The International Certificate of Competency (ICC), properly known as the International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft, has become the accepted qualification for pleasure craft operators in most European countries. In fact, it is the only international evidence of competence for pleasure boaters in Europe.
In general terms, an ICC is the recommended documentary evidence for the inland waterways of Europe and for inland and coastal waters of Mediterranean countries. For the coastal waters of Northern Europe, the ICC is generally not required, however, to all of these generalizations there are exceptions.
The original intent of the ICC was to facilitate pleasure craft navigation on the Rhine and Danube rivers. Because these rivers pass through a number of countries, it became necessary to develop a Certificate of Competence (CoC) that would be common to most, if not all, countries these rivers transect.
An ICC is a document providing national proof of competence at the “Resolution 40” level when it comes to pleasure craft operations. (The ICC is issued under the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Inland Transport Committee Working Party on Inland Water Transportation, Resolution 40.)
This includes RIBs and other vessels used in conjunction with superyachts plying the waters off the Mediterranean coastline. Since its inception as a CoC, the ICC has evolved into a document that allows yacht crew throughout the Mediterranean coast and inland waters of Europe to verify their competence in handling power and sailing vessels used in conjunction with the yacht to which they are employed.
Crew members often incorrectly believe that they only need to abide with flag state rules. In reality, according to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), they also need to abide by port state regulations.
The requirement to provide proof of an ICC can vary with every port state, and enforcement is unpredictable. However, this does not in any way reduce a crew member’s responsibility to adhere to port state regulations. Due to the inconsistencies between countries, and even at the same port over time, many crew members are not used to a request to provide appropriate proof of competence by Port State Control. Without an ICC, they may be in violation of regulations in those port states that require them.
I remember hearing the story of a superyacht departing South Florida bound for the Mediterranean a few years ago. Upon arrival, the captain launched his RIB and proceeded to shore. Within minutes, the RIB was stopped by Port State Control. The captain, possessing a 3000-ton CoC from the UK, wrongly believed that he did not need an ICC since his current CoC was held to a much higher standard.
Nonetheless, Port State Control issued the captain a citation and fine, stating that he needed an ICC.
This could have happened to any crew member operating the same RIB or other superyacht support/pleasure vessel. Therefore, it is imperative that any crew who may potentially operate a yacht support vessel have an ICC in their possession while operating that vessel. Having only Power Boat Level II or Yachtmaster certificates is insufficient; they will not replace the ICC.
Unlike an EU driving license for road vehicles, which all EU member states are obligated to accept, all EU member states are not obligated to accept an ICC. Generally, only those states that have adopted UNECE Resolution 40 are obligated to accept the ICC. However, some countries have not adopted Resolution 40, such as Spain, Greece and Portugal, yet they often ask visitors to produce one.
Applying for an ICC is not difficult. The RYA is one of a few organizations that is authorized to issue an ICC on behalf of the MCA. Crew must be at least 16 years of age and possess one of the specified UK certificates, which include RYA Powerboat Level II, RYA Yachtmaster or any grade MCA Deck Officer Certificate of Competence.
Crew who do not hold one of the specified RYA certificates may receive an ICC following an assessment from an RYA-approved training center.
The ICC is formally accepted in the following UNECE countries that have adopted Resolutions 14 and/or 40: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland and United Kingdom.
The following UNECE member states have not accepted Resolutions 14 or 40: Greece, Moldova, Portugal, Spain, Russian Federation, Serbia, Sweden, Ukraine and United States.
So be sure to get an ICC to keep your career on course.
Capt. Brian Luke is chief operations officer for International Crew Training in Ft. Lauderdale. He is an airline captain and holds a USCG 1600/3000-ton master’s ticket. ICT trains crew for entry-level through 3000 ITC Master licenses, engineering and interior operations. Comments on this column are welcome at email@example.com.