All about sailing licenses

IYT, RYA, and other ISSA

As soon as someone thinks about obtaining a yacht license, the question arises: what are IYT, RYA, ISSA, and others that schools write about? Let’s figure it out.

The main thing you need to know is that these are all different certification systems for yachtsmen. They don't teach yachtsmen directly — each system has a number of schools that franchise this system. That is, according to its training courses and standards. However, the license you will receive as a result of your training will be issued directly by the certification system.

How do they differ, and what system do you need exactly?

First, you should decide what you plan to use on the water and what the territorial status of this water is. Let me clarify right away: this text only applies to recreational (small) vessels with a length of 7-8 to 24 meters (in some countries less). As a rule, no documents are required to drive sailing ships smaller than 7-8 meters and motor boats with engine power up to 5-15 hp. All these inaccuracies, like 7-8 meters and 5-15 hp, are due to different regulations in different countries.

By area of water, the options are as follows:

1. Your own yacht, the transportation is not commercial (you ride for yourself and your friends), the routes are by sea, that is, we are talking about the sea or ocean, not about rivers, lakes, or canals — and here in most countries you don't need a license. It is not necessary de facto since no one will check it with you. But de jure, the situation looks a little different.

a) Firstly, without a license/certificate, in most cases, you will not be able to insure your yacht. This is not even about insuring the boat itself but about third-party liability — your civil liability. And without such a policy, you will not be allowed into the vast majority of European marinas. And this is a problem.

b) Secondly, if it happens that you run over some hapless fisherman on a rubber boat without running lights while navigating at night and are caught, your lack of any maritime education will add a couple of years in prison. After all, it turns out that you were a threat to society with your thoughtless actions.

So, even if you have your own yacht and are sailing on it across the seas and oceans, it would be great to have some proof that you've at least read Yachting for Dummies. However, there are countries where no certification is required for private yachts from a legal point of view, for example, the UK, Australia, Finland (up to 15 meters), and many others.

2. Your own yacht, non-commercial transportation, internal routes, that is, lakes and rivers — then you need a license that is legitimate by the state that owns those waterways. In the case of Russia, this is GIMS for motorcycles and the Ministry of Transport for sailboats. GIMS can also work in the case of sailboats, but not immediately and not without problems. The fact is that the first GIMS sailing license is issued with a sailing area limited to 20 square meters, which is ridiculous. And only after 2 years is it possible to remove this restriction. VFPS diplomas are generally illegitimate, although they may work a couple of times if verified. In the case of Europe, these are the ICC in countries that have signed the ICC Convention and our own licenses, such as our Ministry of Transport. However, some types of vessels in some countries do not require any licenses, even for navigation on inland waterways, for example, for houseboats in France and the UK.

3. A charter yacht, non-commercial transportation, any route — you need a license that has legitimacy in this particular country. This license is needed not so much for any authorities, but primarily for insurers with whom the charter company that provided the yacht works. No charter company will give you a yacht without confirming your maritime education, even if it's minimal. This is where commercial organizations like IYT, RYA, and the like come into play.

History of origin

For the most part, these guys come from or are current MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) officials — something like our Ministry of Transport, but in the UK. They realized in time that there is not a single generally accepted certification for yachtsmen in the world. And against the background of the cosmic growth of the charter business, the demand for at least some training and diplomas acceptable for insurance will only progress. And it started.

RYA, formerly a British local maritime college, has begun to spread its influence throughout the conscious world by promoting “high British standards of study.” Then, Mark Fry, one of the same MCA bosses, decided that RYA's monopoly contradicted his understanding of business and founded IYT. Mark's numerous connections with European maritime administrations, developed at the MCA, have borne fruit. Moreover, IYT was originally created by a commercial project, not holding on to traditions and other naphthalene, like RYA. IYT's goal was and remains to be as widespread and legitimate as possible.

Fry did well: the number of IYT schools in the world is off the charts, and all charter insurance companies accept IYT certificates. The message was right from a business point of view, see for yourself: thousands of people around the world study yachting at the IYT system every year. And despite all the accusations about the poor quality of education, the lack of control over schools, and the corruption of instructors, no one can do anything at this stage. After all, stopping the acceptance of IYT licenses for any charter company means closing immediately. However, it's fair to say that RYA also sins low-quality maritime education, not to mention small and dubious ones like ISSA.

There's also the ICC. And what is this?

In 1998, a number of European countries tried to start regulating this whole story by signing the so-called Resolution 40 on the ICC. This is the International Certificate of Competence, an international license that gives the right to operate non-profit small boats. They signed it, but the initiative to extradite the ICC from governments was immediately seized by the same well-known RYA and IYT. The peculiarity of the ICC is that the license is issued not by a school but by the state. Accordingly, both RYA and IYT have issued and are issuing the ICC on behalf of the UK. Until recently, it worked. But recently, someone at the top came to their senses, and the shop closed a bit: now, citizens of member states of the ICC Convention can only get this crust in their own countries. However, for Russians and other renegades whose countries relied on the ICC, IYT, and RYA remain the main provider of these licenses.

The amazing thing about this story is that many European charter companies are happier to recognize RYA and IYT diplomas than ICC. This is probably due to the slightly lower prevalence of ICC among charter yachtsmen. It should also be noted that many really big charter players do not pay attention to the type of client diploma at all, as sales volume and customer focus are paramount for them. Therefore, any piece of paper with the Latin spelling of your last name, even issued by the All-Russian Sailing Federation, is often distributed in Croatia. De facto, but not de jure.

Certification system and insurance

Anyway, nothing in order, you thought. Well, not really. All of this can work exactly until something happens. For example, when mooring, you packed a nearby catamaran. At this point, it's worth remembering which license your aunt from the charter company scanned when you checked in. If it is cardboard from a VFPS laser printer or an ISSA laminated card (illegitimate in Croatia), then 2 options are possible:

1. Your deposit will be enough to compensate for damage to both boats and everyone, but you, will be happy

2. Your deposit is not enough, and your life may enter a new phase — the phase of fighting hemorrhoids. The charter company will remember that your license (it turns out!) is not international; it's illegitimate, and you just slipped the devil knows what. The fact that my aunt smiled sweetly when she scanned her won't change anything. After all, charters are well aware from the very beginning that no insurance company will pay off a single euro of your damage under your license, but what happens next? Of course, problems are not guaranteed, but based on the letter of the law, they may well exist.

Summary: If you want to charter yachts in Europe, you just need to have any certificate that is LEGITIMATE in this country. IYT and RYA work de facto everywhere; ICC works in many places, and the rest is garbage. To be sure and calm, google what licenses are accepted in the region where you plan to charter a yacht. And, it would be correct to mention that Russian GIMS and Ministry of Transport certificates essentially completely replace foreign ICCs and are legally accepted in many countries.

IMPORTANT! International licenses issued by one of the commercial certification associations (RYA, IYT, etc.) can ONLY be used to drive boats outside your country of residence. That is, a German can use an IYT card everywhere except Germany, a Russian can use an IYT card everywhere except Russia, etc. There are also exceptions here, for example, Latvia, but in most cases, this is true.

And again IMPORTANT! Some countries have their own specific requirements for charter skippers. For example, Greece accepts all licenses and certificates that do not limit navigation by time of day. Many articles say that Greeks only want ICC, but this is not true. All they want is that you don't have the phrase “daylight only” or something like that on your card. So, Bareboat Skipper/Day Skipper doesn't work in Greece.

And if I want to do business on a boat, then what?

As for commercial transportation on small boats, everything is much easier. EVERY country requires its own admission and certification to work as a yachtsman. For example, in Spain, only a person with a specialized maritime education from SPAIN can work even on a small yacht and nothing else. IYT and RYA, of course, have also tried and are trying to enter this niche, but their professional education does not withstand criticism or pressure from local laws. Therefore, you can only work with their licenses in the MCA area — and this is only the UK with all its territories. Plus, in addition to a professional diploma, you need to obtain and renew additional certificates in a timely manner, for example, STCW and GMDSS.

In addition, it is necessary to understand that any commercial activity on private and charter yachts is entirely illegal. If you study the standard charter agreement, you will see that under it, you are only entitled to holidays with family and friends. Collecting any money in excess of this yacht's charter costs is a breach of contract — this time. And two: in order to carry passengers for money in the territorial waters of a particular country, you must at least have an appropriate commercial diploma and a transportation license. Otherwise, it is an illegal business. Of course, everyone around us didn't care about these rules, and the vast majority of cruises are organized and conducted by licensed skippers, at best, Yachtmaster Coastal, and most often Bareboat Skipper/Day Skipper. Needless to say, even skippers offered by charter companies rarely have commercial licenses. Extremely rare? Almost never!

Everyone around us turns a blind eye to these facts. Customers — when they book and pay for such cruises. Charter companies that are well aware that the skipper does not carry friends, but a tour group. Insurance companies, port police, fire guard… But like any semi-legal scheme, this one works exactly until the first incident. If one of the tourists is injured or dies on such a cruise, everyone will suddenly remember everything and the organizer will go to trial, even without being technically responsible for the accident.