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Maritime industries

Recreational marine industry: an overview of European policies

Motor boat and sailing boat. © European Commission

26/07/2011 - Safer and cleaner recreational crafts

The European Commission proposed new legislation that will clarify the responsibility of economic operators and make the use of recreational crafts more friendly for the environment in marinas.

Studies show that some lakes and seashores can experience significant concentrations of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in peak hours resulting from some six million of recreational crafts cruising in Europe.

The proposed revision of the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) sets stricter limits for NOx, hydrocarbons (HC) and particulate matters for new recreational crafts.

  • Press release
  • Press memo
  • Proposal for a directive pdf български (bg) czech (cs) dansk (da) Deutsch (de) eesti (et) ελληνικά (el) español (es) Français (fr) Gaeilge (ga) hrvatski (hr) italiano (it) latviešu (lv) lietuvių (lt) magyar (hu) Malti (mt) Nederlands (nl) polski (pl) português (pt) română (ro) slovenčina (sk) slovenščina (sl) suomi (fi) svenska (sv)

The EU supports the recreational craft sector through harmonised legislation.

The EU has harmonised the differing national legislations in the Member States for recreational craft, which are boats intended for sports and leisure purposes of hull length between 2.5 and 24 metres. The European legal framework has improved market conditions in this sector, which is of economic importance in terms of turnover, trade and jobs. It is also specifying conditions to protect the environment and consumer health. The EU has also concluded bilateral agreements with third countries aimed at facilitating the export of European-built recreational craft to these countries.

The recreational craft sector

The recreational craft industry covers boats of a certain length intended for sports and leisure purposes. These are high-value and very movable products, intended mainly for end consumers and with a relatively long life-cycle, which means that they are often on the market for a long time. The market is therefore predominantly based on builder-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer relations.

Recreational craft production is very diverse and ranges from series to "one-offs" built to order.

The manufacturing industry mainly consists of small and medium-sized enterprises (97% of businesses are SMEs), a few large companies (over 1 000 employees) at the upper end and a small amount of "builders for own use" at the lower end of the scale. The sector represents approximately 37 200 businesses with at least 272 000 direct employees and 23.4 billion euro of annual revenue. The sector is also very dynamic, with an average annual growth rate of 6%.

EU action in the sector

The recreational craft industry has attracted the interest of the EU Commission because of its impact on the environment and its economic significance in the European Union.

To implement EU-wide initiatives in this sector, the Commission has legislated on recreational craft, which are boats of any type, regardless of their means of propulsion, between 2.5 and 24 metres hull length. This EU legislation (Directive 94/25/EC, as amended by Directive 2003/44/EC) includes a number of exceptions and derogations. As an example, craft designed for racing, as well as canoes, kayaks, gondolas and pedalos, are excluded from EU requirements related to the design and construction of recreational craft.

In order to promote sustainable development, the European legislation on recreational craft also introduced standard requirements regarding user safety, as well as exhaust and noise emissions. As a result, this European legal framework has removed disparities among Member States, while facilitating free competition across the Union and trade with foreign countries.

International aspects

Trade with third countries is of major importance in the recreational craft sector, particularly in trans-Atlantic relations. European legal harmonisation in this sector has thus been taken into consideration in order to facilitate world trade. The EU has concluded Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) with the USA and Canada to ensure that European boat manufacturers can trade their products in these countries more easily, by simplifying the certification procedures.

In view of the 2004 and 2007 enlargements, a research study pdf - 181 KB [181 KB] analysed the situation of this sector in several applicant countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia). Published in 2001, this study identified issues arising from integrating these recreational craft industries into a new competitive environment.

Switzerland has also based its national legislation (information available in ) to a very large extent on the provisions of the EU recreational craft Directive.

Safety and environment: EU harmonised requirements for recreational craft

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