Evidence of Competence Abroad

Check what you need before going abroad. Use the links below to navigate around the page:



Validity of RYA certificates abroad

When a UK ICC issued by the RYA or any other RYA certificate is acceptable is determined by:

 

  1. The legislation of the flag state (country of registration) of the boat
  2. If different, the legislation of the country in which the boat is being used

 

Within the applicable legislation acceptance may differ due to the size and type of boat, the nationality of the owner, where the boat is being used, how the boat is being used (e.g. by somebody other than the owner or for financial gain or to carry passengers).

 

You must refer to the flag and coastal state legislation to determine whether your certificate(s) will be acceptable.

 

Information for UK flagged Pleasure Vessels which arrive in the waters of another country by water can be found in the Where might the ICC be accepted? section of this page.

Applicable Legislation

The requirement for evidence of competence varies from country to country. Sometimes it is required for coastal waters, sometimes for inland waters, sometimes for neither and sometimes for both.

The law of the sea is frequently misunderstood, with many boaters believing that they can go wherever they wish abiding only by the rules of the country in which the boat is registered (the Flag State). 

When you visit another country, in most circumstances (as detailed in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) you can be required to comply with the maritime legislation of the visited country (the Coastal State) in addition to that of your vessel’s Flag State.

You will need to have acceptable evidence of your competence if either the Flag State or the Coastal State legislation stipulates it (requirements may vary depending on the size and type of vessel and how it is used). 

Experiences differ greatly. Inconsistency from province to province and port to port means many boaters are never asked to provide evidence of their competence abroad. However, those that are asked and do not have a suitable document can find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.

Whether this is stipulated in the national legislation, required under local rules or the local port authority making unilateral decisions is often not clear. Querying the validity of such requests can make matters worse and to challenge the legality of a fine or other penalty would, in most cases, mean going to court abroad.

What do I need?

Whether evidence of competence is required and what form that should take will be determined by the Flag State of the boat you are operating and, if different, additionally by the Coastal State. You must comply with the legislation of both the vessel’s Flag State and the Coastal State. 

If your Flag State is the UK see our information on what is required for a Pleasure Vessel in the UK.

The onus is on you to determine what is acceptable. 

Scope of RYA advice

The RYA's advice on where evidence of competence is necessary is intended for British recreational boaters operating UK registered Pleasure Vessels and is based both on what we understand the law to say and boaters' experiences in the country. The RYA generally recommends carrying the ICC as evidence of competence in other European countries, but you may find that other certificates are also acceptable.

What is the ICC?

The ICC (or to give it its full title International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft) is a certificate which is intended to provide evidence of competence when requested by officials in foreign countries. It was historically known as the International Certificate of Competence.

It is issued under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Inland Transport Committee Working Party on Inland Water Transport Resolution No. 40. The Resolution details how and to whom the ICC may be issued, the syllabus requirements and the layout of the certificate. The Resolution also lists the countries which have notified the UNECE Secretariat that they have accepted the resolution.

The UK Government has accepted Resolution No. 40 and has authorised the RYA to issue a UK ICC on its behalf. 

The origin and history of the ICC

The 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.

The rules surrounding the issue of the ICC were initially detailed in Resolutions 13 and 14, but it is Resolution No. 40, which was first adopted in October 1998, which now regulates the ICC.

Over time, the ICC has evolved into a document which enables boaters to evidence their competence when visiting both the inland waterways of Europe and European coastal waters.  

So what does the ICC do?

When you visit another country, in most circumstances (in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) you can be required to comply with the maritime legislation of the visited country (the Coastal State) in addition to that of your vessel’s country of registration (the Flag State).

The regulations for pleasure craft can vary considerably from one country to another and the regime for skipper training and licencing can be equally disparate; the ICC helps to overcome the difficulties these differences can cause.

An ICC issued by a contracting government to Resolution No. 40 indicates that the certificate holder has demonstrated the level of competence required by Resolution No. 40 for the certificate to be issued.

In other words it is an assurance from one government to another that the certificate holder is sufficiently competent to be operating a pleasure craft, despite not holding the visited country’s national certificate. 

Formal acceptance of the ICC

The ICC should be automatically accepted in countries which have adopted Resolution No. 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 No. 40.

Many of the eligible countries have not accepted Resolution No. 40, some still apply Resolution 14 which Resolution No. 40 was intended to replace and others only apply Resolution No. 40 in part or with caveats attached.

Wider (informal) 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 No. 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 No. 40 but are still 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.

What does the ICC not do?

The validity of the ICC is frequently misunderstood. The ICC is not the boating equivalent of the EU driving licence for road vehicles, which all EU member states are obliged to accept.

The ICC’s validity is in fact determined by the visited country, so it is not a truly international qualification. It is nevertheless a valuable document when boating abroad as the ICC is the only international evidence of competence that exists for pleasure boaters in Europe.

Some countries may accept the ICC as an alternative to their national qualification on their nationally flagged vessels, but this should never be assumed, as the ICC was never intended to be an alternative to Flag State qualification requirements.

With the exception of certificates where the power category is restricted to vessels up to 10m length overall, an ICC does not state the maximum size of vessel the certificate is valid for. Such limits vary from country to country and are determined by the country in which the certificate is being used.

The RYA is frequently asked how far offshore the ICC is valid. On the high seas or in UK territorial waters the applicable legislation for a UK flagged boat is the UK Merchant Shipping Regulations. This legislation does not require the skipper of a pleasure vessel to have an ICC, therefore the UK ICC issued by the RYA only becomes relevant within the territorial or internal waters of another country, and the visited country determines the ICC’s validity.

If the sail “including auxiliary engine” category is validated on an ICC this indicates that the certificate holder’s competence has been verified for a vessel where the primary means of propulsion is sail. Competence to use the sailing vessel under the power of its secondary means of propulsion, its engine, has also been verified. The intention is that the sail category alone demonstrates competence for a sailing yacht with an auxiliary engine. The RYA’s view is that if your competence for a sailing vessel with auxiliary engine has been demonstrated, and this remains the case even if the mast is down; accordingly the RYA doesn’t think it is necessary to have an ICC valid for power in order to take a sailing yacht with the mast down on the inland waterways of Europe. However, when doing so you will be under the jurisdiction of the visited country and it is their interpretation of the ICC’s validity which prevails.

Restrictions imposed by the visited country on the validity of the ICC most commonly relate to the size of the boat. But the visited country could also restrict how far offshore you can venture, the type of boat you can use or could decline to accept the ICC altogether. Such restrictions are most likely to apply to smaller boats especially open boats and boats that are kept in a foreign port or are launched from foreign shores. Owners should check the local regulations before launching.

Restrictions may also apply when chartering abroad and charterers should consult the charter boat provider for advice.

The national legislation of a country provides a good indication of whether restrictions are likely (and together with local regulations would ultimately determine what restrictions can be imposed and the possible penalties for non-compliance).

The fact that you are eligible to receive a UK ICC issued by the RYA does not mean that it will be acceptable to the Flag State of the boat you own, use or hire and it does not mean that it will be accepted as evidence of competence in the country in which you plan to go boating.

It is up to you to make the necessary enquiries to ensure the UK ICC issued by the RYA is the correct document specific to your circumstances. 

The ICC cannot be commercially endorsed and should never be used as evidence of competence for commercial activities.

The ICC issued by the RYA is issued on behalf of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA); it does not entitle you to any other certificate (in the UK or abroad).

Where might the ICC be accepted?

Acceptance of the ICC by the visited country should be because the visited country itself has accepted Resolution No. 40. However, as the UK is one of only a few countries which have fully accepted Resolution No. 40 this is quite often not the case. The ICC may also be recognised as acceptable evidence of competence in the visited country’s national legislation or it may be accepted on a purely informal basis.

Acceptance of the ICC is determined in accordance with both the vessel’s Flag State legislation and that of the visited country. It is essential that holders of the ICC check that no further evidence of competence is required either by the Flag State or by the country in which the boat is being used (the Coastal State).

The size of boat your ICC is acceptable for also varies from country to country and this is again determined by the authorities of the visited country.

The onus is on ICC holders to determine its acceptability.

In very general terms an ICC is recommended 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. 

The information in the table applies to UK flagged Pleasure Vessels which arrive in the waters of another country by water. Additional requirements may apply to boats that are being launched from foreign shores - check the local regulations before launching as site specific rules may apply. Different rules apply when chartering abroad. 

Country

 

Resolution 40

Evidence of competence?

Austria  Applied  Required. ICC recommended
Belgium Applied

Coastal: not required

Inland: ICC required for vessels over 15m in length or capable of more than 20km/h (approx. 11 knots), otherwise not required

Croatia Applied Essential. ICC recommended
Denmark 
The skipper should have the relevant UK national certificate
Finland   Applied Not required
France  

Visitors to France on foreign flagged boats are required to have the licence required by the vessel’s flag state. Further information for RYA members.

Coastal: It is recommended (particularly in the Mediterranean) that you carry any certificates you have with you. 

Inland: ICC recommended as it demonstrates knowledge of the CEVNI regulations

Germany Applied 

Coastal Waters including Zone 1 and 2 waterways: there is no maximum length for which the German 'Sportbootführerschein' is valid for coastal waters therefore acceptance of the ICC should have no upper length limit. 

Inland Zone 3 and 4 waterways: required. ICC accepted for vessels of less than 20m in length except the River Rhine.

River Rhine: required. ICC accepted for vessels less than 15m in length. 

Greece   Yes. ICC recommended
Ireland Applied  Not required
Italy  

Coastal: Yes. ICC recommended

Inland: check locally

Malta    ICC recommended especially for motorised craft 
Netherlands  Applied 

Coastal: not required

Inland: ICC required for vessels over 15m in length or capable of more than 20km/h (approx. 11 knots), otherwise not required*

Norway Applied  Not required             
Poland Applied  Required. ICC recommended
Portugal     Required. ICC recommended
Spain    Required. ICC recommended
Sweden    Not required
Switzerland   Applied Essential. The ICC is only sufficient for visitors - Swiss residents require a Swiss licence  
Turkey    Required. ICC recommended

Explanatory notes to the table (above)

*Certificates must have been issued prior to 2011 to be valid for vessels over 25m in length.

Note: where evidence 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) 1858)) 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 under another Red Ensign Group Flag (e.g. in one of the Crown Dependencies) you will need to comply with the regulations applied by that Flag’s administration.

Impact of Brexit on acceptance of RYA certificates in EU Member States

A vessel must comply with the legislation of its country of registration (Flag State) wherever in the world it may be. When you visit another country, in most circumstances (as detailed in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) you may be required additionally to comply with the maritime legislation of the visited country (the Coastal State). Whether UK certificates issued by the RYA are acceptable in other countries continues to be determined by the legislation of the country in which the boat is registered and the country in which the boat is being used.

Links to information by country can be found in the table above. In particular, we draw your attention to the following:

Ireland

RYA Certificates of Competency, along with certain other UK issued ancillary certifications, are no longer valid for Commercial Endorsement in Ireland effective 1/1/21.

Spain

Until the end of 2020, the acceptance UK certificates for the operation of Spanish flagged pleasure boats was based on the UK being an EU Member State. Acceptance on that basis ceased from 1 January. Revised legislation has come into force and we have provided information on what we understand the new legislation to say on our page specific to Spain.

Professional use of RYA certificates abroad

RYA professional qualifications (e.g. commercially endorsed certificates of competence) are accepted by the UK Government for use on UK-flagged commercial yachts but such qualifications are not, and never have been, STCW-compliant certificates. As such, RYA professional qualifications are not subject to the mutual-recognition mechanism envisaged in the STCW convention and they no longer fall within the scope of the EU Directive on the mutual recognition of seafarers’ certificates issued by member states.

RYA professional qualifications are accepted by several non-UK national administrations for use on vessels flying their flags but this is a matter for each of those administrations individually and there is no obligation on them to do so. The UK leaving the EU has not necessarily changed such positions, and it has not altered the acceptability of RYA professional qualifications to the UK Government for use on UK-flagged commercial yachts.

However, if holders of commercially endorsed Yachtmaster Offshore or Ocean Certificates of Competence experience difficulties with overseas administrations, they may wish to explore the route from RYA Yachtmaster to MCA Master, II/2, code vessels less than 200 GT/Officer of the Watch yachts, less than 500 GT. Further details of what is required and the route to achieving this can be found in MSN 1858.

Chartering Abroad

If you are chartering a vessel abroad, you will generally need evidence of your competence. As the vessel is unlikely to be UK flagged, it is necessary to ask the charter company for advice on what evidence of competence will be acceptable.

There is no international requirement for another country to accept a UK qualification in place of their own - except for under certain conditions full STCW qualifications (for working aboard large commercial vessels).

RYA certificates are widely accepted, but this is not always the case. The RYA can inform the authorities in other countries about its certificates but cannot control whether or not other countries accept them. 

When planning your overseas charter, it is prudent to obtain from the charter provider (preferably in writing) details of the evidence of competence they require. You should check:

  • what cruising area it is acceptable for;  
  • that it meets the requirements of the applicable legislation and will be acceptable to the relevant authorities; and 
  • that it meets any requirements of their insurance.
To the ICC

More about the UK ICC issued by the RYA including how to apply.

Go

Certificate Translations

As Yachtsmen travel further afield, the acceptance and knowledge of RYA certification by port officials is of greater importance. The ICC often assists, but the countries to which RYA certified skippers now venture far exceed its scope.

RYA certificates are widely accepted, but this is not always the case.

The RYA can inform the authorities in other countries about its certificates but cannot control whether or not other countries accept them. 

The translations of the practical certificates provided here and on the reverse side of some newly issued certificates should make it easier for port officials to understand them and make an informed decision.

By selecting the dot that corresponds with the country and the certificate or syllabus you require, download the relevant translations for the certificate you hold and take them with you.


Arabic Chinese Croatian Dutch French German Greek Italian Polish Portuguese Russian Spanish Thai Turkish

Certificates of Competence exam syllabi and certificates endorsed for commercial use

International Certificate of Competence

 

Powerboat Level 2 certificate
Powerboat Advanced certificate of competence  
Day Skipper certificate
Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Coastal certificate of competence  
Coastal Skipper/ Yachtmaster Coastal /Powerboat Advanced exam syllabus
 
Yachtmaster Offshore certificate of competence
 
Yachtmaster Offshore exam syllabus  
Yachtmaster Ocean certificate of competence
 
Yachtmaster Ocean exam syllabus  


 





 




 

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Sail cruising certificates and course syllabuses

Start Yachting course completion certificate 
 





 




Start Yachting course syllabus 
 





 




Competent Crew course completion certificate 
 





   



Competence Crew course syllabus
 





   



Day Skipper course completion certificate 
 





 




Day Skipper course syllabus 
 





 




Coastal Skipper  course completion certificate 
 





 




Coastal Skipper course syllabus
 





 






 





 




 

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Motor Cruising certificates and course syllabuses

Helmsmans course completion certificate
 





 




Helmsmans course syllabus
 



 
 




Day Skipper course completion certificate
 





 




Day Skipper course syllabus
   



   




Coastal Skipper course completion certificate
 





 




Coastal Skipper course syllabus
 





 






 





 





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Powerboat and Personal Watercraft certificates and course syllabuses

Powerboat Level 2 course completion certificate
 





 




Powerboat Level 2 course syllabus
 





 




Powerboat Intermediate course completion certificate
 





 




Powerboat Intermediate course syllabus
 





 




Powerboat Advanced course completion certificate
 





 




Powerboat Advanced course syllabus
 





 




Personal Watercraft proficiency certificate
 





 




Personal Watercraft course syllabus
 





 





Queries regarding certificate translations should be directed to the Training Department email training@rya.org.uk or telephone 023 8060 4181.

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