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What do you need to take charge of 55 tonnes of ocean going splendour?
In the UK for vessels of 24m LWL (length on waterline) or LBP (length between perpendiculars), and below 80 GT (Gross Tonnage), you first of all need an ICC (International Certificate of Competency) issued in the UK by the RYA (Royal Yachting Association). Note that 24m is not the length overall (LOA) which is the measurement provided for most barges when advertised, for example, a Luxemotor has a pronounced cruiser stern which can make the LOA a good metre or so longer than the LWL. Currently the 24m limit has disappeared from the UK ICC whereas in the continental countries they use a 20m limit. There is some confusion that a requirement for an international certificate should be different in different countries. The UK attitude seems to be "when in doubt leave it out"!
A vessels GT is actually a measure of volume of the vessel from the keel to the funnel multiplied by a constant. It is therefore not an actual weight and 80 GT represents about 310m³, Harmonie being about 42 GT, there is no danger that a 24m vessel is ever going to exceed 80 GT. The important tonnage measurement you need to know for lifting the vessel out of the water is the displacement which is the actual weight of water the vessel displaces and for Harmonie is 55 tonnes.
There are pre-qualifications before you can gain this ICC certificate which, once again, vary from country to country but the minimum in the UK is the Inland Waters Helmsman Certificate with a CEVNI (Code Européen des Voies de Navigation Intérieure) endorsement. The CEVNI codes are the "Highway Code" of the European waterways and you can obtain this endorsement by completing a course at an approved RYA training school. We did a one day course with the excellent T.R Boat Handling on the Shropshire Union Canal. They will tailor your course for up to 3 days depending on your previous experience and you can sit the written CEVNI examination on completion. Some previous study is essential for you to pass first time. Incidentally, due to discounts from the RYA for membership it was cheaper to join the RYA before you applied for the ICC.
Your ship will probably be registered with a EU country. Harmonie II was on the Belgian registry and she could have stayed there, however, as UK citizens we decided to fly the Red Duster and registered Harmonie with the British Small Ships Register, a simple process that can be completed on-line for a few bob.
Your ship will need a radio licence from a national authority which in the UK is Ofcom. Harmonie may retain her Belgian licence or it could be transferred to Ofcom but either way the appropriate authority must be informed of any change of ownership. The ships call sign is unique and if your radio is a DSC (Digital Selective Calling) set, this is programmed into it. In addition, to operate the set you need a short range certificate. Once again you will need to complete a DSC radio operators course at an approved RYA establishment. I did a one day course with Yachtcom at Hamble. Some pre-course study is to be recommended and Yachtcom give you some software which simulates various types of VHF sets so you can practise before you do the course. You use real sets on the course.
Finally it is very important that the vessel has a current EU community or TRIWV certificate and you can see further details of this requirement on this page