These are the regulations and licences that cruising hotel barges are governed by.

The Barge – Inspected and Certified as a Bateau à Passagers

  • Hotel barges have to comply with a number of legal requirements, including those in France being scrutinised by the Service Instructeur inspectorate.
    A hotel barge is required to have a Permit de Bateau registration as “Bateau à Passagers“. The certification is issued by the Service Instructeur (formerly termed the Commission de Surveillance), following an inspection and survey that has to be repeated every five years.
    The vessel will be certified for certain category of waterway, ranging from the straightforward to major rivers such as the Seine or Rhone to tidal coastal waters.
  • In general terms, within the EU inland waterways network, boats longer than 20 metres in length or 100 cu.m. in volume also have to comply with the TRIWV – the EU Directive on Technical Requirements for Inland Waterways Vessels. There is a certification process.

Of the two, the Permit de Bateau / Passager requirements are significantly more stringent and effectively supersede than those of TRIWV.

The Pilot (Skipper) – Certificat de Capacité qualification

certificate de capacite france

  • Must hold a professional Certificat de Capacité (Certificate of Competence).
    A commercial level licence, it is normally obtainable only after four years of practical barge operation experience. However a restricted licence may be issued after one year, applicable only to the type of barge being examined on. This latter is more normal for many hotel barge-only pilots, who may have experience based on the 20m+ pleasure licence, the ‘GP’.
  • It is widely understood that the Certificate de Capacité is only required for barges carrying 12 or more passengers, but this is not the case.
  • The ‘GP’ Grande Plaisance private licence (this has replaced the former ‘PP’ Péniche Plaisance licence)
    The candidate must have done a minimum of 9 hours practical training on a boat of at least 20 metres in length. The GP permit has replaced the former PP (peniche plaisance) licence that applied to boats over 15m. The examination tests the pilot’s thorough knowledge of waterways regulations and practicalities, together with an examination of barge handling skills. The test can only be carried out at a recognised school.
    .

Safety – ASP Attestation Spéciale Passagers is held

For a boat carrying any guests (passengers) up to 50 in number, at least one person (skipper or crew) must have this certificate, which requires knowledge of proper equipment operation, safety procedures and first aid. More than 50 passengers, two persons.

There are also regulations regarding the safety equipment to be carried generally on boats in France.

Priority – Fly a Red Flag

When the hotel barge has been certified as a Bateau à Passager, it can apply for a “Priorité aux écluses“. If granted, a specific certificate is issued by the Service de la Navigation and the barge can fly a red flag at the bows (on the ‘jackstaff’). This flag gives the barge priority at ecluses – if it is in sight of a lock, it has the right to go in first. But if a boat is already in, the barge must wait.

This priority only applies at ecluses and not in other situations (outside those governed by normal waterway regulations, which cover the necessary ‘rules of the road’). CEVNI (the code of regulations governing all European waterways) gives ‘normal’ vessels (generally speaking, those of more than 20m length) priority over ‘small’ vessels in appropriate situations – for example, in narrow channels and canals.

Hotel barges may, however, have made specific mooring reservations with capitaineries and hence have a ‘commercial’ priority there.


These notes are merely an outline guide. Click to refer to the detailed VNF information document about operating a hotel barge, in French.