Sailing and Barge Boats on Canals and Waterways of France

Understand how to use a barge boat on French canals and waterways: operate locks, times you may sail and general rules, regulations and recommendations of the waterways...

Prior to 1 January 2008, navigating a vessel over five metres with an engine capacity greater than 4.5 Kw (6hp) and a displacement of over 10m required a permit (certificat de capacité). These licences remain valid in part: the C permit requires additional practical training to allow it to be valid for the 20 metre long boat; the S permit remains valid as is.
  • Category C (coche de plaisance): Pleasure boats up to 15m travelling under 20 Km/h
  • Category S (bateau de sport): Power boats able to travel faster 20 Km/h
  • Category PP (péniche de plaisance): boats (and house boats) longer than 15m but travelling under 20 Km/h

The Recreational Permit (Permis Plaisance)

On 1 January 2008, a new system was introduced. The Recreational Permit (Permis Plaisance) is available for four different purposes, one each for sea and inland waters, each of which can be extended. An applicant must be at least 16 years of age and provide the examination centre with a medical certificate. A theory and practical test must be passed before the permit is issued. The inland water permits are:
Basic Extension
Eaux Intérieures Grande Plaisance Fluviale
boats up to 20 metres no length restrictions
Test: QCM + practical 9 hours practical training
The QCM is a theory test of 25 questions (four errors are allowed). Practical training may begin before the theory test is taken, but a permit is only issued when the practical and theory tests are passed. A minimum of three hours practical training must take place at a training center. Permits can be extended with additional tests and training. To attain the "large river craft" permit, the candidate must be at least 18 years of age and have done a minimum of 9 hours practical training on a boat of at least 20 metres in length.

Applying for the permit

There is a single point of contact in each department:
  • Coastal départements: Contact the Directions Départementales des Affaires Maritimes
  • Inland départements: Contact the Services de la Navigation (and for Nantes, contact the Direction Départementale de l'Equipement de Nantes)
  • More information about recreational boating can be found on the French Government website
Detailed information is also available from the French Waterways website.

Renting a boat

Temporary permits may be issued to the driver of a rental boat for the duration of the rental period and set journey. This temporary ICC is issued after a short training period which includes some practical training on the boat. It can only be issued by approved boat charter companies. Boats may be rented and driven by any person over 16 with a valid operating certificate. Foreign ICC cards are accepted.