A new European Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) came into force on 18 January 2016.

There was an update to the original RCD back in 2006 but this is the first time there has been a new directive. While there is no change in scope, there are some differences that require modifications on some boats.

Read-on to find out what is different.

Key Dates

18 January 2016 – RCD II came into force

18 January 2017 – RCD I ceased to exist

Between these dates, manufacturers were allowed to choose between either directive.

The legal answer is that the EU Commission issued their New Legislative Framework which set a new template for all directives to follow.  This was deemed necessary in order to improve market surveillance & the quality of work done by the notified bodies, across the entire EU market. None of these issues are specific to boats.

The boating industry took the opportunity to make some specific improvement to RCD.  In particular, the old Directive suffered from a lot of misinterpretation: both innocent and intentional.  So the new Directive provides a lot of helpful definitions.

The new Directive is known as: “2013/53/EU, repealing Directive 94/25/EC”

No certificates for RCD II could be issued before  18th January 2016.

We are now in a transition period of 1 year, during which either Directive may be used.  From 18th January 2017, the old Directive will cease to exist and the new Directive must be applied.


The scope is just the same but there is a slight change in terminology:

  • RCD I applies to boats and personal watercraft.
  • RCD II refers to watercraft, which means both boats & PWC.

Conformity Assessment Procedures (Modules)

The only change is typographic:  module Aa is now referred to as A1, in order to keep RCD in line with other directives.

There is also a new module C1 for engine manufacturers that are not using quality assurance modules. This module does not apply to any other RCD products.

Post Construction Assessment

PCA is the procedure that must be followed where the CE marking is not executed by the manufacturer (or his formally authorised representative).  Note that it is nothing to do with whether the boat is new or used.  Even a brand new, unused boat must go through PCA if the European importer is seeking the CE mark.

So what are the big changes to PCA?  Most importantly, there is a change in who may use PCA.  The Commission did not like companies buying boats in USA, putting them through PCA and selling them in EU for profit.  Only a private importer may apply for PCA under RCD II. A Private importer is someone who, “in the course of a non-commercial activity” imports a boat “with the intention of putting it into service for his own use;”

Another change in PCA is that we Notified Bodies (the certifiers) can no-longer write the compliance documents for boats going through PCA.  (There is a perceived conflict of interest where a certifier approves the documents that it created).  So this means the cost of PCA will increase as the applicant must now hire a consultancy to write the documentation as well as hiring the Notified Body to check it.

Responsibility for Brokers/Distributors/Dealers

While a “private importer” must apply for the CE mark, the Directive also states that all “economic operators intervening in the supply and distribution chain should take appropriate measures to ensure that products … comply with the relevant legislation”.  So now there is no debating the issue: brokers do carry some responsibility for RCD compliance.

Players in the supply chain do not assume all responsibility for RCD compliance but they are required to check the products they supply have the necessary marks and documentation.

The good news is that there are very few changes to the Essential Requirements: so few, indeed, that we can discuss them all here.


ER Nature of Change Discussion
A.1 Design Categories The category descriptions (ocean, offshore, inshore, sheltered) have been removed. The wind and wave limits have not been changed. The intention of the categories was to set design targets, not to restrict the usage of boats to particular waters. This is why they are called design categories.
This simply requires modification in owners’ manuals. No technical changes required.
A.1 Design Category A RCD I required category A vessels to be largely self-sufficient. The RSG[1] tried but failed to define this term and it has been removed from RCD II.
RCD II also adds the words: excluding abnormal conditions, such as storm, violent storm, hurricane, tornado and extreme sea conditions or rogue waves.
Again, these changes are intended to explain the intention of design categories.  The harmonised standards can be relied upon to pick-up on the subtleties of the new wording.  So compliance with up-to-date harmonised standards will ensure compliance with these requirements. For the moment, there are no known physical changes required of boats or new calculation methods in standards, specifically related to the new definition of category A.
A.2.1 Craft Identification (1) The text of the requirement for CIN now includes the month of manufacture, which was missing before.
(2) There is also a requirement for the manufacturer’s code to be issued by a member state.
In practice, there is no change as the harmonised standard (ISO 10087) has always required the month of manufacture, even if RCD I did not.
There is still confusion over how Member States are going to administer the issue of manufacturer’s codes to companies outside Europe. Guidance is promised by the Commission.
A.2.2 Builder’s Plate In place of the manufacturer’s name, the RCD II now requires: manufacturer’s name, registered trade name or registered trade mark, as well as contact address Note that an address is now required on the plate.
(For Post Construction Assessment, the Notified Body’s details are also required).
A.2.3 Protection from falling overboard and means of reboarding RCD II now requires the means of reboarding to be: accessible to or deployable by a person in the water unaided. This is a very significant change that will be a challenge to meet for some types of craft.
A.2.4 Visibility from the main steering position No change for power craft but all-change for sailing boats. Sailing boats were excluded from this requirement under RCD I but are included in RCD II. An imminent update to the vision from helm harmonised standard (ISO 15085) manages the issue of viewing beyond sails by introducing a helm “area” for sailboats ie where the helmsman can move around while helming to change his line of sight.
A.3.3 Buoyancy and flotation RCD I required all habitable multihulls to be buoyant when inverted. RCD II requires flotation only for those that are susceptible of inversion. ISO 12217:2013 already carries definitions for susceptible of inversion.  Clearly any currently certified multihull must have flotation, so need not change.
A.3.8 Escapes Following on from 3.3, RCD II now only requires inversion escapes from habitable multihulls that are susceptible of inversion.On the other hand, escapes are required on susceptible craft of any size whereas RCD I only required escapes on craft longer than 12. See the comment under 3.3 above.
Manufacturers of habitable multihulls shorter than 12m, that did not have inversions escapes, need to check if they must provide a hatch. Check ISO 12217:2013.
A.5.1.6 Tiller controlled outboard motors Tiller-controlled outboard propulsion engines shall be equipped with an emergency stopping device which can be linked to the helmsman This is an entirely new Essential Requirement. Manufacturers or distributors should be careful to supply such outboards with a kill chord.
A.5.3 Electrical System New text in RCD: All electrical circuits, except engine starting circuits supplied from batteries, shall remain safe when exposed to overload.
Electric propulsion circuits shall not interact with other circuits in such a way that either would fail to operate as intended.
The harmonised standards for AC (ISO13297) & DC (ISO10133) systems have always required overload protection as described. So this should not require a change for manufacturers using the harmonised standards.
The separation of electric propulsion systems is a new and very sensible requirement.  A new standard (ISO16315) for electric propulsion systems will be harmonised late in 2015.
A.5.5 Gas (LPG) Systems The requirement for flame failure devices is removed from the text of RCD and the system should be installed according to the instructions of the component suppliers. Fitting CE marked gas appliances to according to the instructions and the harmonised standard (ISO10239), as before, will ensure compliance, as before.
A.5.7 Navigation Lights The ER now makes reference to shapes and sound signals if they are fitted. If the manufacturer supplies shapes and sound signals, or the means for carrying them, then the provisions should be compliant with COLREGS.
A.5.8 Discharge prevention and installations facilitating the delivery ashore of waste The ER title has changed to reflect the new requirement that where toilets are fitted, holding tanks are now mandatory under RCD II.  Not only are holding tanks necessary but all heads must discharge only to the tank. The tank may be provided with a discharge to sea but must have a provision for pump-out ashore. Manufacturers may need to reconsider their black water systems. While most have been proving holding tanks for years, not all toilets were necessarily connected to the tank. Clearly this will have to change.  The hidden benefit is that some systems will be simpler with less branches, valves and connections.
B.1 Exhaust Emissions There a number of small changes in text, that are a concern for the engine manufacturers themselves. The only notable point is that the emission limits have become stricter to come in line with other limits around the world. Boat builders simply need to ensure that the engines they buy are compliant with RCD II and not RCD I.
Annex II Components The component list is unchanged although the requirement for devices to be ignition protected is changed from equipment for inboard and stern-drive engines to inboard and stern drive petrol engines and petrol tank spaces. The harmonised standard (ISO11105) and the RCD guidelines have long since been treating petrol engine and tank spaces differently to diesel and so boats compliant with this standard should need no modification.

[1] RSG = Recreational Craft Sectoral Group = the technical forum of Notified Bodies and key industry representatives tasked by the EU Commission with giving guidance on technical interpretations for RCD.  See

The procedure for transitioning a product from RCD I to RCD II with HPiVS follows a simple path, regardless of whether it was certified by HPiVS or another Notified Body. All Notified Bodies are expected to recognise the work done by others, unless, of course, they have a reason to suspect a problem. This implies, therefore, that re-assessment to RCD II need only cover those aspects that have changed since the first approval. An entirely new assessment of all Essential Requirements will not be necessary for most craft.

So there are 3 stages to re-certification:
  1. Assess any physical modifications to the product itself, since the previous approval
  2. Assess all the new requirements of RCD II (as outlined in above)
  3. Assess compliance for all standards revised since initial approval

In order to find out which standards have changed since the last approval, use HPiVS’ Standards Time Machine.


The new directive and the latest standards provide for a clearer and more detailed legislative framework and new design fashions can be better accommodated.  On the negative side, the work required to demonstrate compliance has greatly increased.  CE marking is going to get more expensive and authorities now have the tools to enforce it more vigorously. What is more, everyone involved in the supply of a boat to EU waters is now implicated in the list of responsibilities.


Next steps:Download an application form:

More information

The Commission’s narrative about the new Directive

The full text of the new Directive (2013/53/EU)

Contact HPiVS