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FAQ - Recreational Craft Directive (RCD)

What is the Recreational Craft Directive or RCD?

The Recreational Craft Directive is a European Directive that applies to all craft when first placed on the European market, this includes all new craft and second hand craft brought into the EU (e.g. from China or USA). It can also apply to craft that may have been used as commercial craft before being put on the recreational market, regardless of age. Its primarily aim is to remove barriers for trade between countries.

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 permanentanently 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 self-declared 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.)

For further information, please try the following organisations:

British Marine Federation

Royal Yachting Association


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