The EU has some 6 million motor boats, sailing boats and personal watercraft (jet skis) used for sports and leisure, i.e. non-commercial purposes. The European Commission (EC) has proposed to update the Directive which sets out the requirements for such craft to be put on the EU market. In particular it would further tighten environmental requirements and enhance measures to ensure compliance.
Recreational craft are a key part of the marine leisure sector, which has annual revenues of about €23.4 billion. The sector counts over 37 000 businesses, predominantly SMEs, with around 272 000 direct employees working in marinas, boat builders, engine or marine equipment manufacturers, hire charter, sailing schools, marine solicitors, etc.
The Commission’s proposal is the outcome of consultations launched in 2008. It would substantially modernise the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) adopted in 1994, which laid down basic safety requirements, as well as its 2003 amendment, in which limits were added for exhaust emissions and noise levels for watercraft with engines. In particular it would explicitly clarify the Directive’s application to personal watercraft – jet skis and the like. The Directive would also be brought into line with the ‘New Approach’ framework, from 2008, which sets out general rules for ensuring products on the EU market conform to safety and related provisions.
Stakeholders have generally welcomed the proposal, finding it well balanced. The new legislation is expected to apply to new craft from 2016.
EC directive proposition
The main changes in comparison to the existing Directive are:
- exhaust emissions: there are stricter limits for nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons (HC) and particulate matters’ emissions for new recreational craft. This reflects technological progress in recreational marine engines and will bring harmonisation with US, Canadian and Japanese standards
- holding tanks: the mandatory installation of holding tanks or an on-board treatment system to craft fitted with toilets to prevent the discharge of sewage at sea
- reporting: Member States (MS) will have to report on enforcement to the EC within five years of the application of the Directive
- improved market surveillance including MS carrying out compliance checks both at the EU borders and within the EU
- a new general safety clause gives a legal basis for taking unsafe craft off the market
- new multi-hulled vessels have clarified (extra) safety requirements
- further clarification of the RCD’s scope and definitions.
The proposal would not change the limits for noise emissions.
The Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) made a number of clarifications and technical adjustments proposal, essentially aimed at improving definitions and application of certain provisions.
The main amendments cover:
- an updated system for defining boat design categories with EC feedback on its impact within two years
- the precise application of a number of important safety requirements
- exchange of best practice in the EU
- an EC report on the feasibility of further reducing emissions within five years.
Following IMCO’s adoption of its report in June 2012, a trilogue agreement on the text was reached before summer 2013. However, it may be noted that the Council working party required lengthy technical discussions, before reaching a mandate for negotiations with the EP.