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Inland navigation licence and permit

This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

If you sail vessels on Dutch inland waterways, you must have a navigation licence (vaarbewijs) if your boat is over 15 metres long or is a motor boat reaching speeds of over 20 km/hour. There are four types of licence required depending on factors such as the length and function of your ship:

  • Small licence (klein vaarbewijs)
  • Conditional large licence (beperkt groot vaarbewijs)
  • Large licence (groot vaarbewijs)
  • Pleasure boats licence (groot plezierbewijs)

Depending on the type of licence, you must satisfy a number of conditions with regard to health and existing certificates.

Small licence (klein vaarbewijs)

A ‘small licence’ applies to:

  • Pleasure boats (15 to 25 metres)
  • Motorboats and vessels (under 15 metres, with speeds of over 20 km/hour), incl. Jet skis and water scooters
  • Vessels for commercial use (15 to 20 metres)

There are two types of ‘small licences’: type I and type II. With a type I licence you are allowed to navigate on rivers, canals, lakes and the Gouwzee. If you have a type II licence, you are allowed to navigate on rivers, canals, lakes, the Gouwzee, the Eems/Dolars, the Waddenzee, the IJsselmeer, Markermeer and IJmeer and on the Oosterschelde and Westerschelde. To obtain a ‘small licence’, you need to sit an exam at the VAMEX FoundationExternal link. From 1 January 2020 this licence will be available from the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driving Testing (CBR).

The small navigation licence I and II are equivalent to the International Certificate of Competence (I is ICC for inland waters and II is ICC for inland and coastal waters).

Pleasure boats licence (Groot Pleziervaartbewijs,GPb)

The ‘pleasure boats licence’ only applies to non-commercially used pleasure boats with a length between 25 to 40 metres. This licence is also available in two forms GPb I for rivers lakes and canals and II for all inland and coastal waters. To obtain this licence you sit an exam at a VAMEX locationExternal link.

Conditional large licence (beperkt groot vaarbewijs)

A ‘conditional large licence’ applies to:

  • Cargo vessels (20 to 40 metres)
  • Pleasure boats (25 to 40 metres)
  • Tugboats and pushers used as pleasure boats (25 to 40 metres)

There are two types of ‘conditional large licences’: type A and type B. With a type A licence, you are allowed to navigate on all Dutch inland waterways including the IJsselmeer, the Waddenzee and the waters of South Holland and Zeeland. A type B licence allows you to navigate on rivers, canals and lakes. The ‘conditional large licence’ can be obtained from the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driving TestingExternal link (CBR, in Dutch).

Large licence (groot vaarbewijs)

A ‘large licence’ applies to:

  • Vessels for commercial use (larger than 40 metres)
  • Passenger vessels for commercial use (more than 12 passengers)
  • Tugboats and pushers used as pleasure boats (at least 40 metres)
  • Pleasure boats (at least 40 metres)
  • Vessels towing, pushing or moving ships alongside of at least 20 metres

There are two types of ‘large licences’: type A and type B. With a type A licenceExternal link, you are allowed to navigate on all Dutch inland waterways including the IJsselmeer, the Waddenzee and the waters of South Holland and Zeeland. The type B licenceExternal link allows you to navigate on rivers, canals and lakes. The ‘large licence’ can be obtained from the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driving TestingExternal link (CBR, in Dutch).

Navigation permit

To sail on a number of specific waters, you need a navigation permit (vaarvergunning). You can obtain a navigation permit from the municipal authorities or the water board for the area where the water is located. Navigation permits are usually required for the waterways indicated in blue and pale yellow on the water charts published by the Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB)External link (in Dutch). These are vulnerable nature conservation areas and waterways.

Floating construction equipment and large pleasure boats

Floating construction equipment, ships used for construction and large pleasure boats (over 20 metres or 100m3) are subject to the same regulations as inland shipping vessels. This means that skippers of these vessels or equipment also need to have the appropriate navigation licence.

This article is related to:

This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO