Marine Surveyor YDSA




Within this brief overview I will attempt to clarify some of the requirements associated with the RCD. Unfortunately the relevant statute has been composed in legalese and somewhat complicated.

There remains a great deal of myth and confusion associated with the Directive. Further information can be obtained from the British Marine Federation (BMF), Trading Standards Departments or the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Morse Marine can offer a consultation and inspection package that enables the builder or owner to comply with the Directive.

At the time of writing two controversial issues remain, firstly what is meant by "Completion date" and secondly what is meant by "Built for own use". Within the statute no meaningful definitions are forthcoming and depending with whom you consult, different interpretations are provided by the official bodies.

Barrie Morse
February 2003


The Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) is a trade directive that became law on the 16th June 1996. A two-year introductory period was allowed for and therefore new craft placed on the market after the 16th June 1998 must comply with the mandatory requirements of the Directive.


· Craft smaller than 2.5m and larger than 24m.

· Craft that were completely finished before 16th June 1998.

· Completed craft that were sold before the 16th June 1998.

· Craft built for own use provided that they are not subsequently placed on the community market during a period of 5 years.

· Gondolas etc.


Lies with the company or person first placing the product on the European market. The Directive is only enforced once during the life of the craft i.e. at the first point of sale on the transfer of ownership. The responsible person shall ensure that all aspects of the Directive are complied with. Each craft must be allocated a prescribed Craft Identification Number (CIN) and the craft must carry an approved CE Plate marked accordingly.


The department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are responsible for administering the Directive nationally and Trading Standards Officers (TSO's) are responsible for enforcement within Local Authorities.


Prosecution can lead to a £5,000 fine and/or three months imprisonment. Should there be a successful prosecution the offender will attract a criminal conviction. The RCD is not a code of practice it is a legal requirement.


There are four design categories ranging from 'A' to 'D'. Inland craft are generally categorised as 'D'. This means that the builder has recommended that the craft is suitable for sheltered waters where the wave height is no grater than 0.3m and the wind strength is no greater than 4 (Beaufort).

Production control for category 'D' craft and category 'C' craft (no longer than 12m) remain the responsibly of the builder and therefore deemed to be self-certified. Other craft require the involvement of a Notified Body to certify aspects of the production process, assess conformity and for example check the stability of the craft.


Upon completion of the craft the following ESR's must be complied with. It is intended that the ESR's be supported by the harmonised standards, however this not a mandatory stipulation; other standards, proven industry standards and codes of practice can be utilised to demonstrate conformity where appropriate.

1 - Boat Design Categories
2 - General Requirements
2.1 - Hull Identification
2.2 - Builders plate
2.3 - Protection from falling overboard and means of reboarding
2.4 - Visibility from main steering position
2.5 - Owners manual
3 - Integrity and Structural Requirements
3.1 - Structure
3.2 - Stability & freeboard
3.3 - Buoyancy and floatation
3.4 - Openings in hull, deck & superstructure
3.5 - Flooding
3.6 - Manufactures recommended load
3.7 - Life raft stowage
3.8 - Escape
3.9 - Anchoring, mooring & towing
4 - Handling characteristics
5 - Installation Requirements
5.1.1 - Inboard engine
5.1.2 - Engine ventilation
5.1.3 - Engine exposed parts
5.1.4 - Outboard engines starting
5.2.1 - Fuel system - general
5.2.2 - Fuel tanks
5.3 - Electrical Systems
5.4.1 - Steering System General
5.4.2 - Emergency Arrangements
5.5 - Gas System
5.6.1 - General Fire Protection
5.6.2 - Fire Fighting Equipment
5.7 - Navigation Lights
5.8 - Discharge prevention


Upon completion of the craft the responsible person must issue a Declaration of Conformity stipulating that the RCD provisions have been complied with. The certificate should include the standards used to demonstrate that the ESR's have been attained. For category 'D' craft the internal production control method (module A) is applied; the builder, supplier or owner is required to self-certificate.


Each craft must be provided with a dedicated boat manual that should include specific detail and explain the following to the user:

· The identity of the boat (i.e. builder, model and Craft Identification Number)

· That the boat complies with the RCD;

· The meaning of the RCD category & associated stability & loading data;

· The limitations of the systems and the boat itself;

· How the boat and systems should be safely operated;

· What equipment is on board;

· Where essential (including) equipment can be found;

· How the boat systems should be maintained;


During the construction of the craft the builder is required to compile a TCF; the builder must retain the file for a period of 10 years.

Extracted from the statute: -

"The technical documentation must comprise all relevant data or means by the manufacturer to ensure that components or craft comply with the essential requirements relating to them.

The technical documentation shall enable understanding of the design, manufacture and operation of the product, and shall enable assessment of conformity with the requirements of this Directive.

The documentation shall contain so far as relevant for assessment:

· a general description of type,

· conceptual design and manufacturing drawings and schemes of components, sub-assemblies, circuits etc.,

· descriptions and explanations necessary for the understanding of said drawings and schemes and the operation of the product,

· a list of the standards refereed to in Article 5, applied in full or in part, and descriptions of the solutions adopted to fulfil the essential requirements when the standards referred to in Article 5 have not been applied.

· results of design calculations made, examinations carried out, etc,

· test reports, or calculations namely on stability to point 3.2 of the Essential Requirements and on buoyancy to point 3.3 of the Essential Requirements."


British Waterways (BW) and The Environment Agency (EA) control, for the most part, the UK waterway system. Upon licensing a new craft the following will be required:

· A 'Boat Safety Scheme Certificate'.
· A 'Declaration of Conformity' (Annex IIIa Declaration) issued by the shell builder.
· A 'Declaration of Conformity' (Annex XV) issued by the supplier of the completed craft.

Upon the second annual licence application the Annex IIIa Declaration for a partly completed craft will not qualify for a licence; either a 'Boat Safety Certificate' or a full 'Declaration of Conformity' will be required.

1. There is no mandatory requirement for a Boat Safety Certificate with a new craft, although for licensing purposes the Navigation Authorities require a Boat Safety Certificate after a four-year term from the initial registration.
2. The Boat Safety Scheme management stipulate that almost without exception the harmonised European Standards are in accordance with the compliance options within the BSS Guide.


Boats built or largely completed by the owner can be excluded from the scope of the RCD provided the craft is not sold within the EEA for a period of five years. However a boat is not Home built if the owner 'project manages' other trades.

Bare shells and Sailaways are deemed to be partly completed craft; accordingly the supplier of the partially built boat will have to demonstrate compliance and provide certification stipulating his part in the manufacturing process. The certificate is termed an Annex IIIa Declaration.


" (g) Craft built for own use, provided that they are not subsequently placed on the Community market during a period of five years.

The exclusion in (g) concerns craft built by their future user, provided that they are not placed on the EEA market within five years of being put into service. This does not preclude the sub-contracting, by the builder, of specialists in certain aspects of the fitting out of the boat e.g. electrical or electronic engineers.

If, for whatever reason, a boat built for own use were intended to be placed on the Community market, whether completed or partly completed, within the 5-year period, then certification by a person or persons fulfilling the role of manufacturer would be required in a similar manner to (f) above. These persons would take the responsibility for the appraisal of the design, construction and any necessary modification of the boat. This appraisal, with regard to compliance with essential requirements of the Directive, involves the procedures necessary for conformity assessment.

A member of the general public building his own boat (in his garage or garden, for example, from materials bought on the open market is deemed to be "building a boat for his own use". This boat lies outside of the Directive and does not require compliance with the essential requirements and thus CE Marking. If for whatever reason this situation changes then the provisions detailed above would be seen to apply.

It should be made clear that a private person who enters into a contractual arrangement with a professional company, yard or individual constructor to build a one off boat (be-spoke) is deemed to have entered into an arrangement where there will be a transfer of ownership. Such a boat is deemed to fall under the Directive and will have to comply with the Essential Requirements of the Directive and applicable conformity assessment procedures. Reference is made to text expanding Article 4.

Boats built for own use have the concept that a person is building their own boat and not having it built by others."


Extracts from RSG Guidelines (June 16, 2001) relating to Post Construction Assessment: -

"In certain circumstances, it is necessary for existing boats to be certified, in line with the RCD, after they have been built.

The only possible modules applicable are Module G, Module Aa or Module A. All essential safety requirements are applicable for such boats.

The following boats are included in the scope of the proposal:

· Boats built for own use when placed on the market within the first five years of completion.

Attention is drawn to the responsibility and the legal aspects, having the owner, the importer, or the person putting the craft into EEA service, as applicable, to assume the role of the manufacturer and being identified as the responsible person in this context."

Note: Despite petitioning the DTI the commission has not addressed the numerous craft placed on the UK market that are non-compliant with the RCD.


· To inspect the craft for Essential Safety Requirements (ESR's) and Boat Safety Scheme standards.

· Issue Boat Safety Certificate.

· Supply Declaration (Certificate) of Conformity.

· Advise on Craft Identification Number (CIN) compilation and location.

· CIN registration with RYA or BMF where applicable.

· CE plate supplied and advised marking.

· Consultation and conformity assessment during fitout.

· Compilation of Boat Manual (excluding technical drawings & diagrams).

· Compilation of Technical Construction File (TCF)

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