Inland navigation licence and permit

This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

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There are different types of navigation licences, for both recreational and commercial use. The licence you need, depends on factors such as the length and function of your ship.

Depending on the type of licence, you must meet certain conditions with regard to health and certificates. You will need a declaration of health/health certificate (gezondheidsverklaring, in Dutch) if you apply for a certain type of licence. For the Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate will carry out a medical assessment (in Dutch).

For more information on exams and licences, you can contact the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driver Testing (Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen, CBR).

Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster (EU kwalificatiecertificaat schipper)

With a Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster (EU kwalificatiecertificaat schipper), you are allowed to navigate on rivers, canals and lakes.

For commercial use, you need the Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster when driving:

  • vessels of 20 metres and up or 100m3 and up
  • vessels towing, pushing or moving ships alongside of at least 20 metres or 100m3
  • vessels with over 12 passengers
  • vessels that must have an approval certificate according to the Directive 2008/68/EC (On the inland transport of dangerous goods) of the European Parliament
  • floating construction equipment

The Union certificate of qualification replaces the Conditional large licence (Beperkt Groot Vaarbewijs), and the Large Licence (Groot Vaarbewijs) Type B (rivers, canals and lakes). In order to apply for a Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster, you need a certificate Boatmaster rivers, canals and lakes (diploma schipper rivieren, kanalen en meren, in Dutch).

You can apply for a Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster and specific licences to the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driving Testing (CBR, in Dutch). The certificate is valid for 13 years.

Do you need to replace your (conditional) large licence with the Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster? You have until 17 January 2032 to do so. Does your (Conditional) Large Licence expire before this date? Exchange it before the expiration date.

You need a health certificate (in Dutch), no more than 3 months old, to replace your licence. You can exchange your licence with the CBR (in Dutch). A licence exchange costs € 62,55.

Did you obtain your (conditional) large licence outside the Netherlands? Only the country where you obtained your licence can exchange it.

Are you in the middle of an exam procedure for a (conditional) large licence? Until 1 September 2022 you can continue and finish the exam procedure. You do need to take an extra exam.

Specific licences for boatmasters

Specific licences can be added to the Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster. When you apply for a specific licence, you must add a copy of your health certificate (in Dutch). This health certificate can be no more than 3 months old when you apply.

The Licence for sailing on maritime waters (in Dutch) is equivalent to the former Large Licence Type A, all inland waterways. You need this specific licence to navigate inland waters, the Ijsselmeer, the Waddenzee, and the flows of South-Holland and Zeeland.

The Radar licence (radarpatent, in Dutch) allows you to navigate inland waters and the Rhine with the aid of radar.

The Rhine Patent (Specifieke vergunning voor het varen op de Rijn, equivalent to the Rijnpatent, in Dutch), allows you to drive between the ferry of Spijk and the locks of Iffezheim. Not to be confused with the Rhine Navigation Certificate, in Dutch).

Union certificate of qualification as a boatman (EU kwalificatiecertificaat matroos)

To navigate the inland waters of the European Union, the deck crew needs to have the right certificates. Boatman need the Union certificate of qualification as a boatman (EU kwalificatiecertificaat matroos, in Dutch). Boatmen can apply for this certificate once they have passed both a theoretical and a practical exam.

Small licence I (Klein Vaarbewijs I, KVBI)

For commercial use, you need a small licence for:

  • Pleasure boats (15 to 25 metres)
  • Motorboats and vessels (under 15 metres, able to go over 20 km/h)
  • Jet skis and water scooters
  • Vessels (15 to 20 metres)

With a small licence I, you are allowed to navigate rivers, canals, lakes and the Gouwzee. You can apply for a small licence I to the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driving Testing (CBR, in Dutch).

The small navigation licence I is equivalent to the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) Inland waters. The small licence I costs € 10,80 and has indefinite validity, unless you have a medical condition. In that case, the validity is limited.

Small licence II (Klein Vaarbewijs II, KVBII)

The small licence II is an extension to the small licence I. With the small licence II, you are allowed to navigate on:

  • rivers
  • canals
  • lakes
  • the Gouwzee
  • the Eems-Dollard
  • the Waddenzee
  • the IJsselmeer
  • the Markermeer
  • the IJmeer
  • the Oosterschelde
  • the Westerschelde

You can apply for a small licence II to the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driving Testing (CBR, in Dutch).

The small navigation licence II is equivalent to the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) Inland and coastal waters. The small licence II costs € 10,80 and has indefinite validity, unless you have a medical condition. In that case, the validity is limited.

Do you want to navigate the Rhine above the ferry of Spijk with a pleasure boat larger than 15 metres? Besides the small licence II, you will need a sportpatent (in Dutch).

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. You can apply for this licence to the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driving Testing (CBR, in Dutch). The GPb licence is equivalent to the International Certificate of Competence (ICC) Inland and coastal waters.

Certificate of exemption Boatmaster Amsterdam canal excursion boat (Vrijstellingsbewijs Schipper rondvaartboot van het Amsterdamse grachtentype)

With this certificate, you are allowed to navigate all inland waters of zones 3 and 4 in Amsterdam. This certificate costs € 62,55 and is valid until 3 months after your 50th birthday.

Sailing licence (zeilbewijs)

For commercial use, you need a sailing licence (zeilbewijs) when you drive a sailboat of 20 metres or up to carry passengers. You do not need a sailing licence if you have a Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster.

The sailing licence costs € 62,55 and needs to be renewed every 13 years.

Navigation permit

To sail on a number of specific waters, you need a navigation permit (vaarvergunning). Navigation permits are usually required for waterways in vulnerable nature conservation areas, and waterways that are vulnerable nature conservation areas. You can obtain a navigation permit from the municipal authorities, or the regional water authority for the area where the water is located.

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.

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This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO