What skipper's licence do I need and where is it valid?

What skipper's licence do I need and where is it valid?

Wondering if your skipper's licence will be recognized in popular sailing destinations and what options you have for chartering a boat? Check out our comprehensive guide.

What kind of boat licence do I need and in which countries are my "papers" valid? Perhaps no other question arouses so much interest in yachting discussions. Therefore, we have prepared a detailed overview that addresses all aspects related to acquiring and validating skipper's licences, including the specifics of where and how to take the skipper's exam.

Let's start by exploring the different types of licences available and, more importantly, the specific rules that apply in each destination.

Which skipper's licences are internationally recognised?

No skipper's licence is universally recognised in every country. There is no global standard for the training and certification of skippers, and mutual recognition of these licenses varies, even within the European Union.

We are therefore more interested in the legal norms of individual countries than in the type of licence itself. In general, it is up to each country to decide whether to accept a licence issued in another country on its territory.

This acceptance is often governed by the "law of the flag" principle, which dictates that as long as a skipper holds a licence from the country under whose flag the yacht is registered, there should be no issue. However, whether another country's licence is accepted falls to the discretion of the country where the yacht is moored.

This principle generally applies only within a country's territorial waters, as most states enforce local laws regardless of the boat's registration or flag.

The Department of Transport often negotiates the recognition of national licences with other states, and the policies of charter companies also significantly influence this process. Let's take a look at how different countries handle licences in practice and examine the various types of certifications available.

Loď Dufour 410 označená Chorvatskou vlajkou, podle principu práva vlajkyDufour 410 sailing under the Croatian flag, adhering to the "law of the flag" principle 

What kind of boat licence do I need?

When deciding on the type of boat licence you should have, your choice largely depends on your sailing destination and how serious you are about sailing. Here are some options:

  • Local Licences: Start by exploring the licensing options available in your own country. If you’re unsure about the validity of your licence for international waters or specific countries where you intend to charter, our customer service team can provide you with the necessary help.
  • British RYA Licence: For those looking for a more widely recognised certification, the British Royal Yachting Association (RYA) licence is a prestigious option that enjoys global respect and is valid indefinitely.
  • Croatian Licence: If you plan to sail in Croatia, consider obtaining a Croatian licence. Note that this licence is only valid within Croatian waters, and the examination is conducted in English.
  • Radiotelephony Certificate (VHF/SRC): Supplementing your licence with a VHF radiotelephony certificate can be beneficial, especially in countries like Croatia where it is a requirement. This certificate is usually issued by the national authority responsible for radio communications.

Vysílačka na palubě lodiRadio on board the ship

What are the specific requirements for skipper licences in each country?

The requirements for skipper licences can vary significantly from one country to another, often influenced by local maritime laws and the customary practices or "experience" law prevalent in the charter industry. Here’s a breakdown of the specific requirements in a few key sailing destinations:


  • General Requirements: Croatia recognizes its own national skipper licences. Additionally, anyone sailing in Croatian waters must also have a radiotelephony certificate, which is typically included with the Croatian skipper's licence.
  • Boat Categories: Croatia differentiates between a "boat" (up to 15 metres as of the 2019 amendment) and a "yacht" (over 15 metres).
  • Licences for Larger Boats: For boats over 30 gross tonnage (GRT), typically catamarans longer than 42 feet, a higher-level licence is required. Basic Croatian B and C licences, or similar foreign licences are insufficient.


  • Strict Requirements: Skippers must hold a licence issued by their country of citizenship or by Italy itself. Foreign licences, including popular ones like the British RYA, may not be recognized, leading to potential fines during inspections. Be careful, because some charter companies will sometimes rent a boat even with these licences.
  • No Radiotelephony Certificate Required: Unlike Croatia, Italy does not require a radiotelephony certificate for sailing.


  • Multiple Licences: Greece often requires at least two licensed individuals aboard. Charter companies might accept written proof of a captain’s experience and an affidavit confirming a crew member's ability to assist.
  • Croatian Licences: Typically, Croatian licences are not recognized in Greece.

Tropical destinations

  • Additional Documentation: In more exotic sailing locations, a Skipper CV detailing previous sailing experiences, locations, and dates is often required by charter companies. This CV helps verify the skipper’s competency beyond just holding a licence. At yachting.com, we can help to successfully complete these formalities.

For new customers, we always inquire about the type of licence they hold. If there are any uncertainties, we verify the licence's acceptance with the specific charter company we are coordinating the boat rental with. This helps ensure that our customers avoid any disappointments or complications during their charter experience.

Plavba s posádkou v ChorvatskuCrewed cruise in Croatia 

Overview of skipper's licences - what you need to know


The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) issues certificates of competency that, while not traditional sailing licences, are highly respected worldwide. These certificates confirm the completion of advanced courses at designated RYA training centres. The rigorous training ensures that holders are well-prepared, allowing them to sail the type and grade of vessel specified on their certificate in British waters and any other regions where these certifications are acknowledged. There are several grades offered by the RYA, each suited for different levels of expertise. Here are the five key ones:

RYA Day Skipper 
  • This certification allows you to command a smaller sailing vessel during day cruises in coastal waters.
  • Covers theoretical basics of navigation, meteorology, maritime rules, and seamanship, including understanding basic tidal movements.
RYA Coastal Skipper
  • Qualified to take command of a sailing vessel on coastal cruises, both day and night.
  • Involves advanced navigation theory, meteorology, nautical science, and other maritime skills, with a strong emphasis on tidal theories.
RYA Yachtmaster Coastal
  • Can lead a sailing vessel in coastal waters at any time.
  • Requires a minimum of 30 days at sea, which includes 2 days as a skipper, 800 miles, and 12 hours of nighttime sailing. Required: VHF licence, first aid course, knowledge of communication and nautical terminology in English
RYA Yachtmaster Offshore 
  • Authorized to command a recreational sailing vessel on voyages where deep-sea navigation techniques are not necessary.
RYA Yachtmaster Ocean 
  • A highly skilled skipper capable of managing a recreational sailing vessel on global voyages, across all oceans.

Kapitán za kormidlem při plavběCaptain at the helm during a voyage


Even in Croatia, the licence is divided into several categories, the most common being category B. The passes are issued by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs (Ministarstvo mora, prometa i infrastruktury).

Croatian skipper's licence A
  • Suitable for boats up to 6 metres in length and engine power up to 8 kW.
  • Allows sailing up to 6 NM from the coastline or islands.
Croatian skipper's licence B
  • Applicable for boats up to a gross displacement of 30 tonnes.
  • For sailing up to 12 NM from the shore.
  • Not internationally recognised, applies only within the Republic of Croatia.
  • VHF (radio) certificate included
  • Unlimited validity
Croatian skipper's licence C
  • For all types of boats and all types of yachts up to a gross displacement of 30 tonnes.
  • Also valid in international waters.

The Croatian skipper's licence includes a VHF radio licence, so holders do not need to obtain a separate one.

While some countries may accept the Croatian licence, it's not universally reliable outside Croatia. Some sailors report successful international voyages with this licence, whereas others have encountered difficulties, leading to situations where they either lost access to their vessel or had to hire a skipper approved by the charter company.

Plavba na lodi s posádkouCruise on a crewed boat 


To operate VHF radios on boats sailors should have a Radiotelephony Certificate, such as the Short Range Certificate (SRC). However, this is not always a legal requirement.

Overview of SRC:

  • Purpose: Certifies the ability to operate VHF radio equipment, including the essential Digital Selective Calling (DSC) for emergencies and routine communication.
  • Validity: The SRC is recognized internationally and adheres to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standards, with broad acceptance, especially within the European Union.
  • Training and Examination: Achieving an SRC requires completing a course on VHF radio operations and emergency procedures, followed by both practical and theoretical exams.

International Acceptance:

  • European Union: The SRC is widely accepted across EU waters, making it ideal for sailors travelling in this region.
  • Global Considerations: Sailors should verify the acceptance of their SRC in non-EU countries by consulting local maritime authorities.

Local Requirements:

  • Country-Specific Regulations: Some countries might have additional certification or specific linguistic requirements for VHF radio operators.
  • Croatia Example: In Croatia, a VHF radiotelephonist's licence is mandatory, emphasizing the need to check local laws in your destination.

Sailors planning international voyages should ensure they hold an SRC or an equivalent certificate from a recognized authority to comply with global maritime communication standards and enhance safety on the water.

Kapitánka při plavbě za kormidlemCaptain at the helm 

What role does the licence play in the event of an accident and claim?

A skipper's licence that is recognized in a particular country can significantly affect insurance security. Insurance companies generally insist that a yacht be operated by someone holding an "appropriate certificate." This requirement often impacts premium payments and the settlement process in the event of an accident.

Two key factors are considered crucial in the investigation of a maritime accident:

  • Appropriateness of the Skipper: It's important to establish whether the vessel was being operated by the right person, specifically someone with a valid skipper's licence recognized by the local authorities.
  • Actions of the Skipper: Investigators also assess whether the skipper took all necessary measures to protect the vessel and its crew during the incident.

If there is any doubt about these aspects, further scrutiny will determine where and how the skipper acquired their skills to operate the vessel, ensuring they had the proper training and qualifications for the role.

So, what licence should I get?

As you can see, choosing the right skipper's licence isn't straightforward, as there is no single licence that is internationally recognized in every country. Each nation has the authority to determine which certificates it will recognize within its territory and territorial waters. Additionally, charter companies may have preferences based on their own experiences and customary practices.

To avoid any disappointment, consult with the relevant authorities or the specific charter company about this before making plans to charter a yacht. At yachting.com, we're also here to assist you with these inquiries.

Interested in furthering your education and enhancing your boating skills? We offer a range of courses, including professional yachting lectures and refresher or sport cruises, designed to prepare you for the sea captain's exam. Join our sailing school to gain deeper knowledge and refine your skills, ensuring you're well-prepared for your next sailing adventure.

Validity of licences at a glance

Our customer service team will be happy to assist you in verifying the validity of your skipper's licence in the desired charter destination.

RYA - minimum Coastal Skipper
Croatian licence
VHF/SRC Radiotelephonist
Additional note
Likely yes
Yes (included with the Croatian licence)

Likely yes
Not needed
Greece requires that at least two crew members have a captain's licence, or the skipper must provide an affidavit attesting to another crew member's ability to operate the boat.
Likely yes
 Info not available
 Info not available

Likely yes
 Info not available
 Info not available

Acceptable to the British
Acceptable to Croatians
Not needed
Italy primarily recognizes licences issued by the country of citizenship of the skipper.


Likely yes
Likely yes
 Info not available
Often requires a Skipper CV detailing the skipper’s experience.)

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