The Recreational Craft Directive - Awareness Raising for the New Requirements

This article was first published in the May edition of the Marine & Maritime Gazette. The original article can be found on page 16 here.

A newly-revised Recreational Craft Directive (2013/53/EU) (the "RCD") is soon to be transposed and applicable on a mandatory basis in the UK.

When transposed, the RCD will be the only applicable recreational craft directive, replacing all prior ones. Those who work in the supply chain in the recreation area of the marine industry are being asked to implement its measures immediately, if they are not already doing so, so as not to be caught out. Being a "new approach" directive, the technical requirements for compliance are not in the directive itself. Instead, the RCD, as a trade-enabling piece of legislation, covers the essential requirements for harmonisation of standards across the EEA. This is a directive soon to be transposed into our law and concerns trading in the EEA, so it will not be affected by Brexit.

In practice, the RCD applies to recreational craft between 2.5 and 24 metres in hull length, whatever the means of propulsion. There are exemptions, for example hovercraft, hydrofoils, racing craft, canoes and kayaks - these are listed in Article 2.

Where compliant, the recreational craft will need to show this via CE Markings, Watercraft Identification and Propulsion Engine Identification.

CE Marking. The CE Marking is a key indicator (but not proof) of compliance with the RCD. It is there to enable free movement of products, whether manufactured inside or out of the EU. When a recreational craft is made available on the market or put into service, there must be CE marking on:

  • The watercraft itself;
  • Certain components, as listed in Annex II: ignition-protected equipment for inboard and sterndrive petrol engines and petrol tank spaces, start-in-gear protection devices for outboard engines, steering wheels, steering mechanisms and cable assemblies, fuel tanks intended for fixed installations and fuel hoses, prefabricated hatches and port lights; and
  • Propulsion Engines (internal combustion engines only).

Watercraft Identification. Recreational craft must now be marked with a unique Craft Identification Number (CIN), to identify the manufacturer, where they are established and when it was built. The 14-character CIN will be found in 2 places, one visible and one in a secret location. The visible CIN should be found:

  • On boats, either on the starboard-side transom, near the top or on top of the stern;
  • On inflatable boats, on the rigid aft cross-beam or on the console assembly; or
  • On personal watercraft, within 300mm of the stern.

Propulsion Engine Identification. These must comply with the exhaust and noise emission limits set out in the RCD. Each engine must be marked with the following:

  • The manufacturer’s name, registered trade name or trademark and their contact address;
  • If adapted, the name of the person adapting the engine;
  • If applicable, the engine type and engine family;
  • The unique engine serial number; and
  • The CE marking, if an internal combustion engine.

The legal framework of RCD is designed to take into account each of the links in the supply chain. It therefore identifies the individual responsibilities of manufacturers, authorised representatives, importers and distributors in relation to their products. So, for example, manufacturers should ensure their products are made in accordance with the essential requirements set out in the RCD. They are expected to draw up technical documentation and carry out conformity assessments. Importers must ensure the manufacturer has carried out its obligations, as well as ensuring the craft bears the correct CE markings. End users are not subject to any obligations under RCD, only those putting the products into service or market.

As mentioned above, the RCD contains essential requirements to which recreational craft must adhere in order for them to be put on the market or put into service. These are set out in Annex I and constitute a change to the requirements in prior directives.

The essential requirements include:

  • New definitions of watercraft design categories;
  • Risk of falling overboard and means of reboarding;
  • Visibility from the main steering position;
  • Owner’s manuals;
  • Buoyancy and flotation of multihull craft;
  • Escape on habitable multihull craft in the event of inversion;
  • Outboard engines;
  • Electrical systems;
  • Prevention of sewage discharge; and
  • Lower limits for engine exhaust emissions.

More detailed guidance on all of the above can be found in the CC Guide, RSG Guidelines and the ICOMIA/EBI Guide.

Non-compliance with the RCD can give rise to criminal sanctions, including a possible £5,000 fine and/or 3 months' imprisonment. It is therefore crucial that those in the recreational craft supply chain familiarise themselves with its provisions to ensure compliance right away.

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