JobWave explains: River Captain / Skipper licenses and certificates (EU)

Inland shipping
4 months ago

Are you aspiring to become a river captain navigating the inland waterways of Europe? Understanding the skipper qualifications and certificates for inland shipping is essential. In this guide, we'll delve into the requirements and licenses you need to embark on a rewarding career as a river captain.

In the world of inland shipping in Europe, those in charge of vessels are often referred to as Skippers. For Rhine ships we rather talk about river captains, as these ships are often much bigger, support a bigger crew, resulting in additional ranks like 1st and 2nd captain. As a skipper/captain you oversee the operation of barges on a network of rivers, lakes, and canals. While the licensing requirements may not be as comprehensive as those for ocean-going captains, one must possess a solid understanding of the regulations, navigation, and vessel management specific to inland waterways.

Let's explore the essential licenses:

boating license inland

Skipper License A / A-Patent / Groot Vaarbewijs A (GVB-A)

Holding this license allows you to navigate any inland waterway, including seaward boundaries such as the Waddenzee, the Zuid-Holland and Zeeuwse streams, and the IJsselmeer. However, for certain rivers like the Danube, Elbe, Rhine, and Weser (Above Minden), you'll need additional certifications demonstrating your "local knowledge" of these waterways.

With Skipper License A, you can operate:

  • Commercial vessels exceeding 38 meters in length.
  • Passenger ships designed to carry more than 12 people.
  • Tugboats and push boats exceeding 38 meters, even for leisure use.
  • Recreational boats stretching over 38 meters.
  • Boats involved in towing, pushing, or moving alongside another vessel that's 20 meters or longer.
Captain&nbsp;<b>Skipper License A</b>

Skipper License B / B-Patent / Groot Vaarbewijs B GVB-B) / Unions Patent (UB)

The B-Patent authorizes both commercial and non-commercial vessel operation on inland waterways up to seaward boundaries. Additional local knowledge certifications are required for specific rivers like the Danube, Elbe, Rhine, and Weser (Above Minden).

With Skipper License B, you can captain:

  • Commercial vessels at least 38 meters long.
  • Passenger ships for more than 12 passengers.
  • Tugboats and push boats exceeding 38 meters, intended for leisure.
  • Recreational boats over 38 meters in length.
  • Vessels involved in towing, pushing, or moving alongside another vessel that's 20 meters or longer.
ship radar patent

Radar Patent

In addition to your navigation license, obtaining a radar patent is crucial for navigating using radar technology. This patent enables navigation on all Dutch inland waters and the entire Rhine using radar. Given the variable conditions and common low visibility scenarios on these waterways, radar navigation skills are invaluable.

VHF (Marifoon) Certification

Aside from safely maneuvering your vessel, you must also understand basic communication rules with other ships, locks, and ports. A basic VHF (Marifoon) certification for inland shipping communication ensures clear and effective communication across waterways.

VHF Ship communication

ADN Certification for Dangerous Goods

Frequent transport of hazardous materials on the Rhine and Danube requires expertise certified by the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Inland Waterways (ADN).  This training covers safety guidelines, emergency protocols, and operational regulations specific to dangerous goods, including basic, chemical, and gas cargoes.  One always first needs to get the ADN-B which stands for basic. Then one is allowed to acquire the ADN-C for Chemicals and ADN-G for gases.

Additional Certifications for Specific Waterways

Certain rivers or stretches of European waterways demand additional certifications due to their treacherous nature. These certifications complement the basic Skipper Licenses A and B. Here are four noteworthy ones:

Rhine Patent

Highly valuable, the Rhine Patent is essential for captains navigating Europe's inland shipping highway. Many modern large tankers along the Rhine require captains to hold this license. The German part of the Rhine is divided into seven sections, each are called a “Strecke” and mostly defined by a major port or town. Navigating these sections often necessitates passing separate tests and acquiring at least the first five sections to navigate from Dutch ports to Mainz in Germany.

Danube Patent

Flowing through ten countries, the Danube is a vital waterway for international trade. The Danube Patent certifies your adeptness in piloting vessels along its multifaceted routes. It comprises a collection of endorsements, each corresponding to different river sectors. Captains must pass rigorous examinations evaluating their knowledge of Danube navigational regulations, waterway signs, and environmental conditions. The patent requires periodic renewal to stay updated on navigation techniques and safety regulations.

Elbe Patent

The Elbe River links central Europe to the North Sea, serving as a vital maritime route. To navigate its diverse conditions, captains must hold an Elbe Patent. Obtaining this patent involves passing examinations on river-specific legislation, vessel handling under varying weather conditions, and managing cargo specific to the region's trade. Additionally, captains are evaluated on emergency procedures and environmental protection measures to safeguard the river's ecosystem.

Wesel Patent (above Minden)

The Wesel region boasts a network of waterways crucial to the Rhine-Ruhr industrial region. Navigating this region is highly strategic. The Wesel Patent is specialized for captains operating in its intricate waterways. It requires proficiency in local navigation rules, bridge and lock operations, and managing traffic density. The certification process includes practical and theoretical assessments covering vessel handling in confined waterways, logistical coordination, and up-to-date knowledge of regional commercial laws.

In conclusion, there is a wide variety of certificates and patents that you can obtain as river captain/skipper. Also in this field more qualifications will likely mean a higher salary. On JobWave we always try to specify the requirements for Inland captains and skippers as detailed as possible. If you ever have questions regarding river patents and certifications, don't hesitate to contact us! 

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