Sailing and Boating in Switzerland

Information on the rules on boat licences and sailing permits required in Switzerland...

When a permit is required

In Switzerland, there are two types of sailing permit: one for sailing on the sea under the Swiss flag; and one for sailing on inland waters. A person wanting to apply for a sea permit (permis mer) must already hold an inland waters permit (permis pour eaux intérieures).

A sailing permit or licence (permis de conduire pour bateaux) is not needed to sail the following vessels:

  • row boats
  • boats with sails smaller than 15m2
  • motor boats with a maximum power of 6 Kw (minimum age 14)

Permit categories

Note: the following information applies to recreational (not professional skipper) permits only.

Permits fall into the following categories:

  • A: motor boats with a minimum power of 6 Kw (8.16 CV)
  • D: sail boats with sails more than 15m2 of sails
  • D1: sail boats with a motor with a minimum power of 6 Kw (8.16 CV)

Inland waters permit

Applications for an inland waters permit can be made at the Road Traffic Office (Service des Automobiles et de la Navigation) of the person's place of place of residence. The exam must be taken in the same canton. The minimum age for obtaining a sail boat licence is 14, for motor boats the minimum age is 18.

The applicant must register and pay in advance for the permit. They may register for the theory and only one practical exam. If they fail the practical exam, an additional fee will have to be paid.

The followings documents are required on application:

  • proof of identity
  • one colour passport photograph
  • completed application form; for Geneva, the PDF form can be downloaded (in French)
  • registration fee

Once the application form has been submitted, candidates have 12 months in which to take the theory test, while the practical test must be taken within 18 months of the theory test. A medical certificate is required for candidates 65 years of age and over. Exams can be taken in French, German or Italian, and an official translator can accompany the person taking the exam.

Sea licence

The applicant must have a lake/inland waters permit before applying for a sea permit (permis mer). All sea permits are issued by the Swiss Maritime Navigation Office (Office Suisse de la Navigation Maritime). Foreign sailing permits can not be exchanged for a sea permit.

To obtain a sea permit the applicant must:

  • provide their inland waters sailing permit
  • pass a theory exam on regulations, the weather, use of maps and tide calculations
  • submit proof of having completed at least 1,000 miles of sailing (sail boat) or 500 miles of sailing (motor boat)
  • have a valid first aid certificate
  • have an eye test certificate
  • For more information on obtaining a sea permit (in French)

The Cruising Club de Suisse organises lessons and registration for the sea permit.

Registering a Boat or Yacht

Registration is not required for the following boats:

  • kayaks, canoes and pedal boats
  • motor boats up to 2.5m in length
  • windsurfs

Boats are registered at the local Road Traffic Office (Service des Automobiles et de la Navigation).

The following documents are required:

  • registration form (available from the local Road Traffic Office)
  • proof of insurance (except for boats with less than 15m2 of sails or row boats)
  • proof of identity (passport or residence permit)
  • Certificate of Conformity 94/25 CE (new boats only)
  • proof of tax payment for imported boats
  • sailing permit

All motor boats must undergo a service as well as emissions testing every three years.

Further Information