Yachting Art Magazine

Skippers Without Borders: Towards a Single Boating Diploma Reference in the European Union?

Skippers' training and skills differ from one country to the other. In Europe, discussions are being now initiated to try to harmonize curricula. Legisplaisance decrypts the issues and reflections for Yachting Art Magazine.

Skipping a Bénéteau Oceanis Yacht 62

Skipping a Bénéteau Oceanis Yacht 62

Skippers Without Borders: Towards a Single Boating Diploma Reference in the European Union?

The professional qualifications in the different member States of the boating sector are not presently mutually accepted by the other Member States. Skippers who, for example, have a commercial qualification of the British Yachtmaster shall only operate on ships with a British flag, the same goes for skippers with Spanish or German qualifications who can only operate on ships of the country corresponding to their qualification.

In the hot spots of boating such as the Western Mediterranean Sea where boats from different European countries are based, this situation has serious effects on the flexibility of work and the mobility of skippers that are limited to their home flag for the operation of ship even though the ships in different countries may have identical characteristics. This situation affects skippers and all maritime personnel

All the countries of the European Union have training diplomas for skippers for navigation in pleasure yachting with ships that are less than 24 meters. However, the required skills to navigate vary and there is no equivalence between the countries.


  • France provides compulsory training and the Captain's 200 Certificate requires almost 800 hours of courses to which twelve months of effective navigation must be added.
  • England prefers to validate an acquired experience and the Yacht Master Exam, in comparison, only requires 40 hours of preparation for the final exam and 5 days of navigation

In view of this, the authorities of the Member States chose to work towards harmonization, as did the personnel working on vessels that are over the 24 meters whose training meets the standards of the International Maritime Organization.

To fight against the fact that different trainings are difficult to compare and the fact that that situation creates a source of inequality between sailors of pleasure yachting, standards are gradually being set between the Member States of the European Union in order to compare the qualifications acquired. Nowadays between 2500 and 300 fundamental training elements have already been defined.

After two years of work, research, and analysis, participants to the European project TCC-SCV presented the results at the occasion of a final conference in Brussels in 2016 in the form of their project: “Skippers Without Borders”. The system of comparison to be established and the means of reflection to implement the mobility of skippers in their professional activity have been discussed with the representatives of the European Union and several national organizations.

Under the auspices of the European Federation of Nautical Construction, this day was an opportunity to understand the difficulties of mobility encountered daily by skippers of pleasure ships of less than 24 meters in Europe.

According to the members of the project, between 50 and 75 000 permanent or occasional skippers would be affected by these restrictive measures. Although it is difficult to understand the economic data related to this field of activity, it is estimated that 60 000 charter boats are active in Europe and that the turnover generated by this sector represents 6 million euros every year.

Since skippers' diplomas are the responsibility of the national authorities, and since there is no generalized equivalence of these diplomas or of their prerogatives, it creates notorious administrative difficulties for rental companies or chartering agency.

We wanted to compare objectively the contents of the diplomas and incorporate the professional competence standards of the Croatian, Czech, French, German, Slovenian, English and Spanish qualifications as they were presented by each referring expert. These competencies are divided in the smallest possible way, into what is called "Fundamental Element", in order to harmonize the comparisons.

To go further on the project:

Pending satisfactory harmonization of these Fundamental Elements, some countries are considering the idea of creating a new European diploma which would allow skippers to work internationally.

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