Recreational Craft Directive (RCD)
This page contains general information only. You should seek advice and satisfy yourself as to the status of any vessel you consider buying.
What is it?
The RCD is a European Directive that applies to virtually all recreational craft between 2.5m and 24m brought into or offered for sale in the EU market. It came into force on 16th June 1998. Boats covered by the Directive are required to comply with specific ISO standards, although equivalent standards may be applied. It is helpful to retain the compliance document with the boat's papers for future owners and in case of any query.
Unlike the MoT for cars, compliance is not an on-going requirement. Evidence of compliance will be found on the plaque provided by the boat builder which will, amongst other things, give a HIN/CIN (Hull/Craft Identification Number). This is a 14-digit number containing the manufacturer's code, year of build and model year. There should be a paper document as well - often found in the back of the owner's manual - whose details should agree with the plaque. The builder's invoice and/or certificate may also give the HIN. You should see a CE mark.
There are a few exemptions from the RCD such as boats built solely for racing, gondolas and commercial vessels (not recreational vessels used for charter, but vessels such as fishing boats and workboats).
Boats being brought into use or placed for sale onto the EU market for the first time must comply with the Directive at that time. Privately imported boats may need to be assessed for compliance with the Directive on arrival. Some US boats are built to the RCD and have the required documentation, but you need to find out before you buy. It is worth noting the possibility that the newly-imported boat may not economically be able to be brought to compliance, particularly if the engine does not meet the requirements. YDSA surveyors can give professional guidance, or use the RYA links below for additional information.
Boats that can show they were in an EU protectorate or other territory before 16th June are treated the same as boats within the EU States.
Boats built in the EU
Boats built in the EU since 1998 should have documentation that they complied with the RCD when first offered for sale, and the same is true of most boats imported through authorised dealer networks.
Boats built or in the EU prior to June 1998 were not expected to comply retrospectively. Boats coming back into the EU, perhaps following sale, retain their status provided the owner can provide evidence the boat was built or in the EU prior to June 1998 - the Builders Certificate is ideal. A Bill of Sale, marina receipt or other dated evidence for non-EU built but located in the EU before June 1998 should suffice.
A vessel that has been supplied as a shell, or a "sailaway", or indeed built from scratch by a home builder, can be exempted from the certification and documentation requirements of the Recreational Craft Directive provided the builder retains ownership of the vessel for at least five years from the date that the vessel was first "put into commission". Be aware that there are uncertainties around the meaning of "put into commission": your surveyor should be able to provide some guidance in respect of your own case.
Hulls provided for fit-out should have an Annex 3 Declaration, which is the builder's certification that the hull has been built in accordance with the RCD.
Advice on the RCD is available from various sources: