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Boating Abroad

Are you going on holiday this year to any of the countries listed below?






If the answer is yes, and you are planning to use a boat (either your own or a charter boat) whilst there; you need to think about your International Boat Driving Licence.

Whilst the UK doesn't require any formal licence or qualifications to drive a boat for pleasure, many countries in Europe and the rest of the world do.

Qualifications for Boating in Europe;

When driving a boat in coastal waters abroad you may be required to hold an International Certificate of Competence (The International Boat Licence). 

This means you have completed the appropriate training (such as the RYA Powerboat Level 2) to helm a boat of a certain size in coastal waters.

If you are planning to explore many of the inland waterways that france and continental Europe have to offer, you are required to undertake a short theory test (just like driving on the roads). This test can either be taken at our centre in Putney with one of our instructors or can be taken online from the comfort of your own armchair at home!

Much like the theory test on the roads the inland waterways test consists in most cases of self study; however, our instructors are always happy to answer any questions you may have - please ask!

If you would like any further information on boating abroad and to find out which licences you may need please send us an enquiry.

About The "ICC"

The International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft (commonly referred to as the International Certificate of Competence - ICC) was originally created to facilitate pleasure navigation along the length of the rivers Rhine and Danube.

The evidence of competence required, differed for each of the countries the rivers pass through, which caused difficulties. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Inland Transport Committee Working Party on Inland Water Transport sought to find a solution.


Resolution 40

The rules surrounding the issue of the ICC were initially detailed in UNECE ITC Resolution 14. This resolution has been superseded by an enhanced version, Resolution 40, which now regulates the ICC, stipulating who the ICC can be issued to, the syllabus requirements and the layout of the certificate.

The UK Government has accepted Resolution 40 and has authorised the RYA to issue the ICC on its behalf. 



An ICC is valid for 5 years from the date of issue.

If a boat owner requires proof of competence when visiting another European country the ICC will frequently suffice. It can also be useful for people wishing to charter.

The ICC does not replace the need to comply with any manning requirements imposed by the country in which the boat is registered, wherever in the world the boat may be. Where evidence of competence is required by the country of registration, pleasure boaters must comply with the regulations of both the country of registration (the Flag State) and the requirements of the visited country (the Coastal State).

The ICC should be automatically accepted in countries which have adopted Resolution 40. However of the 56 UNECE countries, able to accept the resolution the UK is one of only a handful which have fully adopted Resolution 40. Many of the eligible countries have not accepted Resolution 40, some still apply Resolution 14 which Resolution 40 was intended to replace and others only apply Resolution 40 in part or with caveats attached.
Wider acceptance

The ICC is however a far more useful document than the Resolution’s formal acceptance would suggest. Although acceptance of the ICC by the visited country should be because the visited country itself has adopted Resolution 40, the ICC is sometimes recognised as an acceptable certificate in the visited country’s national legislation and is quite often accepted on a purely informal basis. Spain, Greece and Portugal, for example, have not adopted Resolution 40 but are still most likely to ask visitors for an ICC.

The ICC may be acceptable for visiting foreign flagged vessels, foreign flagged vessels being kept in the Coastal State and / or vessels flagged in the Coastal State. It should never be assumed that the ICC will be accepted as an alternative to the national qualification of the vessel's flag state. The onus is on ICC holders to determine its acceptability by foreign states, as the ICC was never intended to be an alternative to individual national qualification requirements.


The informal acceptance of the ICC by many of the EU countries has contributed to the common misconception that the ICC is of EU origin. The ICC is frequently but wrongly thought to be the boating equivalent of the EU driving licence for road vehicles, which all EU member states are obliged to accept.

An ICC allows the holder to voyage internationally but only where the country to be visited has chosen to accept it and subject to any prescriptions made by the visited country. 

As the ICC’s validity is determined by the visited country it is not a truly international qualification. However, the ICC is the only international evidence of competence that exists for pleasure boaters in Europe and, through attendance at the UNECE in its role as Secretariat of the European Boating Association, the RYA continues to work to get the ICC more widely accepted in Europe.

This is also explained in the ICC the small print, which sent out with ICC certificates to provide the certificate holder with infomation about how that certificate can be used.


ICC required or recommended

The requirement for a certificate of competence varies from country to country. Sometimes they are required for coastal waters, sometimes for inland waters, sometimes for neither and sometimes for both.

In very general terms an ICC is required for the inland waterways of Europe and for inland and coastal waters of Mediterranean countries. For the coastal waters of Northern Europe the ICC is generally not required, however to all of these generalisations there are exceptions.

Note: where proof of competence is required under the Merchant Shipping Regulations i.e. UK pleasure vessels exceeding both 80 GT and 24m (load line) length (see Merchant Shipping Notice (MSN) 1802) and for any vessel which is used for commercial purposes, the ICC is insufficient and it must be supported by the requisite certificate of competence. 

If your vessel is registered in one of the Crown Dependencies, you will need to comply with the regulations applied by that Dependency’s administration, which may differ.


Renewing the ICC

If you are still living at the same address, shortly before your ICC is due to expire, you will receive notification of how to renew it by post. If you have moved, or your renewal notification does not arrive, you can request a copy from the certification department. The renewal form is also available in the downloads area here.

If you chose to renew, your new certificate, valid for a further 5 years, will be issued with the same categories validated as your existing certificate. The only exception to this is for certificates issued prior to 1st April 1999, where certificates will only be re-validated for inland waters if we have proof that the applicant has passed the CEVNI test. This is a multiple choice test, which can be taken on-line, at a RYA recognised training centre or an affiliated club authorised to carry out the test. 

Should you require any further categories validated you will need to pass the appropriate ICC assessment or provide the necessary documentary evidence of competence as detailed on the form.

You will also need to provide proof of your eligibility to apply for an ICC which will normally be a copy of the photograph page of your passport, a copy of a recognised national identity card or evidence that you are a British resident.

  • Belgium,

  • France,

  • Italy,

  • Poland,

  • Austria,

  • Belarus,

  • Bulgaria,

  • Croatia,

  • Czech Republic,

  • Finland,

  • Germany,

  • Hungary,

  • Ireland,

  • Lithuania,

  • Luxembourg,

  • Netherlands,

  • Romania,

  • Serbia, 

  • Slovakia,

  • Switzerland

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