International Certificate of Competence (ICC) Introduction
The International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure of Craft or more usually stated as the International Certificate of Competence, or simply ICC is the recommended licence if you intend to cruise the waters of Europe. It provides evidence to authorities that you are competent at handling a vessel, within a specified category, without the need for having a separate boat licence for each country you may visit.
There are 5 categories under which the ICC are issued or endorsed, these are:
- Coastal waters
- Inland waterways
- Powerboats, either up to 10m or over 10m
- Sailing boats
- Personal watercraft
If you hold an ICC and intend to cruise the inland waterways of Europe (outside of the UK) you are advised to check that the correct category is stated on your licence, i.e. ’inland waters is endorsed as yes’. If it is not, you need to undertake an assessment and pass a CEVNI examination before you are licenced to let the lines go on the inland waters!
Similarly, please ensure your current ICC is valid for the appropriate length of vessel, e.g. category 3 not restricted.
The RYA are a recognised authority who issue the ICC for the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency. We urge you to visit the RYA website for a full understanding of the ICC, its acceptance, validity and eligibility criteria.
Please note the ICC is valid for pleasure craft skippers only, it is not an acceptable licence for skippers of vessels carrying passengers (of any number) or cargo.
Brexit note – the ICC is the creation of UNECE (United Nations Economic Committee for Europe) and it continues to be the multinational boating licence accepted across European countries. It is not a part of the EU. See latest updates on the RYA Brexit webpage.
How do I get an ICC?
The Inland Waterways ICC requires two elements of competence:
- Practical skills at the helm of a boat with power
There are several qualifications and certificate routes eligible for this, the RYA website carries a full list. The most popular route is through the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman’s course (unless of course the ICC also needs to be valid for Coastal waters)
- The theory of the rules and signs of Code Européen des Voies de Navigation Intérieure (CEVNI)
RYA training centres are authorised to provide a multiple-choice examination of CEVNI in English. This can be done online or physically at a RYA Training Centre.
On completion of these two elements a recognised RYA Training Centre such as Bargecraft is able to endorse an ICC application form which the RYA will process and subsequently issue your ICC.
Who can get an ICC?
Most non-EU nationals are able to hold a UK ICC (with one or two exceptions). The RYA criteria webpage sets out the up to date conditions of eligibility.
What length vessel is my ICC valid for?
The regulations in relation to acceptance and validity of the ICC is rather complex, but in short, the visited country controls what validity the ICC has on their waterways, therefore this varies. You are strongly advised to check the acceptance of the ICC and the applicable length of vessels with the relevant authorities of any specific country you are interested in cruising.
As we operate in France, this section relates to French inland waterways only. All information stated is drawn from legal sources and links to these can be found at the bottom of this webpage.
The relevant French and English inland Waterways boat licencing authorities are:
- France - LegiFrance
- UK - Maritime Coastguard Agency
- UK - RYA
- UNECE - United Nation Economic Commission for Europe (the body responsible for the creation and management of the ICC)
The French boating legislation for ‘foreign licences’ (ICC) is rather ambiguous and open to interpretation; i.e. the French legal position is "a foreign licence is valid up to the characteristics of the issuing nation".
During the summer of 2019 the RYA commissioned a legal investigation to clarify the current position; unfortunately the outcome has not established a clear, definitive acceptance limit in France. Please read the in-depth complex legal position published on the RYA Boating Abroad - France.
In summary, it states "the ICC may not be sufficient for vessels over 20m in length", which is of course in contrast to the previous stated position of up to 24m. It has been established that French authorities may raise a legal challenge to a foreign skipper holding an ICC if their vessel is over 20m as they may consider this insufficient. Indirectly this may impact on the validity of boat insurance which requires the skipper to hold a valid and acceptable licence. Therefore, if you own - or intend to purchase - a vessel over 20m please seek legal advice about licence requirements to avoid any legal challenge or risk your boat insurance cover being deemed 'null and void'.
Although not our field of expertise, it is worth mentioning that we are aware that in Germany the ICC is accepted for vessels up to 20m only and the EGP is required for vessels larger than this.
Please visit our EGP webpage for further information if this is applicable to you.
Sources for legislative requirement
France, Legifrance - Article 3 legislation for 'foreign boat licence holders'
RYA UK Inland Waterways categorisation RYA Inland Navigations
UNECE inland waterways Transport Commission report: Item 88
RYA ICC country specific information - validity in France: RYA members only access