Up to date yacht charter licenses guide for 2020

Our guide to sailing qualifications and certifications in both the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

18th Feb 2020

We always get asked about which sailing licenses you need when embarking on a yacht charter or boat rental.

Generally, most operators in the 60+ destinations we work in just require evidence that you can manoeuvre the boat, sail on short passages and have basic navigation and safety knowledge. The easiest way to show this is to have a certification.

We recommend double checking with the operator in the country of choice before booking if you’re in doubt. If you have any questions, our team of Charter Advisers are always available to help. 

Read on to see our full guide about which sailing certifications are required in both the Mediterranean and Caribbean.

Russell Stevens, Sales Manager

What sailing certifications are there?

There are many certifications issued by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) in the UK. If chartering a boat in another country’s waters, you are required to show evidence of competence under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). There are several courses and exams to take which will give you the right level of certification.

International Certificate of Competence (ICC)

The International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft – to give it its official name – or International Certificate of Competence (ICC) is the most widely recognised certification worldwide. In the UK, the RYA is authorised to issue the ICC on behalf of the government.

The RYA offers a free ICC to all of its members, but to get it you need to either hold – at a minimum – the RYA Day Skipper, Powerboat Level 2 licence or take an assessment to prove your sailing experience. If you are not already a RYA member, it costs £45 for an ICC.

The ICC is most widely accepted for our destinations, but in rare instances there can be restrictions if the boat is over a certain size or gross tonnage. Always check with our Charter Advisers if you have the correct certifications before booking a boat.

RYA Day Skipper

The RYA Day Skipper course is for those who already have some basic skills and knowledge, and is the minimum proof of competence accepted for a yacht charter in most Mediterranean countries.

RYA Yachtmaster

The RYA Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence is the highest level of certification offered by the RYA.

The RYA has a handy online translator tool for each of its qualifications to help port officials in other countries understand your level of competence.

Assos village in Kefalonia, Greece
Assos village in Kefalonia, Greece

Most countries in the Mediterranean will accept the ICC or Day Skipper for a bareboat or flotilla charter. There can be exceptions depending on the country and the boat, so please make sure you check with us.

Tropical white sand beach with beach chairs. Jost Van dyke, British Virgin Islands.
Jost Van dyke, British Virgin Islands

A sailing CV is generally accepted as proof of competence to skipper a boat in the Caribbean, but we recommend you take your certificates with you as well.

You will still need to meet the requirements of the country where you’re chartering a yacht so will need to contact the RYA to get an ICC. You will need to show evidence that you are eligible for an ICC.

You will need to ask the RYA to re-issue your certification. If you can’t show acceptable proof of your qualification, you may need to hire a skipper for your charter.

Although you follow a lead boat on a flotilla, you will still need evidence of competence to captain your own boat as part of the flotilla.

If you want to sit back and enjoy the sail, without the responsibility of captaining the boat, we always recommend hiring a skipper. Both sailing novices and experienced sailors can benefit from having a skipper on board to plot a route and take responsibility for the crew.

We have shared information about our most popular destinations, but please contact us on 01227 479900 if you want to ask about another country.

Get in touch


With a combined 50 years of experience, our team knows all there is to know about the world of boat chartering.

If you want to know more about bareboat, flotilla, or by-the-cabin charters, speak to one of our experts who will be happy to share their knowledge with you. 

Use our price comparison tool to search for charters by date or destination, request a quote or contact our team on 01227 479900.

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