope to write a detailed article on the process of registering your boat in Singapore, at a later date.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this information.

  2. Hello – I am living in Phnom Penh and am looking for any information I can find on fly fishing in Cambodia. So far I have found almost nothing.

    Any information you can share about fishing here, or the types of fish that may be in the area would be very helpful.


    1. I’m afraid I’m not a fly fishing expert. But perhaps you can try this guy who looks suspiciously like a famous and well respected shore angler (pun intended for those in the know):

  3. Shawn..I’m a 74year old Singaporean, now living in the Phillipines, where the fishing is really great. You shud come out here sometime. I’ll be only too happy to show to show you around this fisherman’s paradise. Anyway to get to the point Shawn…I wonder if you could kindly direct me to somebody there who’s marketing a good brand of inflatable boat/s ? Yessir, you ‘re right…for my own means of fishing out here where I live Mindoro (province ) 5mins from the beach!! I will be very appreciative ANY kind of help from you sir. Thank you.
    Very sincerely,
    Jean Joel Mathews

  4. I am thinking of buying an inflatable kayak for pleasure and eventually do some fishing from it. Can you share where I can launch the kayak as I am a completely newbie and information is scant..

    On another note, for motorised inflatable small boat, how much did you spend overall to get it into the water?

    1. Hi Alfred,

      If you motorise your boat, you are officially only allowed to launch from marinas unless you have special dispensation from MPA. You could try asking them about launching at the ramp near Watercross @ Pasir Ris. Some safety boats (form the PA club) launch there.

      Ignoring the boat itself, and you’re own costs for getting PPCDL (about $500 to $1000), you’re looking at about an additional $2500. Approximately, the costs are as follows:
      – $1000 for HARTS/AIS transponder
      – $1000 for a 5HP motor
      – $150 for mandatory insurance
      – $40~ boat license
      – $300 for the required ’12 items’ and stenciling your license on your boat and other sundries.

  5. Can I go fishing in an inflatable non motorised boat along changi beach (or) east coast without any permiots or licenses?

    1. Yes you may.

      However, please be advised that the currents are very strong there, especially on the East Coast.

      I have not had enough experience to conclude which way the current flows at East Coast.

      The current at Changi Beach generally flows East during the outgoing tide and generally flows West during the incoming tide.

      The wind is something you need to check separately.

      Some restricted areas include, SAF Ferry Terminal (the one with the ferries that go to Pulau Tekong), Changi Naval Base, and Bedok Ketty. If you stray into the first 2 places, there may be some repercussions. My friend, Baktao, recounted to me how he and another guy once strayed into the SAF Ferry Terminal because they couldn’t control their inflatables. He described it as being “an experience”, in not a very good way.

  6. Dear Sir,
    Hope you can help I looking to buy 10pcs Inflatable Rubber Boats for rescue work in Myanmar. Can you recommend me good and reliable suppliers?


  7. Hi Tan
    I can help on suppling of reliable inflatable rubber boats, you can send enquire to


  8. Hi Shawn

    Can I get an motorised inflatable boat for leisure diving in hantu?


    1. Hi Hong,

      Sorry for the late reply.

      Sure you can! May I suggest a proper RHIB though? Not one that simply has a hard floor, but an actual rigid hull inflatable boat. The waters around Hantu can get pretty rough and the currents mighty strong (I’ve been through it on a kayak though). This big inflatable shown here exploded after bouncing off the beach when a wave came and lifted it up.

      The moment you put a motor though you have to register it. If you’re on a budget, you can rent (if you have a PPCDL) or charter a boat.

      Hope this helps!

  9. Hi!

    This is bit late, but I’m wondering if you could provide a list of suppliers that sells inflatable boats as well as other diving equipment and sorts.


    1. A list? Last I checked there’s Golden Harvest, Kairos, or you could go to and get original Saturn boats. I’m not too sure about diving equipment.

  10. Hi, I like leisure kayaking for a very long long time, in fact i had kayak’d in myanmar long long ago. But i had no chance in singapore. I know i can get some rented kayaks in some places here. But what i am interested is if I have my own inflatable, can I just go anywhere and get into waters? especially interested in Yishun Sambawang area, and beaches in sentosa. which places and what to look out for. And which spots are good places to kayak? Thanks alot.

    1. As I’ve learned over the years, it’s slightly gray. To simplify things, you can think of 3 main categories: Motorised Private Craft, Unmotorised Private Craft, Kayaks. Motorised Private Craft are subject to all the limitations you get from a registered boat. Kayaks are specifically, by name, exempted from almost everything. You would thus think that Unmotorised Private Craft are also thusly exempted but I haven’t seen anything official on this. We’ve launched kayaks and unmotorised inflatables at Yishun and Sembawang before. In all cases, you still can’t go into restricted waters like Sembawang Wharves. Good to kayak as in fishing? Anywhere is better than land. Not too sure on good fishing locations these days.

  11. Hi thanks for the info! Would you know if its possible to register a nested boat like this

    Instead of an inflatable?

    1. Sure you can. But why would you if you’re not putting a motor,

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