Indeed requirements today differ from EU country to EU country, mainly because of specific weather conditions, traditional techniques and even safety rules. As a result each country requires that only people holding local qualifications should skipper boats in its waters, and only on boats registered in the country itself.
But this severely limits the free circulation of a whole set of people. Charter boat skippers, people who move boats in or between ports, delivery skippers and diving instructors often find themselves in the paradoxical situation of not being able to skipper a vessel identical to theirs just because it is flagged to another country. The resulting loss of earnings could be between €50 and €120 million a year, according to Commission estimates.
By contrast, unleashing the potential of today's charter market could make a lot of sense, especially now that new forms of eco-tourism are taking shape, the market is leaning towards boat chartering rather than ownership anyway and finally environmental principles suggest consuming services rather than products.
For all these reasons (and as announced in last year's Staff Working Document on Nautical Tourism,) the European Commission is considering establishing a EU-wide skippers licence. Through a new call worth €750 000, it is hoping to receive quality studies that compare national legislations, consult both public and private players and recommend whether or not there is ground for a common European curriculum covering all requirements and thus exempting skipper from the need to repeat the entire qualification process for each country where they wish to operate.
Two identical boats in the same location, but a skipper is only allowed to skip the one whose flag matches his or her licence.