Information on boat licences and sailing permits in Spain, and more…

A sailing permit or licence (título de recreo) is not needed to sail the following vessels during daylight hours in Spanish waters:

  • Motor boats up to 5 meters in length and with a maximum power of 10 Kw (13 CV)
  • Sailing boats up to 5 metres in length
  • Kayaks, canoes and pedal boats and boats with motors of under 3.5 Kw
  • For further information: Click here (in Spanish)

All other vessels may only be handled by person holding an appropriate licence. Failure to have a licence may result in the vessel being confiscated or a hefty fine.

Although a Yacht Masters certificate (and translation into Spanish) or an ICC(International Certificate of Competence) are considered sufficient proof of competence to skipper a UK (or some other) flagged vessel, the ICC is not a recognised qualification for Spanish flagged vessels. Anyone resident in Spain must have a Spanish recognised qualification, the título de recreo.

Note: this information applies to recreational (not professional skipper) licences only.

Licences fall into the following categories:

  • Patrón de Navegación Básica (PNB) (Basic Navigation Skipper)
    Licence to skipper a sailing yacht maximum 8 metres in length or a motor boat maximum 6 metres (with a motor appropriate to the size) provided the boats stay within 4 miles of the shore
  • Patrón de Embarcaciones de Recreo (PER) (Recreational Vessel’s Skipper)
    Licence to skipper a motor boat up to 12 metres, within 12 miles of shore
  • Patrón de Yate (Yacht Master)
    Licence to skipper a yacht up to 20 metres within 60 miles of land
  • Capitán de Yate (Yacht Captain)
    No limitations
  • Patrón de Moto Náutica (Motor Boat Skipper)
    • Patrón de Moto Náutica C (licence C to skipper boats under 55 CV)
    • Patrón de Moto Náutica B (licence B to skipper boats between 55 CV and 110 CV)
    • Patrón de Moto Náutica A (licence A to skipper boats from 110 CV)

Getting a licence

The título de recreo is applied for and issued either by a school recognised by the Spanish Dirección General de la Marina Mercante or by one of the Autonomous Communities. A medical certificate (certificado médico) is needed and the exam includes a series of safety, navigability and boat basic principles tests. The título de recreo is issued once the applicant has passed a theory and practical exam (it varies in length and difficulty depending on the size of vessel). A good level of Spanish is required to take this exam.

Some foreign boating permits are recognised in Spain, including the US Coast Guard Licence, the RYA Yacht Master Certification and the International Certificate of Competence, and exemption can be acquired. Consult the local marina for details as rules vary by region.

Yacht training schools

There are training schools throughout the country. Most offer the basic security and navigation procedures course, practical courses and preparation for the título de recreo. Some can also convert and validate foreign licences.

Complementary courses include:

  • International Regulations to Prevent Collisions at Sea (Reglamento Internacional para la Prevención de Abordajes en la Mar)
  • Mediterranean Sea: Winds Journal (Mediterráneo. Cuaderno de Vientos)

Practical lessons:

  • Basic Safety and Navigation Procedures – Navigation area: Minor and Mediterranean seas (Prácticas Básicas de Seguridad y Navegación – Zona de Navegación Mar Menor y Mediterráneo)
  • Basic Safety and Navigation Procedures – other navigation areas (Prácticas Básicas de Seguridad y Navegación – otras zonas de Navegación)
  • Pratical Navigation Courses (Cursos de Navegación Práctica)
  • To find locations in Spain offering courses: Click here and select the appropriate region

Foreign Boats and Spanish Customs

Boat owners should clear customs if entering Spain for the first time. The following documents are required:

  • registration papers
  • crew passports
  • certificate of competence
  • evidence of the boat’s VAT status
  • crew list with passport details
  • radio licence
  • certificate of insurance

A VAT paid or exempt yacht can apply for a permiso aduanero.

With this document, the boat owner can remain in Spain indefinitely. Boats registered outside the EU on which VAT has not been paid may be imported into the EU and remain for no more than six months in any twelve, after that VAT becomes due. This period can be extended by prior arrangement with the local custom authorities. Foreign vessels must fly their own national maritime flag, together with the courtesy flag of Spain.

Registering a boat or yacht

Registration (Matriculación) under the Spanish flag is required for boats spending over 182 days a year in Spanish waters. The majority of Capitania Maritima (Maritime Authorities) are able to register/re-register vessels. The Commandancia de Marina Mercante can also carry out this procedure. The cost of registration includes a matriculation tax of 12 percent of the vessel’s value.

There are also rules concerning the vessel’s inventory. Local capitania can provide a list of equipment boats should carry.


Third party liability insurance is mandatory for all motor yachts, jet skis and jet bikes and all sailing yachts over six metres. Insurance documents must be kept on board. If the competent authorities board a vessel and do not find this paperwork, the owner will have five days in which to prove the vessel is insured.

Shipping Dispatch

This formality, required by the Capitania Maritima, ensures all civil vessels meet with necessary administrative requirements.

Sailing boats and small motor boats under six metres in length are exempt from the Shipping Dispatch. Consult the local Capitania or marina for details.