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Recreational Craft Directive

The Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) regulates pleasure craft built and used with the European Economic Area (EEA). It applies to all recreational craft between 2.5 and 24 metres in hull length whatever the means of propulsion. Most craft built since 16 June 1998 intended for sport & leisure must meet essential safety requirements if they are to be placed on the EEA market or put into service within the EEA.

Changes to the EU Directive

The first Recreational Craft Directive 94/25/EC which was amended by Directive 2003/44/EC ceased to apply on 18 January 2017.

Directive 2013/53/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 on recreational craft and personal watercraft, repealing the old RCD (Directive 94/25/EC) was published in the Official Journal of the European Union, on 28 December 2013 and became effective on 17 January 2014. Member states had two years until 18 January 2016 to transpose the Directive into national law. A one year transition period for manufacturers to make any changes to their designs followed. With effect from 18 January 2017 Directive 2013/53/EU has entirely replaced Directives 94/25/EC and 2003/44/EC. 

The current RCD, Directive 2013/53/EU is sometimes referred to as RCD2 or WCD to differentiate it from its predecessors.

EBA working on behalf of the recreational boat user

The European Boating Association was involved as the user expert for a number of years in the drafting of the new directive. However, during the drafting process, a number of proposals were put forward that the EBA believed would have adversely affected recreational boaters. The EBA was pleased that its concerns were recognised and the necessary text was removed from the Directive. Among the proposals that the EBA felt most strongly about were:

  • A recital (introductory explanatory narrative) which called for EU watercraft licences, regular technical checks and banning the use of red  diesel, made by a Dutch MEP who wanted to draw attention to these issues. The EBA argued that there was no place in a product directive for regulatory issues and it was subsequently dropped.
  • Removal of the potentially misleading link between the design category and the geographical location of intended use.  The EBA supported proposals for a series of amendments maintaining the existing categories (A, B, C, D) but removing the names: Ocean, Offshore, Coastal and Sheltered waters. This change has brought the Directive into line with the harmonised standard EN ISO 12217 which has been in use for over 10 years.
  • An amendment to Article 12 of the Directive which removed the need for anyone who imported a craft from a third country that was not CE marked to get one Notified Body to provide the technical documentation and another entirely independent Notified Body to do the Post Construction Assessment (PCA). The EBA successfully argued that the notified body undertaking the PCA should also be able carry out calculations, tests and other assessments, to the extent necessary to ensure that equivalent conformity where the technical documentation supplied with the craft was missing or incomplete.

The new directive also made a number of changes to the Essential Safety Requirements that every recreational watercraft must be designed and constructed to in respect of its stability, buoyancy, and handling characteristics such as:

  • Better visibility from the cockpit of sailing boats
  • Means of reboarding
  • Toilet waste systems including  compulsory holding tanks
  • Provision for electric propulsion
  • Stricter Exhaust emission controls

Summary of the main changes in the new RCD

Amendments to a number of ISO standards that provide conformity with the Directive are now required. Again the EBA will be involved in the review of these standards to ensure that the interests of recreational boat users are represented.

EBA continues to be involved with the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) and in particular it is an Observer Member of the RCD Standing Committee and the User Member of the RCD Recreational Sectoral Group which assists in the uniform application and interpretation of the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) by all Notified Bodies and others parties with valid interest.

RCD Administrative Co-operation (ADCO)

The EBA is recognised by RCD Commission Services (DG Enterprise) as the USER representative on the RCD ADCO Group.

Recreational Craft Sectoral Group (RSG)

The EBA is a member of the Recreational Craft Sectoral Group (RSG) which facilitates co-ordination between individual Notified Bodies for Coherent Conformity Assessment to the Recreational Craft Directive.