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New leisure boat rules to help business and the environment

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In the summertime, Europe’s waters come to life with several million motor boats, sail boats, jet skis and other recreational crafts. These tourist favourites are set to become safer and cleaner, with new legislation making the use of such crafts less harmful to the environment. This, in turn, will make European craft more attractive to external markets.

The recreational craft industry has attracted the interest of the European Commission because of its impact on the environment and its economic significance to EU enterprises. To ensure better consumer and environmental protection, and to keep up with international trade partners, the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) was revised to include a number of new safety and ecological requirements.

In addition to the environmental benefits, the Directive creates clear, streamlined EU regulation on product safety, design and construction, which will in turn improve market surveillance. In particular, the rules on CE marking – the certification which states whether a product has been assessed and meets EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements – will be made clearer.

Buoyancy and flotation safety measures will be also be strengthened. Habitable multihull craft, which are popular for racing and cruising in the Mediterranean, must be designed so that they are either not susceptible to inversion or have sufficient buoyancy to remain afloat in the inverted position – in other words, if it is turned upside down by a wave.

In order to impose these new environmental and safety standards, Member States will have to ensure that adequate checks are carried out, both at external borders and within the EU. This will include, among other things, visits to premises of producers and importers to ensure that recreational crafts presenting a danger are not made available within the Single Market.

Keeping up with the competition

The competitiveness of Europe’s recreational crafts industry will also improve as a result of these new regulations, as the EU will be aligning technical requirements with those of the major trading partners. This will eliminate the need for two separate production lines – one for the Single Market, one for third countries – and make it easier for EU manufacturers to sell globally.

The United States has been leading the way with legislation regulating exhaust emissions. Some EU Member States attempted to undertake efforts to reduce emissions from recreational crafts by imposing local measures for speed limits or by banning boats in specific areas, but stronger EU-wide action is needed. This will better protect the environment, ensure a global market for Europe’s recreational crafts and prevent national solutions which lead to discrepancies in EU regulations.

What the measures mean for SMEs and industry

Because two separate production lines will no longer be necessary, the revised Directive will cut costs for EU manufacturers, in particular costs relating to development, manufacturing and certification.

For some companies, there may be a need to adjust production to comply with the new rules. For instance, propulsion engines must be designed and constructed to emit less PM, HC and NOx, and this may require changes on the part of manufacturers. To foster this transition, the RCD gives industry players three years to comply with exhaust emission limits. For the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which manufacture certain types of engine – equal to or less than 15 kW – an additional three years will be allowed to comply with regulatory changes.

Approximately 6 million recreational crafts are in use in Europe. The recreational marine activities across Europe involve some 37 000 companies representing a wide range of activities, such as marinas, boat builders, engine or marine equipment manufacturers, sailing schools, marine solicitors, etc. This sector, which is made up of 97 % SMEs, is gradually recovering from the economic crisis, and today directly employs around 272 000 workers.

‘The new legislation is not only good for the environment, but will also improve the quality of holiday resorts and boost job creation in the tourism industry. In addition, cleaner and safer boats will help recreational craft enterprises save costs and give them the ability to serve the world market with a single production line, as we are aligning our standards with international standards.’
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani

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