I want to cruise the canals and rivers of Europe – do I need a skippers’ boat licence?

We are asked this question so often we thought it would be useful to include a page on here to help everyone.

The simple answer is YES; what type of licence and how you achieve it may vary depending on which country you wish to cruise.  As a UK registered RYA training centre operating in France we have focussed on these two countries.


  • UK cruising only1pleasure bargees/boaters are exempt from needing a skipper licence in UK waters, but on the grounds of safety and enjoyment we wouldn’t recommend that.
  • Cruising in France2 – all boat owners are required by law to have a skipper licence if the engine power is 4.5kwh and over (6bhp), only hire boats are exempt.


For English speaking skippers, the ICC is the most likely starting point for you to set off on your European canal and/or river adventure.  The validity and acceptance conditions vary across European countries.  Please check with the specific country's boat licencing authority where you wish to cruise to establish the validity of the ICC with your specific situation, e.g. boat length, flagged state of the vessel, nationality and residency.  Access to the ICC issued by the RYA is dependent on your nationality and residency.  Please visit the RYA website for full up to date details about the ICC which may help your research to understand the background of this qualification, and particularly if you are eligible to qualify for this along with the validity across European countries.


Will I need the French Permis Plaisance option Eaux Intérieures and L'Extension Grande Plaisance (EGP)?

The answer will depend on the size of your boat, the country of registration and where you wish to cruise.  Again, you will need to check with the respective country's boat licencing authority for clarification and this link to the French government boat licencing authority is a good starting point for you.

If you require the EGP you must first hold the Permis Plaisance option Eaux Intérieures (EI), which may be accessible using your ICC and an additional CEVNI test, although this is dependent on your nationality and residency.  Otherwise, the full French EI training qualification route is necessary before upgrading to the EGP.

Source information

1UK Shipping Regulations 2015Shipping Regulations 2015, Part 4, Pleasure Vessel exemption 

2French Permis Plaisance Regulations: will automatically translate in Google Chrome.  French Pleasure Boat Licence Requirements in English