It’s the new Recreational Craft Directive which might sound stultifyingly boring, but it’s made some major changes to boat buying and using, so here’s what you need to know
How to fathom out the new Recreational Craft Directive 2 and the changing aspects of legislation
Rather like the high-speed rail link from London linking the Midlands to the North, which has simply become known as HS2, the latest version of the EU’s Recreational Craft Directive has simply become RCD2 on the towpath.
Officially known as Directive 2013/53/EU, it’s essentially what’s known as a ‘New Approach Directive’ and changes the requirements for all recreational craft placed on the market or put into use within the UK and the EU.
Written without any technical standards, it simply sets high level requirements, known as ‘Essential’ requirements, so that boat-builders are free to choose how they will meet the requirements, allowing them to innovate and their designs not be confined. When a boatbuilder is confident that they have met all the essential requirements within the RCD they can put a CE mark on the boat as a declaration that they have met the legal requirements.
There’s a lot of talk about International Standards Organisation (ISO) standards within the sector, but these standards are not mandatory, they don’t have to be used by a boat-builder to meet the legal requirements. What they do have is what’s known as a presumption of conformity. If using an ISO standard, a builder doesn’t have to justify how they built the boat, it’s presumed to be safe. If they use another method, they must explain why they think it is safe and trading standards may disagree. This type of regulation also enables quicker changes for upgrading safety or technology. One example is the standard for Stability and Buoyancy. The ISO standard for the stability and buoyancy of a boat is ISO 12217. The first version of this standard was released in 2002 and amended in 2009. An updated version was then released in 2013 and again in 2015. Four times this standard has been
changed and improved, offering better levels of safety and all within the timeframe of the regulation.
On the other side is ISO 9093-2: Seacocks and through-hull fittings – Part 1: Metallic. This standard has been around since 1994 and has only just started being revised to catch up with new technology.
There are currently 82 different ISO standards that fall within the small craft (less than 24 metres) sector, although not all will apply to every craft.
So standards evolve quickly and the law slowly, but how can you tell how your boat has been designed and built?
By law there must be a Declaration of Conformity with every boat. Through it the builder must demonstrate how they have met the ‘Essential Requirements’ within the law.
It might be by using ISO standards or another way or alternative standards, but they must tell you. The official Conformity document will also contain a signature from the builder that they have met the legal requirements. SO, WHAT’S CHANGED UNDER THE NEW LAW? There have been a number of small changes, hard to spot by the untrained eye, but that will significantly improve both the safety of a boat as well as its impact on the environment. MEANS OF RE-BOARDING AFTER SOMEONE FALLS OVERBOARD: The original law required a means of re-boarding to be provided on all vessels. The new law goes a step further and now means that a person who falls overboard must be able to re-board from the water unaided. Cue a lot of ladders now being welded on the back. ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS – ADDRESSING ELECTRIC PROPULSION As more and more boaters turn to electrical and hybrid propulsion, the law has changed to address a gap in regulation. The changes bring about an assurance of the safe installation of this type of system. PROTECTING WATERWAYS FROM WASTE As already mentioned, many changes have come about with safety in mind, but there are also some aimed at making boats friendlier to the environment. This change means that any toilet fitted in a recreational craft has to be connected solely to a holding tank or water treatment system and is no longer able to be plumbed straight out. CLEANER ENGINES Engines have had to comply with emission limits since 2004 but now the EU engine emission limits have been brought in line with U.S. emission limits (set in 2010). This means engines can now be sold in both markets and mean you get a cheaper, cleaner engine.
However, the biggest changes are:
NEW RESPONSIBILITIES FOR BOAT OWNERS:
The new directive now regulates boat owners and the modification and sale of boats already in use.
Within the text of the new directive there have been some changes for the rules applicable to craft that undergo what’s known as a Major Craft Conversion. Major Craft Conversions are defined as the conversion of a watercraft which changes the means of propulsion of the watercraft, involves a major engine modification or alters the watercraft to such an extent that it may not meet the applicable essential safety and environmental requirements laid down in the Directive.
This could be the lengthening of a boat, the installation of an LPG system or a new electrical system. It can even be putting a new engine in.
What the directive now requires is that if this modification takes place the boat must be re-assessed. Explained in the directive text, Article 19, part 3: Any person placing on the market or putting into service a propulsion engine or a watercraft after a major modification or conversion thereof, or any person changing the intended purpose of a watercraft not covered by this Directive in a way that it falls under its scope, shall apply the procedure referred to in Article 23 before placing the product on the market or putting it into service.
The Article 23 procedure is known as a Post-construction assessment. What this now means is that any CE marked vessel that undergoes a Major Craft Conversion, must undergo a post construction assessment before being placed back on the market or put into service (whichever is the earlier). The legal responsibility for this is placed on the person who is placing the vessel back on the market or putting it back into service after the works have been carried out.
The basis of this change is to ensure that a boat with a CE mark is as safe when it’s sold a second time as it was when first sold. Before, a CE marked boat could be completely changed inside and out and the CE mark only referred to the certification before the modifications, when first sold. The CE mark no longer had any value in regard to the boats safety. Now if it’s modified, it’s recertified and the CE mark stays valid. SAILAWAYS AND ANNEX III DECLARATIONS There has also been a change to how trading standards are treating sailaways due to the new directive. While they may have in the past been considered partly completed boats, the new directive has changed some wording which has in turn changed the position of trading standards.
The wording in clauses 1 and 2 of Article 6 of Directive 2013/53/EU means the position regarding partly-completed craft can now be considered as: ‘Where a watercraft is partly completed if it is not capable of being used for sport and leisure purposes (put into service). The manufacturer intends there to be further construction work to make it capable of being used. The watercraft should be accompanied by a declaration by the manufacturer or importer with the information required in Annex III’.
So, a partly completed craft can be put on the market but cannot be put into service. Clause 2 is clear that such watercraft may be placed on the market but only complete watercraft (Clause 1) can be placed on the market and/or put into service. It would be an offence to put into service (use) a part completed watercraft.
If a watercraft is intended to be used, i.e. if it can be put into service, it is as ‘complete’ as the manufacturer intends it to be. At that stage, the craft must meet all the applicable essential health and safety requirements of the Directive and have a Declaration of Conformity with the information required in Annex IV, technical documentation with the documents listed in Annex IX and CE marking. This applies to all economic operators and private people, subject to some exemptions.
This has effectively put an end to the sailaway sold with an Annex III(a). If it can be sailed away it is being used and should be CE marked. Then when it is completed it will most probably need to have a post construction assessment and need to be re-CE marked, to show that the end vessel is safe for use and sale.
It should be noted that DIY vessels have also been better defined to close another previous loophole.
So, there has been a lot of changes in the new RCD, not all of which can be seen.
Thanks to Ross Wombwell British Marine Technical Manager and Chairman of the British Standards Institute Small Craft Committee for his help in putting together this explanatory article.
Sailaway rules are changing
Boat-builders will have a lot of freedom
Safety for electric/hybrid propulsion
Owners are affected by changes to modification
Emissions controls are tighter