Federal waterway; application for a driver's license

If you want to steer a vehicle on a federal waterway as a ship or boat operator, you need a driver's license for the respective class.



  • Physical and mental fitness to drive a vehicle
  • Reliability (among other things, no previous convictions for traffic offenses)
  • Passing the relevant test
  • Depending on the type of certificate applied for, a certain minimum age:
    • 21 years for the large and small Rhine patent, the authority patent as well as the inland navigation patent A, B, C, D and F
    • 18 years for the sport patent and the inland navigation patent E
  • From the age of 50, you must regularly submit a current medical certificate to prove your fitness again. The proof is necessary
    • when you reach the age of 50, 55, 60 and 65, and
    • annually from the age of 65


You must apply for the boatmaster's certificate or patent in writing to the General Directorate of Waterways and Shipping (GDWS):

  • Download the application form from the Electronic Waterways Information Service (ELWIS). Fill it out completely and print it out.
  • Attach the necessary supporting documents. Most importantly, have a physician licensed for this purpose examine you and provide proof of medical fitness.
  • Submit the application documents to the General Directorate of Waterways and Shipping.
  • Apply to the authority responsible for you for a certificate of good conduct for submission to an authority. Have the certificate of good conduct sent to the General Directorate of Waterways and Shipping.
  • If you meet all the requirements for the respective certificate of good conduct, the General Directorate for Waterways and Shipping will admit you to the examination and arrange a suitable examination date with you.
  • Take the exam. If you have passed the examination, you will receive a provisional boatmaster's certificate directly on site, with which you can drive a vehicle for three months. Within these three months, your personal patent card will be issued by the Bundesdruckerei and sent to you by mail.
  • If you have not passed the exam, you can retake the exam after a certain blocking period. As a rule, the examination board will impose a blocking period of three to six months on you. You will have to pay the examination fee again for the repeat examination. Those parts of the exam that you passed at the first attempt will generally remain recognized, so you will only be retested on the parts that you failed.


Your application and all documents should be submitted to the appropriate field office no later than four weeks before the desired examination date. However, due to the high number of applicants, you will usually have to expect significantly longer waiting times until the examination.

Processing time

Depending on the volume of applications and the location of the exam.
Exams are usually held every two to three months.

Required documents

  • Required Documents

    • medical certificate confirming your physical and mental fitness for navigation on the Rhine or inland waterways (not older than three months)
    • Copy of your identity card or passport
    • certificate of good conduct for submission to an authority (document type "O")
    • Current passport photograph
    • Presentation of the skipper's service book


  • Form, Bavaria-wide: Antrag auf Zulassung zur Prüfung für ein Schiffsführerzeugnis
    Please note

    This form has to be signed and sent to the responsible authority. You can sign the form manually and send it by email/fax or sign the form electronically with your qualified electronic signature an send it by (secure) email. If the responsible authority has set up a De-Mail account, you can also send the form by De-Mail using an sender-confirmed message.


  • Depending on the scope of the exam, different fees apply:

    • Admission to the exam: EUR 147 or EUR 158
    • Examination fee: between EUR 390 and EUR 585 (the exact fee depends on whether, for example, a route knowledge test is carried out at the same time or a practical test is included)


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