THE number of applications in the Balearics for navigational qualifications for boats of more than six metres in length is still increasing, in spite of the fact that the number of moorings in all the ports are at a standstill.
The most sought after qualification is that of leisure boat skipper.
There have been 1'618 applications for this qualification alone so far this year, in comparison to the 2'782 applications received during the whole of 2006, according to figures from the Balearic Ministry for Mobility and Town Planning.
The Balearics is exceeding the average for the applications recorded in other autonomous regions, such as Catalonia, Andalucia, Valencia and the Canary Islands.
The demand for this type of qualification is rising mainly because of the strict requirements which have been imposed on the nautical sector by the authorities for reasons of safety.
A qualification is not needed for motor boats of up to four metres in length, or sailing boats of up to five metres in length.
However, if the boat is longer than that stated above, a qualification is required.
The basic skipper's qualification (for sailing boats of up to eight metres in length or motor boats of up to six metres) allows the holder to sail within four miles of the coast.
On the other hand, the leisure boat skipper's licence (for boats up to 12 metres in length) allows the holder to sail within 12 miles of the coast.
This means that they can sail between the islands. That is why this is the most sought after qualification, explained Government sources.
The two other qualifications, yacht skipper (for boats of up to 20 metres long allowing the holder to sail within 60 miles of the coast), and yacht captain are less sought after because of their complexity.
Every year there are four exams, but it is the April, July and December ones which have the most candidates.
The qualification is valid for 10 years and the only requirement is that the applicant must be over 18 years old.
The sailing schools on the islands, 22 in all, are able to give applicants any coaching they may require for the practical part of the exam.
The increase in the number of people who go sailing and the fact that the nautical industry is selling all kinds of boats is the cause of the massive increase in applications for sailing qualifications.
However, while interest is growing, the regional administrations want to keep this sector under control as it is so diverse in its products.
With regard to this, the sailing schools are seeing their number of pupils increase every year because of the growing interest, and also because of the tightening up of requirements by the authorities.
Elsewhere, the strategy which the current Balearic Government is going to adopt during its term of office is that of a maximum control in the growth of leisure ports.
This is to avoid any further impact on the environment.
The nautical sector, on the other hand, is demanding modernisation and an increase in the number of moorings.
This is mainly because of the economic benefit that nautical tourism has for the islands.
Tourist expenditure exceeds 460 million euros per year.
In addition to this, the increase in the number of boats being sold and the interest in sailing has played its part in creating employment in the maintenance companies in the nautical sector.