Spanish Sailing
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Boat Licenses in Catalonia and Spain

You may well already be aware that there are paperwork requirements applicable to owning an operating a small boat in Spain even if it is just for private use. People coming from places such as the UK where there is very little legislation find this hard to accept but actually the requirements are modest and sensible. What does appear hard is to identify just what is required and like everything in Spain, everyone has a different view and different authorities seem to have different attitudes to enforcement. There is also a degree of ignorance around about the validity and applicability of foreign qualifications. I have come across this problem both from the authorities and from charter companies. If you have knowledge of the law then at least you are able to put up an argument and get round this. I have first hand experience of this and have always been successful in proving the point.

Your boat is required to have a licence and well as you as skipper.

Boat licensing

A lot depends on whether your boat is Spanish flagged or 'foreign' flagged. Foreign flag requirements are probably slightly easier to meet but the law actually says here that if you are a resident of Spain, then you should -import- the boat within 6 months. This seems to be something that isn't enforced widely but that is not to say that this will always be the case.

If your boat is Spanish flagged then you should have had a survey at least once in its life and you are expected to carry a set of safety equipment which is dependent on how far offshore you intend to travel.

Foreign flagged boats just have to carry the same set of safety equipment. The police are frequently stop boats at sea or do checks in the marina to check you are carrying all of the equipment and that it is in date.

Skipper licensing

As the operator of the boat you are also expected to be licensed. The level of licensing depends on factors such as the size and power of the boat and how far you intend to go offshore.

The law actually says that for 'foreign' flagged vessels then the appropriate foreign qualification can apply. The weakness in this is that the 'official' list of 'foreign' qualifications is far from complete and some discussion is sometimes required.

There now appears to be an official route to turn your non Spanish qualifications into the equivalent Spanish versions although we haven't tried it out for ourselves although there are reports that it works.

If you need help with your boat licensing or your own then please contact Spanish Sailing. If you have experience but not the pieces of paper to go with it then we can easily assess your capabilities and issue the appropriate paperwork maybe with just a relatively small amount of tuition.

All we would say is beware of the people who will tell you that they are getting away with nothing. The authorities are reported to be cracking down. You need to know that generally the Spanish will obtain what is required and therefore the authorities object to the foreign attitude of ignoring the rules. The consequences can be huge with boat confiscation and very large fine reported.


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