In the early days of the RCD I, there was widespread belief that if a craft was altered to a point where it may be considered a different or new boat, then it should be put through the Directive in its new form. Most people subscribed to this interpretation but not all. Some said that the RCD is intended to harmonise trade and a substantially refitted/rebuilt boat is not in the new-build market. Thus, they said, such a boat is not intended to be in the scope of RCD, in just the same way as a home-built boat.  Who was right?

Well, the 2006 amendment of RCD I included a new trigger point, a “major craft conversion”. RCD II now defines this as follows:

‘major craft conversion’ means a 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 this Directive;

This definition is notably different from the 2006 edition which did not make reference to essential requirements. So it is now the case that if the modification changes the way the boat or its systems operate, the boat must submit to RCD compliance again. Let us give some examples:

  • Changing the crew limit, load limits or design category certainly requires the boat to undergo reassessment since these parameters are critical in the application of most essential requirements.
  • Replacing components, electrical conductors, fuel hoses, steering ram, etc does not threaten non-compliance with the essential requirements since only the ‘freshness’ has changed and thus does not trigger reassessment.
  • Rearranging and/or re-designing a (regulated) system (eg electrics,  fuel, gas, steering etc) does bring the possibility for non-compliance and reassessment is necessary.

For further details, contact HPiVS;.

Yacht in re-build
Rebuilding a yacht does not re-trigger CE marking for design and construction. Photo courtesy of nicksarebi on

In the past, builders did not declare their boats to the EU ElectroMagenetic Compatibility Directive (EMC) on the basis that they were selling a boat not an electrical product.  Boat builders would also say that they buy and fit only CE marked electrical components, so EMC compliance is implicit. Interestingly, however, the manufacturers of PWC have always declared to EMC.  HPiVS’ own research into EMC, which included a visit to an anechoic chamber, shows that components can interact and that every cable is a potential EMC antenna.

Thus a circuit of EMC compliant components can fail an EMC test when combined. Indeed, HPiVS saw such a battery charger fail its EMC test in the chamber.  So if the assembly of a boat’s electrical system could potentially lead to an EMC problem, should builders be checking and declaring boats compliant with the EMC Directive?  At the RSG meeting in Stockholm on 4th February 2013, attended by HPiVS’ CEO Alasdair Reay, the EU Commission representative said “yes”. It would appear that the EU Commission is concerned that a range of products incorporating electrical components are not paying due attention to the risks of EMC.

The anechoic chamber at Salford University

That is all very well but how does a boat builder test a 78ft boat?  There are only a couple of chambers in the world that could accommodate such a boat and if each conductor’s length and route could influence the EMC signal, should every possible option be tested?

It is possible to do EMC testing in the field and HPiVS has also taken part in some of these.   This requires an environment free of EMC signals which will certainly not be the case at any boat yard. As the EMC immunity test throws out strong pulses, it also must be done where the neighbours don’t have any sensitive equipment.

This is all unworkable but on 28th January 2013, ICOMIA came to the rescue of the industry by publishing their RECOMMENDATIONS ON ASSESSMENT FOR EMC COMPLIANCE OF SMALL CRAFT UNDER EU DIRECTIVE 2004/108/EC. ICOMIA says:

This document outlines step-by-step assessment recommendations on compliance for the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive for boats and is expected to guide boatbuilders through this process.

This is a “guideline” and not a “standard” and it is certainly not a harmonised standard Standards which have been especially written to support the directive and which have been adopted as national standards by all EU member states. but it is all we have in the boating industry on the subject of EMC.  As it is not harmonised, the EU Commission cannot insist upon the use of this document and conversely, neither can they guarantee that it meets the requirements of the EMC Directive.  But if the industry uses it, it is a de facto “industry standard” and in the absence of any alternative, how could a court find against a boat builder for following it.  So, ICOMIA’s document provides the only useful basis on which to declare compliance with EMC for a boat.

Click to see a sample RCD-EMC Declaration

The guideline is not onerous. It lays out flow charts for selecting compatible components, checking assembly follows good practice and how to document it all.  HPiVS welcomes the document and recommends its application to all its clients, though, as it is not a Notified Body for EMC, HPiVS has no right to withhold a RCD certificate on the grounds of EMC. (It should be noted that certification by Notified Body is never mandatory for EMC).

For further details, contact HPiVS.

The Directive states:

The following shall be excluded from the scope of this Directive: …….. craft built for own use, provided that they are not subsequently placed on the Community market during a period of five years;

The first point to note is that the boat is not exempt until 5 years have passed. During that 5 year period the boat is in a sort of limbo period with regards to its status.  During this time, the boat may not change ownership, even if given away without charge.  For some reason, divorce and home-build boats appear to go hand-in-hand and HPiVS deals with several cases every year where a home-build is having to be CE marked before the 5 years have passed because the boat is to be sold as part of the divorce settlement!


The big question that this exemption raises, however, is when does the 5-year clock start ticking?  The answer is when the boat is complete.  But when is a boat complete?  The best interpretation that HPiVS has heard quoted by a lawyer is:

A product is complete when it can be used to its full design capabilities.

But be careful! The UK Government recently decreed that a ‘sail-away’ boat is complete when it is navigable, even if its interior is not fully fitted-out. So, it is probably safest to interpret ‘complete’ as being when the boat can be navigated.

But be careful! The UK Government recently decreed that a ‘sail-away’ boat is complete when it is navigable, even if its interior is not fully fitted-out. So, it is probably safest to interpret ‘complete’ as being when the boat can be navigated.

The final question to consider is whether the home-builder can contract out some work or does he have to do it all himself?  The EU Commission’s own guidance document on RCD states the following:

This [exemption of a home-builder] 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.

So it is clear that some sub-contracting is permitted but the Commission’s guidance also states:

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

So how much can work be contracted before the builder is no longer the builder in the eyes of the law? There is no clear answer to this question but for guidance, HPiVS would make the following point. The RCD has distinct Essential Requirements (ER).  Any work that does not directly impinge upon these ERs does not constitute work in terms of RCD.

Click here to see all the RCD ESRs

It should be noted that joinery, decoration and furnishings do not appear in the ERs.  So fitting out a boat with cabins, berths, seats, lockers etc does not constitute “building” and would not qualify a person as a “home-builder” in terms of the RCD.  On the contrary, a home-builder would be expected to have completed a number of the regulated systems, listed above, in order to qualify.

To provide some clarity, one can show that many nations, including UK, have regulations that require only qualified/registered individuals to fit gas & electrical systems. So it would be considered normal to contract out work on these systems. But the other systems are not associated with their own distinct fitter-qualifications and a home builder would be expected to have completed the majority of these himself.

To talk about the specifics of a case, contact HPiVS.

Few topics have created such a stir as how to assign the RCD design category for RIBs.  It is still possible to find RIBs of 5m in category B (offshore) while some 7m RIBs are only category C (inshore).  How can this be?

This discrepancy will ultimately be cleared up by the all-new RCD which comes into force in January 2016 and is mandatory by January 2017. The majority of RIBs shorter than 7m will be forced to drop to category C.  Until then, some examples of smaller RIBs in category B may remain at large.

To understand how this came about, one has to look at the evolution of the RCD and the family of standards particular to inflatable boats (EN ISO 6185 parts 1 to 4).  The RCD became optional in 1996 and mandatory in 1998 but EN ISO 6185 parts 1 to 3 were not harmonised in EU until 2002. Part 4 (for RIBs longer than 8m) was harmonised in 2012.  So this means that when the Directive came into force, there were no standards for inflatables for the industry to use. Thus each manufacturer and certifier made their own judgement about the applicable category.  As one would expect, there was quite a range.  Some manufacturers labelled 2.5m inflatables in category A (ie ocean-going) since there was nothing to say they couldn’t!

When EN ISO 6185 parts 1 to 3 were issued, they omitted any reference to design category.  (It is alleged that the non-EU based delegates of the ‘international’ ISO committee would not allow reference to an European system of categories). So the conflict of RIB categories for RCD was not eradicated.  However, part 3 of the standard (for inflatables up to 8m with power greater than 15kW) did include an equation to calculate a “stability factor”. A score above a certain value allowed a RIB to be called an “inflatable offshore boat”.  Since “offshore” is also the designation for category B, some certifiers adopted this equation for assigning the design category.  This provided an even playing field for the categorisation of RIBs but the problem is that some boats at 5m will achieve offshore status by this equation.  This standard is still in force and this is why one still finds 5m RIBs in category B.

But some time after issue, EN ISO 6185-3 was provided with an ‘Annex ZB’ which stated that RIBs wishing to assign category A or B should not use the stability factor in the standard but should use the stability standard for non-inflatable boats (EN ISO 12217).  The problem with this suggestion is that (a) the Annex ZB is highlighted as ‘informative’ ie that it is not a mandatory part of the standard and (b) the scope of ISO 12217 states that the standard should not be used for inflatable boats.  The scope of a standard is ‘normative’ ie it is mandatory.  So manufacturers and certifiers were faced with a choice of using informative guidance over mandatory elements of standards or rejecting guidance and sticking with the mandatory parts and continue using the ‘offshore’ stability factor of EN ISO 6185. Different certifiers went different ways and the discrepancy in the market place remained.

Then in 2012, part 4 of EN ISO 6185, for RIBs longer than 8m, was published for the first time. This had a completely different approach and required category B RIBs to use only certain part of EN ISO 12217.  This proved to be relatively straight-forward and the industry happily adopted this approach.

At this point it became clear that EN ISO 6185 part 3 (which was up for its statutory review) would also enforce the use of certain parts of EN ISO 12217.  EN ISO 12217 was also up for review and it was equally clear that RIBs were no longer to be excluded. (Both these standards have, very recently, been published with these anticipated changes).   More certifiers, therefore, adopted the EN ISO 12217 approach for all RIBs when part 4 was published.  Some did not and still await the formal harmonisation of the recently published standard.  It was found, however, that no RIBs below 6m could achieve category B using ISO 12217 and only the very heaviest RIBs in the range 6m-7m would make category B. Thus a change of standard enforces a change of category for many RIBs.

HPiVS did adopt the new approach when part 4 was published….but only for new assessments.  A certifier does not have the right to withdraw category B certificates from those using the old approach because the legislation has not changed.  In other words, if a boat was certified as meeting the law, correctly, on day A, then the same boat cannot be found to be non-compliant with the same law on day B.  The law sits above the standards.  When certified, a boat is declared as compliant with the law on the basis of compliance with particular standards but there is no legal obligation for a manufacturer to adopt updates to standards, particularly for previously certified products. (If there was an accident which might have been prevented if the updated standard had been applied, then the manufacturer would have to come up with a good excuse why they had not opted to adopt the update but without an accident, there is no compulsion for a manufacturer to adopt an updated standard).

So unless a manufacturer voluntarily opts to adopt the new standards, they may keep their old certificates… until the law changes.  When the law changes the manufacturers must have new certificates and the certifiers, such as HPiVS, will demand the application of the latest edition of the standards.  The RCD will change in January 2016 and must be adopted by all before 18 January 2017. So this problem will disappear in time.

In the meantime, it would be very wrong indeed for a buyer to assume a category B RIB from manufacturer X is more seaworthy than a category C RIB of similar size from manufacturer Y. It may be quite the reverse. It all depends when the boat was certified and which edition of the standard was used.  As the newer standards offer a more rigorous test, the age of the certificate is a more reliable guide of seaworthiness: the younger the better.

We are often asked what happens to the validity of certificates when a manufacturer closes, particularly when bankrupt and no transfer of ownership results.  This question was posed to the EU Commission for a legal ruling and they have returned with the following:

The EC type examination certificate for the boat placed on the market remains valid even after the manufacturer bankrupted.The EC type-examination certificate refers to a product, not to the manufacturer.
In case there is a new manufacturer who wants to produce the same type of boat under the same brand, he must apply for the new EC type examination certificate because this certificate always applies to a particular manufacturer. This manufacturer also has to put his name on the EU Declaration of Conformity.
However, the notified body assessing the product should take into consideration the fact that the new manufacturer may use the same manufacturing methods & technologies including the material and workforce as the previous original manufacturer. For this case, the scope of assessment should not create unnecessary burden for the manufacturer.
In case of change of the manufacturer’s ownership, the EC type examination certificate remains valid until the manufacturer continues his business under the same legal entity.

Note that while the above refers to Type Approval certificates, it would also apply to module Aa certificates. It does not apply to other types of certificate (module D, E, F, G or H) as these certificates relate to specific units of production or production processes. There is, therefore, no carry-over of these certificates.
For further information, contact HPiVS.

Before we answer this question, let it first be said that only 2 harmonised ISO standards are mandatory for compliance with RCD:

  • ISO 8666 – (definition & measurement of) Principal Data
  • ISO 10087 – Craft Identification Coding System

While all other harmonised standards are optional, they carry a presumption of conformity.  This is very significant.  It means that all countries in EEA have recognised that the standard satisfies the requirements of the RCD (ie a harmonised standard) and thus, if properly applied to a product, that product must conform to the directive.  If a solution other than a harmonised standard is used, then the solution may be challenged.

So if a standard is not mandatory, no particular edition of the standard can be mandatory but manufacturers wishing to benefit from the presumption of conformity should read-on to find out how updated standards transfer this status.

When an update to a harmonised standard is published, a little time will pass while each country in EEA formally adopts it as their own national standard. Once this is completed, the EU Commission prints the reference to the new standard in its Official Journal. From this date, the new standard may be used and carries the presumption of conformity.  The old edition of that standard will retain its presumption of conformity for a period set by the Commission.  The period will be short for standards which are considered to require only trivial physical modifications to production lines and up to 18 months for standards, such as stability (ISO 12217) which may require some design changes, let alone modification of production lines.

The EU Commission keeps a list of all current harmonised standards, alongside-which is the date that the old edition will lose its presumption of conformity. Note that RCD I and RCD II have different lists. RCD II is a new directive and thus has no need for ‘transition’ of editions of standards. It simply started with the latest edition of all the standards and thus no superseded standards carry a presumption of conformity for RCD II.  The lists can be found here:

So, in summary, only 2 standards are mandatory but other than this, any edition of any standard may be used but to benefit from the ‘presumption of conformity’ check the dates in the lists above.

If there is any confusion, please contact HPiVS.

This is an increasingly common question as insurance companies and registration authorities (outside EU) sometimes demand that a boat’s unique (hull/craft/watercraft) identification number be shown on the certificate. The answer is that it depends upon the conformity assessment module being applied. Some boats are only ‘type approved’ by a notified body and thus the certificate relates to a model – ie the design of the boat, not to a specific unit of production. A notified body will not put the unique ID of a boat on such a certificate because they are not involved in checking on-going production and so cannot state whether or not any specific unit complies. This is the manufacturer’s responsibility, using the Declaration of Conformity which they must issue for each unit.

There are optional conformity assessment modules where the manufacturer can ask the notified body to witness the production of a single unit or a batch of production units. In this case, the notified body should print the ID numbers of the units concerned on the certificate. Note that the notified body will clearly charge money to make special visits to the manufacturer and assess specific units of production. Thus the boat buyer should expect to pay more money if this service is required. A list of the ‘conformity assessment modules’ is described below.

AInternal Production ControlN/A – no Notified Body involvement
Aa or A1Internal Production Control Plus Supervised Product TestingOnly if the sample used for testing is unique or represents a defined batch
B+EU Type-ExaminationNever
+CConformity to TypeN/A – no Notified Body involvement
+DQuality Assurance of the Production ProcessNever
+EProduct Quality AssuranceNever
FProduct VerificationDepends upon scope of work agreed between manufacturer & notified body
GUnit VerificationAlways
HFull Quality AssuranceNever

One of the most common questions posed to HPiVS is whether a commercial boat is exempt from RCD or whether it needs a CE mark. There is good reason for the confusion.  The RCD states:

The following shall be excluded from the scope of this Directive: …… craft specifically intended to be crewed and to carry passengers for commercial purposes.

So many people make the mistake of assuming all craft being used for “commercial purposes” are excluded.  But the EU Commission’s guidance document on RCD states:

chartered, i.e. hired, recreational craft are covered by the Directive, as are recreational craft used for recreational boating training. In both cases, the activity is not a commercial passenger transport activity but one for sports or leisure purposes, even if the craft is hired with crew.

So this means that a boat is not excluded simply because money is exchanging hands for the use of the boat. Further, it is not necessarily exempt if there is a paid crew on board the hired craft.

The key to this conundrum is to focus on the use of the boat. If it is clearly being used for recreation, ie simply for the pleasure of passing some time afloat, then it is in scope, regardless of money or crew. If the hired boat is being used as a mode of transport, or for racing, then it is excluded.  Note also that education/training is not excluded if it relates to using the craft recreationally.

It is not true that a boat is exempt from RCD because it has approval as a commercial vessel.

It should also be remembered that an excluded boat may be sold into the recreational market later in its life. The boat would need to be CE marked at this stage so it may be worthwhile dealing with the commercial approval and CE marking at the same time.  The two regimes will overlap.