Sailing Qualifications Required by Port Authorities

Posted In: Charter Sailing Holiday Tips

At Sail Connections we pride ourselves in supporting your charter in every way we can. As part of the process we ensure your skipper status is approved by the local port authorities before we pass your deposit to the boat's operator. Lately the certification requirements in some locations have been tightened and minimum qualification requirements are coming under scrutiny.

What follows is our latest advice and information regarding the level of sailing knowledge you may be expected to prove on a sailing holiday, particularly relating to the Mediterranean. 

It is important to understand that skipper approval is a two-stage process. Firstly, the boat’s operator is interested in the skipper’s level of experience, and will approve you on the strength of your sailing resume. They care little about certificates. Secondly, and harder to anticipate, is local port authority requirements - the sailing qualifications held.  Your level of qualification is supplied with your port papers, and needs local approval before you can leave the marina and begin your charter. 

In all EU countries, an online Day Skipper Certificate as can be earned in New Zealand has in the past satisfied port authorities. In most destinations that, along with a suitable sailing resume, is still accepted. However we are currently seeing an issue for charters out of Athens. In many ways this is an understandable and well-overdue safety move.

The Meltimi winds of the Aegean Sea regularly get up to over 30 knots during the peak summer season. The Cyclades islands are particularly exposed and considerable seas can build from the north. These can challenge skippers with limited experience who may only have done easier charters and not had the training for handling such conditions. So the Athens port authorities are now requiring a higher level of certification.

The International Certificate of Competence (ICC) and Ocean Yacht Masters are always acceptable. However in Athens/Lavrion, a Day Skipper certificate earned without practical tuition is no longer considered adequate. The Boatmaster certificate is also being questioned, especially if the forecast is for strong winds.

In the world of sailing tuition there are a variety of regional training courses that will meet the stricter requirements. Generally any course that has a practical sailing and boat handling element is accepted. However Day Skipper and Boatmaster that can be done entirely online unfortunately indicate no evidence the students have actually learned anything in practice: even for boaties who have clocked up plenty of sailing time. Problems have arisen with inexperienced crews finding themselves in conditions they cannot handle.

It is possible that other countries will follow Greece’s lead on tightening qualification requirements. It is interesting to note however that only out of Athens and Lavrion are port authorities denying the lower-level skipper qualifications. Across in the Ionian Sea, at Lefkas and Corfu for instance, there’s not the same level of concern and Day Skipper is still acceptable. 

Sail Connections fully supports the adoption of policies that improve safety and the sailing holiday experience. We will never sell a sailing holiday in the Aegean without informing clients of the prevailing conditions. Most of our clients are in fact experienced yachtsmen and women. But regardless of experience stated on a sailing resume, every skipper we send on charter must have certification papers acceptable to authorities in the port of departure.  

When it comes to minimum certificate requirements, local authorities cannot be expected to fully assess skipper competence. They may base their approval decision solely on the boating certificate supplied. We are constantly keeping ourselves updated on this issue,  case by case, port by port. If you are planning a sailing holiday in the Mediterranean, please talk to us well in advance about the certifications you will need to complement your personal sailing resume.

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