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Safety and environment: EU harmonised requirements for recreational craft

EU legislation lays down technical and administrative requirements for the free circulation of recreational craft in the EU.

Recreational craft marketed in the EU must comply with harmonised technical safety and environmental requirements and meet a number of administrative obligations defined by Directive 94/25/EC, as amended in 2003. These safety and environmental requirements address the design and construction of the craft, and set limit values for their exhaust and noise emissions.

The Directive also requires the manufacturer to keep a technical file of all relevant data and to officially declare the conformity of his product. A CE marking must be affixed on the product and the manufacturer has to provide users with detailed information about safe use and maintenance.

Preserving the environment, ensuring consumer protection and improving the European free market are among the key goals of the EU. In an effort to contribute to these objectives, a number of safety and environmental requirements have been established for recreational craft.

Essential requirements

The key element of European legislation on recreational craft is Directive 94/25/EC (consolidated version), which classifies recreational craft and lays down safety requirements for their design and construction, as well as environment requirements regarding their exhaust and noise emissions. The Directive defines recreational craft as boats of any type, regardless of their means of propulsion, with 2.5 to 24m hull lengths. It provides for a number of exceptions (e.g. racing craft, as well as for canoes, kayaks, gondolas and pedalos) and derogations concerning the application of these requirements (e.g. for craft self-built by their end user).

The design and construction requirements of the Directive cover structural integrity, handling characteristics and installation. For this purpose, four design categories (Ocean, Offshore, Inshore, Sheltered waters) have been established.

Exhaust and noise emission limits were introduced by Directive 2003/44/EC, with a view to contributing to the protection of the environment and well-being and health of citizens. Exhaust emission limits (for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and particulates) are specified depending on whether the boat is propelled by a two-stroke or four-stroke petrol engine or by a diesel engine. This Directive, which combines the promotion of competitiveness with the protection of the environment and the citizen, was gradually introduced and has been fully in force since 31 December 2006.

The Directive also requires boat and engine manufacturers to keep a technical file on all relevant data, and to officially declare the compliance of their product using a Declaration of Conformity (DoC), to affix the CE marking to it, and to inform users about safe use and maintenance through a builder's plate and owner's manual.

Presumption of conformity and assessment bodies

Recreational craft that meet the relevant national standards adopted pursuant to the harmonised standards published in the Official Journal of the European Communities benefit from a presumption of conformity with the Directive's essential requirements.

Summary list of titles and references of harmonised standards under Directive 94/25/EC relating to Recreational Craft

Member States have appointed bodies entitled to assess boats and engines in terms of conformity with the requirements of the Directive.

List of conformity assessment bodies notified under Directive 94/25/EC (NANDO web site)

To assist in the uniform application and interpretation of the Directive by all notified bodies and other parties involved, the Recreational Craft Sectoral Group (RSG) has been established.

Future developments

In an effort to improve EU legislation in the sector, in 2007 the European Commission assessed the possibilities of further strengthening the environmental performance of recreational craft engines:

See also the results of the Public consultation (closed on 19 July 2009): Possible approach towards the revision of the recreational craft directive 94/25/EC amended by 2003/44/EC

Useful documents

The Commission, along with the competent authorities in the Member States, strongly recommends that boat builders and engine manufacturers use the following harmonised forms for their Declaration of Conformity:

All parties involved in the conformity assessment of recreational craft can find further detailed guidance in the Commission's application guide pdf - 703 KB [703 KB] to the amended Recreational Craft Directive.

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