Craft Surveys ~ Boat Safety Scheme Examinations

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craft directive

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Recreational Craft Directive and CE Marking FAQs


What is the Recreational Craft Directive?
The Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) was introduced by the European Commission in 1994 to ensure a uniform level of safety in the design and manufacture of recreational craft throughout the European Economic Area. The directive came into force in 16th June 1996 with conformity being voluntary until 16th June 1998 after which the RCD became mandatory. An amendment was introduced in 2004, with the intention of incorporating marine engines and jet ski craft within the scope of the Directive.
The Directive applies to all craft intended to be used for sporting and recreational purposes with a hull length of between 2.5 and 24 metres. With a number of Exclusions:
• craft intended solely for racing
• canoes, kayaks, gondolas and pedaloes
• surfboards and sailboards
• historical replicas
• submersibles
• hovercraft and hydrofoils
• craft intended to be crewed and to carry passengers for commercial purposes (these are covered by another directive)
• Craft built for own use provided they are not subsequently placed on the market for at least five years.

When does the RCD apply?
The RCD only applies when the craft is first placed on the market or put into service. It does not apply after this date and there is no on-going requirement for the craft to remain compliant with the RCD.

Does the RCD ensure craft quality?
No. The RCD stipulates that a number of Essential Requirements should be met, which do not include a quality standard.

Does the RCD ensure that the craft is safe?
No. The RCD stipulates that a number of Essential Requirements should be met, which include some but not all aspects of safety.

If a craft complies with the RCD does it automatically mean that it complies with The Boat Safety Scheme requirements?
No. There are certain aspects of the Boat Safety Scheme requirements that are Additional to those of the RCD. However, boats built to the 'harmonised' standards Supporting the RCD will be fully acceptable. There may be new craft that are supplied with a Declaration of Conformity to the RCD (showing compliance with the RCD) and a BSS Certificate to show compliance with the Boat Safety Scheme. This is perfectly acceptable. However, a BSS Certificate alone does not show compliance with the RCD.

Who certifies a craft to show that it meets the RCD?
For inland waterway craft (e.g. Narrowboats), the boatbuilder may self-declare or use a Notified Body to certify compliance. This may mean that no independent person views the boat until it is 4 four years old and due for its first BSS Certificate.

What is the '5-year rule'?
If a craft is built by a DIY boatbuilder only for their personal use it is excluded from the RCD provided it is not placed on the market within 5 years of its first use as a boat. The boat does not have to be complete for the 5 year period to start, but does have to have been used as a boat (e.g. Cruised on a waterway).

Can I buy a craft that does not appear to meet the RCD?
If brand new, then No. When brand new, the craft should include: a Declaration of Conformity; Owner's Manual; Builder's Plate (including a CE mark); and a Craft Identification Number (CIN). The CIN has to be permanently fitted to the craft (such as stamped in the hull). Make sure that you see these before buying the boat.
If not brand new, then Yes. The RCD only applies when the craft is first placed on the Market or put into service (an example of being ‘put into service’ would be when used as a hire boat). So, if being sold as second-hand (no matter the age), unless imported from a non-EU country or being an ex-commercial craft, then it does not have to comply with the RCD. It is recommended that the craft be surveyed before buying.

Should I have a second-hand craft surveyed if it complied with the RCD when new?
It may be wise. The RCD only applies to the craft when brand new and there is no requirement for it to remain compliant after the first day. Original compliance with the RCD does not ensure quality or condition. A survey should inform on the quality and condition of the craft now.

Should I have a new craft surveyed if it is deemed to comply with the RCD?
It may be wise. The RCD does not ensure quality or condition. A survey should inform on the quality and condition of the craft. Further, if the boatbuilder selfdeclared the boat’s compliance, then the survey should help highlight if any areas are not compliant.

Should I rely upon compliance to the RCD when deciding to purchase a boat?
No, because the primary aim of the RCD is to remove barriers for trade between countries, and not to ensure quality or safety or compliance with the Boat Safety Scheme requirements. (However, under the Boat Safety Scheme remit, compliance with the RCD should meet the BSS requirements)

Does My Narrowboat need to comply?
Unless the boat is being built by you, for your own use then the directive does apply in full. DIY builders or those fitting out a shell should be aware that if they choose to apply the exclusion and then later find that they need to sell the craft then they could be faced with a mandatory ‘Post Constructional Assessment’ which is very likely to incur large professional fees running into several thousand pounds.

What happens if I don’t make my boat comply?
The offence of not complying rests with the ‘responsible person’ who is normally the builder or the person who project manages the build. The DIY boat fitter is also considered as the ‘responsible person’. Failure to comply can be deemed as a criminal act on the part of the ‘responsible person’ and is punishable by a stiff fine and custodial sentence.

Does it just apply to new boats?
No, not exclusively, it applies to all pleasure craft when they are first ‘put on the market or put into service ‘ within the European Economic Union. So this includes craft imported from outside the EU and any commercial craft converted for pleasure use wherever they are sourced. As such commercial narrowboats, barges, fishing vessels, Tugs, work boats and passenger boats which were in a commercial capacity after 16th June 1998 are all required to comply with the Recreational Craft Directive when they are ‘put on the market or put into service ‘ as a recreational craft.

What must I do in order to comply?
There are administration requirements for the ‘responsible person’ to compile a file of technical information about how the craft satisfies the ‘Essential Requirements’ of the directive and in addition a detailed Owners manual must be produced so as to inform the owner on how to operate the craft and its equipment in a safe fashion.
Ultimately a completed craft which satisfies the requirements must be marked with the ‘CE’ logo and be fitted with a builders plate indicating how many passengers, crew and luggage may be carried aboard the boat.
For barges and other craft intended to be cruised in non ‘Sheltered waters’ proving compliance can be more elaborate.

What Essential Requirements are applicable to narrowboats?
All the ER’s must be satisfied irrespective of the craft type, however achieving compliance can be less difficult for narrowboats than for example a transatlantic sailing yacht.

Do I have to employ professional help?
Not necessarily, depending on your craft type, For inland waterways craft which are not intended to be used at sea then self certification is possible and relatively easily achieved by someone competent enough to carryout the fitting out process.
For craft that may put to sea or operate in some estuaries then the involvement of a notified body may be required for various aspects of the process.

How much does compliance cost?
It can be free! Depending on your craft type, and how you choose to go about the process. However to embark on the process alone may prove to be arduous and some professional guidance may well be money well spent. Beware of becoming bemused by the chatter of some ‘professionals’ who in some cases have been known to deliberately emphasise the difficulties before offering up their own trouble free one stop solution at a cost of hundreds or even thousands of pounds, equally beware of those who claim all you need is an owners manual and offer a ‘one size fits all’ as these is rarely the only or the most cost effective options and both may come back to haunt you, compliance is rarely that simple or that complicated , its normally a little time consuming and elaborate.

Is a Boat Safety Scheme Certificate sufficient?
If the certificate was correctly issued prior to 1st April 2005 then in general terms where the BSS regulations cover the same areas of the craft as the RCD then the requirements of the RCD were less stringent than those of the BSS. However with the new look BSS (post 1st April 2005) then many of the BSS requirements fall far below the statutory requirements of the RCD.
In addition BSS examiners and participating surveyors are not permitted to issue a BSS certificate to any craft which is not CE marked but which it is intended will become so in the future.

What standards can I use for my Narrowboat?
With a few exceptions any standard can be used to declare compliance with the Essential Requirements providing they suitably cover the requirements of directive. This would include where appropriate ‘custom and practice’ or a bespoke testing procedure providing there is sufficient documentation in builders technical file and the relevant Essential Requirements have been adequately satisfied.
There are specific ISO standards which have been written for use with the RCD, these are known as ‘Harmonised Standards’ and full compliance with these standards assumes conformity with the directive.

Can I fit an old ‘traditional’ engine to my new narrowboat?
Very little of the RCD has been clarified by the courts, however current thinking on this matter is that any engine which was in existence within the EU before 1st January 2006 may be fitted into a new craft and need not comply with the emissions regulation concerned with particle emissions. The reasoning being that the new approach directives, which cover all CE marked products and of which the RCD is one, do not and must not apply to second hand goods except in the case of items imported into Europe.
Getting this wrong could result in a requirement to remove a non compliant engine and its replacement with one which is complaint followed by an additional need for a post constructional assessment. This would be highly costly and as such professional advice from an RCD specialist should be sought before a non-compliant engine is selected for installation.

Do I have to CE mark my self build boat before I can take it into the waterways of mainland Europe?
No, it is not a legal requirement, but it can be a difficult task to convince the European customs officer of that fact!

Where Can I Get Help With the RCD?
The British Marine Federation and the Royal Yachting Association are both able to offer some limited and very general guidance on the Directive but it is unlikely to be a perfect match with the specifics of your boat.
You can seek help from a professional surveyor experienced in this field, but be sure that they have got the experience required to assist you in selecting the best compliance options to suit you and your boat rather than persuading you to adapt your boat the way of claiming compliance which is the most cost effective to them.

TELEPHONE; 07831 184495 FAX; 0870 1351423