RYA licensing arrangement in Spanish waters after Brexit

The Spanish flag being flown on a vessel at seaSince Brexit there have been a few individuals who have been working almost non-stop to find solutions and trying to prevent incorrect facts being reported in the news and on social media platforms. The last few days have seen some news articles published in Mallorca that have been fundamentally incorrect and inaccurate and many boat owners in the Balearics are receiving mixed and confusing messages over RYA licensing and what they can and cannot do.

These are the facts as confirmed by multiple legal opinions:
Why has the acceptance of RYA Licensing in Spain changed?
From the 1st of January 2021, as a result of Brexit, the Spanish ceased to accept all RYA and ICC [international Certificates of Competence] on any Spanish flagged vessels. This prevented anyone with RYA/ICC Certification from operating on a Spanish flagged vessel.

This did not affect the use of RYA/ICC Certification on British flagged recreational in Spanish waters and therefore, recreational operators of British flagged vessels in Spanish waters we not affected by the ruling of the 1st January 2021 and could continue to use their boats in Spanish waters. It did not affect any continued validity of RYA/ICC Certification on other Flag states inside or outside the EU.

On the 1st January 2021, the Spanish cancelled all Spanish Charter Licenses on British flagged vessels under 14m and prevented them from operating commercially. British flagged vessels over 14m currently not affected.

On Thursday 11th March ANEN [Asociacion Nacional de Empresas Nauticas] confirmed that there would be a change of the current legislation to allow RYA certification to be used on recreational Spanish flagged vessels. They have said that they expect this to be resolved before the Summer 2021 Season.

The acceptance of Commercial RYA Licensing on Spanish vessels operating commercially have never been accepted by the Spanish Flag State and to operate on a Commercial Spanish vessel you will need a Spanish Commercial License.

There are two factors that affect Marine Crew Licensing
1) Flag State Licensing:
The Country where the vessel is registered. This country decides the crew licensing requirements for its vessels.

2) Port State Licensing:
The waters where the vessel is operating and where the vessel must comply with any specific Port State legislation or bylaws etc.

Therefore, if you have a British flagged vessel, it is the British Authorities who decide on crew licensing and what is the legal requirement. However, when that vessel is operating in Spanish waters [the Port state] it has to comply with the Port state requirements. No Port state will ever dictate to a Flag state over crew licensing but they will control the issue of charter licensing and expect you to comply with their Port state legislation.

Article written by Steve Bell and first appeared on The Islander website

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