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Sailing and motor boats
Sailing and motor boats

Source: Fotolia / Kelly Kane

Germany has a waterway network with a length of about 7,300 km, numerous lakes as well as approximately 23,000 square kilometres of maritime waterways.

In these water areas, more than 6 million people engage in water sports: sailing, motorboating, canoeing, water skiing as well as surfing and diving.

Waterborne tourism is enjoying increasing popularity in many regions of Germany.
In order to make it easier for all water sportsmen and women and all waterborne tourists to take up water sports, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure offers you some guidance and information on this page.

Cutting red tape

Charter certificate

Operating pleasure craft without a skipper's licence – also known as charter boating – is also possible on German waterways. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has designated suitable sections of selected lakes and rivers where such boating is permissible. For cabin cruisers, a "charter certificate" is sufficient, which is issued by the chartering company after they have provided the skipper with detailed information on how to handle the boat and the route(s) on which the boat may be operated. The charter certificate does not replace the Pleasure Craft Skipper's Licence (Inland). It is only valid for the inland water designated therein and only for the duration of the charter.

Reform of skipper's licences

The Federal Ministry of Transport has simplified the theory and practical tests for pleasure craft skipper's licences. Superfluous questions and questions with no practical relevance have been removed and important new aspects, such as environmental protection, have been included. The theory test has been converted to a modern multiple-choice procedure. This evolution of the modular system will make it possible to credit correct answers already given to test questions. As far as the practical test is concerned, there are now more exercises in connection with safety on board. In emergency situations, a skipper must be in total command of the vessel to save lives. Tests for skipper's licences have been conducted according to the new requirements since 1 May 2012. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has tasked the German Motor Yacht Association (DMYV) and the German Sailing Association (DSV) with carrying out the official pleasure craft skipper's licence tests in Germany. Further information on the individual licences can be obtained from the DMYV and the DSV.

The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, implementing the decision by the German Bundestag entitled "A new impetus for recreational shipping" (Bundestag printed paper 17/7937), has raised the propulsion power output limit from 3.68 kW (5 hp) to 11.03 kW (15 hp) for the operation of pleasure craft (both maritime and inland) by a person not holding a skipper's licence. This new regulation has been embodied in the Recreational Shipping Requirements (Maritime and Inland) (Amendments) Ordinance (promulgated in the Federal Law Gazette I, No 47, p 2102) and entered into force on 17 October 2012.

The following régime now applies to the licence-free operation of power-driven pleasure craft with a propulsion power output not exceeding 11.03 kW: On maritime waterways, pleasure craft with a maximum propulsion power output not exceeding 3.68 kW (5 hp) may, as before, be operated by persons of any age without holding a Pleasure Craft Licence (Maritime), provided that such craft is not used for commercial purposes. Where the propulsion power output ranges between 3.69 kw and 11.03 kW, the skipper must be aged 16 or over to be allowed to operate pleasure craft without a licence, however, only for private purposes. As before, there is no length restriction for pleasure craft on maritime waters. On inland waters, with the exception of maritime waterways and the River Elbe in the port of Hamburg, persons aged 16 and over may operate pleasure craft of less than 15 metres in length without holding a licence, provided that such craft is not used for commercial purposes and that the propulsion power output of its engine does not exceed 11.03 kW (15 hp).

However, the latter regulation does not apply on the River Rhine; this is because, by virtue of obligations under international law, no national exemptions from compulsory licence-holding may be granted for the navigation of the River Rhine by craft with a propulsion power output exceeding 3.68 kW.

The alternative known as "sail-boarding" with the Pleasure Craft Licence (Inland) has been abolished. No licence is now required on the waters specified in Annex 2 to the Pleasure Craft Licence Ordinance (Inland) when pleasure craft are operated as sail boards. This is to say that sail boards may now be operated without holding a licence on all Federal inland waterways under Section 1(1) of the Pleasure Craft Licence Ordinance (Inland).

Exchange of old pleasure craft skipper’s licences

Persons still holding old pleasure craft skipper's licences without the designation "International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft" may exchange them for the current licence forms on condition that the other requirements for the issuance of such a licence are met. This will facilitate recognition of German pleasure craft skipper's licences in the European states which, in addition to Germany, have signed a relevant agreement on the "International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft". Further information can be obtained from the German Motor Yacht Association or the German Sailing Association.

Radio operator's certificates

Since 1 October 2011, maritime radio operator's certificate tests (SRC and LRC) have been conducted using multiple-choice questions. At the same time, the number of test questions has been reduced by one third, and the sheets used for the test have been streamlined accordingly.