The Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) 94/25/EC is a directive based on the new and global approach for common trading practices across Europe. The directive sets essential requirements for the design and construction of ‘Recreational craft’ which it defines as ”…any craft intended for sport or leisure purposes, regardless of the type or the means of propulsion, with a hull length of 2.5m to 24m, measured according to the appropriate harmonized standards”. The Directive applies to pleasure craft, partially completed boats and loose and assembled components. Failure to satisfy the requirements of the directive carries a heavy fine or a prison sentence.
The Directive became available for use from 16 June 1996 and became mandatory from 16 June 1998. As such manufacturers and importers may no longer place pleasure craft and components on the market which do not comply with the essential requirements of the directive. In addition to these technical requirements, the Directive imposes a requirement on the manufacturer to keep a technical file of all relevant data, to officially state the conformity of his product in a Declaration of Conformity, to affix the CE Marking on the craft and to inform the users about safe use/maintenance through a builder's plate and an owner's manual.
Craft which are self built, and not placed on the market for a period of five years may opt for exclusion from the directive under Chapter 1, Article 1 (OJ 1464 - 4.Vii) However it is common thinking that a non CE marked craft less than five years old, has no market value as it can not legally be sold within the EU, as such many professional surveyors will not provide an estimate on value for insurance purposes which can make the acquisition of suitable fully comprehensive insurance cover difficult . In addition any subsequent need to transfer the ownership of the craft within the five year period could incur hefty fees for a compulsory ‘Post Constructional Assessment’ which will require the mandatory use of a notified body for craft after 1st January 2006.
From 1st January 2005 the amended Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) 2003/44/EC was available for use, later to become the compulsory version of the directive to be used after 1st January 2006. Some of the amendments are subtle with others being far reaching and are detailed in the Recreational Craft Regulations – OJ 1464.
With 2003/44/EC comes a requirement that any craft which should have conformed to the Recreational Craft Directive but did not or does not must now under go a formal Post Constructional Assessment process before it can legally be put on the market or put into service. There are numerous compliance options and several exclusions which apply to the Recreational Craft Directive, with even more myths and misconceptions which perpetuate an unnecessary confusion and uncertainty surrounding the requirements of these directives.
Due to our experience and knowledge with both directives 94/25/EC and 2003/44/EC we are regularly called upon to advise the legal profession, trading standards, large and small commercial boat builders, equipment manufacturers and private individuals alike. The nature of the experience which is drawn upon ranges from conformity options and requirements, to craft assessments and guidance to achieve dispute resolutions. A consultation can range from as little as a one hour meeting to explain specific and general requirements of the directive ….to the design and supervision of a full quality and Recreational Craft Directive conformity procedure.
There are various methods of declaring compliance, the most common and frequently expected method is by using the European harmonised standards developed especially for use with the RCD. However conformity with the Essential Requirements can be achieved by other means including unique and bespoke practices.
In general The Recreational Craft Directive is concerned with 'Essential Requirements' which are mostly associated with safety. For a ‘Category D’ craft such as an Inland waterway narrow boat conformity can be fairly straight forward. For a ‘Category A’ craft, such as a self sufficient sailing yacht capable of enduring heavy seas, proving conformity can be more elaborate but should still be straight forward and can be tailored to become a useful aid to the manufacturing process. It is our experience that anybody competent to build or complete a craft using good boat building principles is normally capable of ensuring that they comply with the Recreational Craft Directive using a simple but comprehensive collation of paperwork and a little additional guidance.