Sailing and Boating in Germany

Information on the rules on boat licences and sailing permits and more...

Below is information on:

Germany has a huge sailing and boating community within the inland waters and along the coastline. There are waters and facilities for sailing and leisure boating along the Baltic Sea (Ostsee), North Sea (Nordsee) coastlines of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein and on the many lakes and rivers dotted around the country.

Emergency Contacts

Service Telephone

German Coastguard (for emergencies at sea)

Radio band number 16

Maritime Emergencies Reporting and Assessment Centre, MERAC
(Maritimes Lagezentrum - MLZ) (24 hours)

Tel: 04721 567 485
Fax: 04721 554 744
email

North Sea and Baltic Sea storm warnings

Tel: 040 6690 1209

German Sea-Rescue Service
(Deutsche Gesellschaft zur RettungSchiffbrüchiger, DGzRS)

Tel: 0421 536 870

Rules and Regulations

A sailing licence (Segelschein) is required for larger vessels but generally not obligatory when renting smaller "leisure craft" for use on lakes and riviers (this varies depending on the federal state and rental company).

The Federal Ministry for Transport, Building and Urban Affairs (Bundesministerium für Verkehr Bau und Stadtenwicklung, BMVBS) provides information on issues relating to rules and regulations. Its website has comprehensive information on all issues relating to sailing and boating in Germany.

When sailing a private boat always carry:

  • boat registration details
  • personal identification papers (passport)
  • insurance certificates
  • For all rules and regulations in English for sailing and boating in Germany: Click here

Overseeing Authorities

All official permits and licences are issued by the German Sailing Association (Deutsche Segler Verband, DSV) under the mandate of the Federal Ministry for Transport (Bundesministerium für Verkehr).

  • German Sailing Association (Deutschen Segler-Verband e. V., DSV) (in German)
    At: Gründgensstr. 18, 22309 Hamburg
    Tel
    : 040 632 0090
    Fax
    : 040 6320 0928

The Sailing Permit

In communities where there is little water traffic, it is often unnecessary to show a sailing permit/licence (Segelscheine) when boating on Germany's inland lakes and waterway network. A certain degree of common sense, respect for nature, ability to swim and mandatory life vest stowage is required, but greater knowledge of water hazards and navigation skills is only needed for larger vessels and busier waterways. When boating in such conditions, for example main rivers or coastal resorts, boat hire will be almost impossible without the relevant sailing licence. A licence is also a useful way of recording sailing excursions, ensuring insurance coverage and provides the holder with useful information and skills in case of danger. German sailing licences are also valid in other EU countries.

There are a number of different types of official boating licence in Germany. In general, unless there is any specific local legislation, there is no requirement for a sailing licence for simple sailing boats without a motor.

The most common licences are:

  • Inland sport boating pilot's licence (Sportbootführerschein SBF Binnen): This licence is valid for vessels with a motor output of up to 3.68 Kw travelling on inland waterways
  • Maritime sport boating pilot's licence (Sportbootführerschein SBF See): This licence is valid for vessels with a motor output of up to 3.68 Kw travelling on maritime waters
  • Coastal sport shipping licence (Sportküstenschifferschein): May only be applied for following completion of the SBF and allows boating up to 12 sea miles from the coast
  • Maritime sport shipping licence (Sportseeschifferschein): May only be applied for following completion of the SBF; allows boating up to 30 sea miles from the coast
  • High seas sport shipping licence (Sporthochseeschifferschein): Can only be applied for following completion of Sportseeschifferschein; allows the holder to sail anywhere in the world

Specific licences for certain regions may also be required. In Berlin and Brandenburg for example, a Sportbootführerschein Binnen (unter segel) is obligatory for sails larger than 3m2.

Additional permits include membership of inland or maritime radio associations and the use of maritime emergency signal equipment (Seenotsignalmittel).

Sailing courses

Sailing courses are available for all levels, from beginners to more experienced sailors. The DSV Sportsegelschein is issued exclusively by DSV-licensed clubs and can be taken as an inland waterway or maritime option.

The complexities involved in sailing mean that undertaking a course in English is certainly advantageous for non-German speakers. This can be fairly problematic within the German sailing club community, so when applying for a sports sailing licence, it is best to enquire in advance if English-speaking courses are available or seek an English-speaking German to share the experience and translate any complicated information.

  • Beginners: a two-week foundation course should be taken before the two-week sailing licence course. This provides general information on boats, sails and equipment as well as sailing manoeuvres
  • Intermediate sailors: a one-week course is also advised before taking the sailing licence course. This can be implemented at the same sailing club and covers sailing manoeuvres, theory and basic weather patterns
  • Experienced sailors can begin immediately with the two-week licence course

Licences are available for youths (under 18 - Jüngstensegelschein). This licence loses its validity when the holder reaches 18 years of age.

Inland sport boating pilot's licence (SBF Binnen, Sportbootführerschein Binnen)

The Sportbootführerschein Binnen allows the holder to pilot motor-driven or sail-powered leisure boats under 15m in length and with a motor capacity of up to 3.68 Kw on inland waterways in Germany.

The applicant must have:

  • sailed from the age of 14
  • sailed with a motor from the age of 16
  • a medical certificate for a sport boating licence application

There are also theoretical and practical exams. The theory part of the exam tests:

  • Knowledge of inland waterway laws
  • Seamanship
  • Control of the vessel

The practical part of the exam tests the above in a practical setting as well as the mastering of different sailing manoeuvres.

The maritime sport boating pilot's licence (SBF See, Sportbootführerschein See)

The Sportbootführerschein See allows holders to pilot motorised vessels with an output of 3.68 Kw on maritime waters. For applicants to qualify for this licence, they must:

  • Be over 16 years of age
  • Have a medical certificate for a sport boating licence application

The exam comes in two parts. The theoretical part covers:

  • Navigation
  • Seamanship
  • Seamanship law
  • Weather patterns
  • Control of sailing vessels

The practical part of the exam puts the theoretical elements into practice. Additional elements include implementing different manoeuvres, emergency assistance processes and a knot-tying exam.

The coastal sport shipping licence (Sportküstenschifferschein)

The Sportküstenschifferschein allows sailors to sail yachts (both motor and sailed) in coastal waters up to 12 sea miles from land. For applicants to qualify for this licence, they must:

  • Be over 16 years old
  • Be in possession of a maritime SBF
  • Have sailed on yachts in coastal waters for over 300 sea miles (with proof from sailing club)

The theoretical exam consists of a mapping task as well as an oral test covering:

  • Seamanship
  • Shipping law
  • Weather patterns

The practical exam tests the theoretical aspects in a practical setting as well as life-saving and advanced sailing manoeuvres.

Maritime sport shipping licence (Sportseeschifferschein)

The Sportseeschifferschein allows sailors to sail yachts (both motor and sailed) in coastal waters up to 30 sea miles from land. For applicants to qualify for this licence, they must:

  • Be over 16 years old
  • Be in possession of a maritime SBF
  • Have sailed on yachts as captain in coastal waters for over 1,000 sea miles (with proof from sailing club)

The theoretical exam consists of written and oral tests in:

  • Navigation
  • Seamanship
  • Shipping law
  • Weather patterns

The practical exam tests the theoretical aspects in a practical setting as well as life-saving, radar and advanced sailing manoeuvres.

High seas sport shipping licence (Sporthochseeschifferschein)

The Sporthochseeschifferschein allows sailors to sail yachts (both motor and sailed) anywhere around the world. For applicants to qualify for this licence, they must:

  • Be over 18 years old
  • Be in possession of a Sportseeschifferschein
  • Have sailed on yachts in coastal waters as captain for over 1,000 sea miles (with proof from sailing club)

The theoretical exam consists of written and oral tests in:

  • Navigation
  • Shipping law
  • Weather patterns
  • Handling a yacht (extra oral exam covering navigation using stars, international maritime law, tropical storms and so on)

There is no practical exam for this licence.

Registering a Boat in Germany

To register a boat in Germany, apply to the German Sailing Association (Deutsche Segler Verband, DSV) using the standard application form. The international boat registration document (Internationaler Bootsschein, IBS) is valid for two years as long as no boat measurements are changed within this time period. Boats must be re-registered after this time.

The following documents are required when registering a boat in Germany:

  • Completed IBS application form
  • Proof of vessel ownership (contract, invoice)
  • Confirmation from a sailing club concerning any changes in boat measurements
  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of German proof of residency

Further Information