If nonlinearities such as saturation of the amplifier gain and motor torque, gear backlash, and shaft compliances- just to name a few - are considered in the position control system of marine helm, traditional control methods are no longer sufficient to be used to improve the performance of the system. In this paper an alternative approach to traditional control methods - a neural network reference controller - is proposed to establish an adaptive control of the position of the marine helm to achieve the controlled variable at the command position. This neural network controller comprises of two neural networks. One is the plant model network used to identify the nonlinear system and the other the controller network used to control the output to follow the reference model. The experimental results demonstrate that this adaptive neural network reference controller has much better control performance than is obtained with traditional controllers.