The Qualifications Needed to Take Fee Paying Passengers Boating in the UK

Posted on April 18, 2016 by Richard Shrubb under Boating, Sailing Courses, Sailing Regulations 1 Comment

commercial boatOwning a boat is an expensive affair.

Keeping a 40ft yacht in a South Coast marina can cost £5000 a year, and then you will need to pay insurance and maintenance, as well as hauling it out every year to keep its underside in good condition.

It is no wonder that there’s a saying that ‘a boat is a hole in the water to throw money in’! As with all assets, people might think of making the boat earn its keep. Unless you’re smuggling refugees or drugs across the Channel (which isn’t recommended), in most cases you will need a commercial skipper’s endorsement and have the boat meet certain safety standards.

According to the UK government website, “Any boat that’s not a pleasure vessel is considered to be a commercial boat.” This means, as soon as you start taking paying passengers or cargo you are considered a commercial vessel and you as well as your boat will need to meet certain safety standards and certifications.

This piece will look at which courses you will need to consider to be able to take paid passengers sailing in UK waters.

Boat certification

Every five years you will need to have the boat assessed and certified by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

It must meet certain stability standards and have safety equipment that is in good working order. Once these have been certified you will be given an Area Category that dictates how far you can go to sea with passengers onboard. The master and crew must have certain qualifications in order to take the vessel out to sea too. A very good summary of this can be found on the RYA website here.

Your own qualifications

You will have to have training and certification yourself, and this will dictate how far out you can take your passengers, as well as when you can take them.

Where with leisure qualifications in theory it is possible to sail across the Atlantic with no formal training whatsoever (though the US Coastguard won’t be very welcoming!) as soon as you venture into the commercial world even on a yacht you need to meet certain standards and be reassessed every five years.

For most day sails on an outboard engined powerboat or a yacht, you can get away with an RYA Day Skipper or Powerboat Level 2 – though these must be commercially endorsed.

You would do the course in the normal way – visit an RYA training establishment and get your qualifications. Honestly it would help to go and do an intensive Yachtmaster course as the £10,000 would pay you back quite quickly, though not everyone has that sort of time on their hands if they’re rich enough to buy a 40ft yacht!

Professional endorsements

After doing your RYA course you will need to do a series of commercial endorsement qualifications. You will need to sit the RYA Professional Practices and Responsibilities course. This is a two day course covering the rules, regulations and good practice in running a commercial vessel.

Additionally you will need to do a Basic Sea Survival course that takes one day and costs around £100-150. If you are getting a Day Skipper or Powerboat Level 2 course endorsed you will also need to get a First Aid certificate, that again will take a day and cost as little as £60, though you will get a better certificate if you are doing a Coastal Skipper or Yachtmaster course as part if the qualification process. You will also have to get your Marine VHF certificate and finally, you will have to meet certain medical requirements.

You can do these courses either separately or as part of an intensive STCW 95 course – the intensive course may cost less due to economies of scale.

Medical requirements

Sailing a pleasure craft for leisure purposes you don’t really need to worry about your health or any disability in UK waters. Obviously you should take care of yourself and be fit enough not to cause problems to other water users. However, for commercial endorsements you need to be physically fit, and undergo a medical every five years.

You will have to visit a doctor that is qualified to test your fitness and they will assess your fitness. If you have heart problems, epilepsy, lung disease, kidney problems, mental health issues or very short sight this could cause you problems. Have a look at the UK government website here to see what the complete list of issues are that may stand in the way of you getting a medical fitness certificate.

In Summary

If you’re physically fit and want to make your boat pay its way during the year, it isn’t that much of an effort to get commercially endorsed to sail in the UK. There are hurdles that you have to cross but for most sensible sailors who have followed the RYA syllabus anyway, it could well be a ‘box ticking exercise’ that can get your boat paying for herself.

Additionally with these qualifications you become a commercial skipper and this opens the door to busman’s holidays as a skipper, perhaps cruising the Med or Caribbean during your time off work! Not a bad idea overall…

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