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About CE Marking

European Product Directives set the minimum safety standards that products must conform to, before they are allowed on the European market or before they are first put into service in the European Economic Area (EEA).

The famous ‘CE marking’ symbol indicates that a product complies with all applicable Directives. A product complying with a directive in one EU nation must be allowed on the markets of all other EU nations, making the CE mark a vital ingredient in removing barriers to trade within the European single-market.

The EU does not have Directives for every single product, only those where differing national legislation within the member states created the perception of a barrier to trade.

A product is either in scope of one or more directives and MUST be CE marked or it is out of scope and CANNOT be CE marked.  There is no choice about CE marking!

To achieve compliance, a manufacturer or importer is required to compile some documentation:

  • Technical File – which should describe the product and how it complies with the applicable directives
  • Owners Manual
  • Declaration of Conformity – which should indicate which directives the product complies with

See the next section for details specific to the EU Recreational Craft Directive (RCD).

RCD Overview

94/25/EC was the reference of the original RCD which became optional in June 1996 and mandatory on 16 June 1998.

2003/44/EC was the reference to the update of the original RCD which became mandatory on 1 January 2006.

2013/53/EU is the new RCD (often called RCD II) that replaces the previous directive and its amendment. It becomes mandatory on 18th January 2017.

Scroll down the page for details or click on the links to jump directly to a section:

The following craft are within the scope of the European Recreational Craft Directive (RCD):
* Recreational Craft from 2.5m up to 24m in length
* Personal Water Craft (PWC) – otherwise known as jet skis

Since 1st January 2006, the noise and exhaust emissions of propulsion engines of recreational craft in Europe have been part of the RCD scope.

In addition to craft, the following products (if prefabricated), fitted on European recreational craft, are also within the scope:

  • Propulsion engines for recreational craft and PWC as defined above
  • Ignition-protected equipment for inboard and stern drive engines
  • Start-in-gear protection devices for outboard motors
  • Steering wheels, steering mechanisms and cable assemblies
  • Fuel tanks intended for fixed installations and fuel hoses
  • Prefabricated hatches and port lights

European based vessels or components within the scope of the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) must have a CE marking and conform to the directive. Some of the above components do not need CE marks if fabricated with the boat. Contact CEproof for details.

There are certain types of vessel excluded from the European RCD, including:

  • Craft intended solely for racing
  • Canoes and kayaks designed to be propelled solely by human power, gondolas and pedalos;
  • Sailboards
  • Surfboards
  • Original and individual replicas of historical craft designed before 1950, built predominantly with the original materials
  • Experimental craft not subsequently put on the market
  • Craft built for own use, provided they are not sold for a period of five years from completion
  • Commercial and passenger vessels. (NOTE – a yacht chartered for recreational use is still a ‘recreational craft’ and in scope of RCD, regardless of the fact that money has changed hands)
  • Submersibles
  • Air cushion vehicles
  • Hydrofoils
  • Amphibians (RCD II exclusion only)

New or second-hand vessels that were built/put into service/put on the market within the EEA before 16th June 1998 are excluded. Note that second-hand vessels will have to comply if imported to the EEA after these dates, even if they were built before 1998.

More information on identifying if your vessel is exempt and advice on how to prove it can be found on our directive exemption certificates (DEC) page.

The person or company who first puts the completed product on the European market or into service is responsible for making the product compliant and generating the mandatory paperwork. This is usually the manufacturer but may also be the importer.

RCD II has defined roles and responsibilities for everyone involved in the supply of products that fall into the scope of the RCD.  These explicitly include:

  • Manufacturer
  • The manufacturer’s authorised representative
  • Importer
  • Private Importer
  • All economic operators in the supply chain

This means that distributors, dealers and even brokers have a role to play in ensuring compliance with RCD.

Design Categories

Category Significant Wave Height * Beaufort
A Exceeding 4m** Exceeding 8
B Up to & including 4m Up to & including 8
C Up to & including 2m Up to & including 6
D Up to & including 0.3m Up to & including 4

* Significant wave height means the average height of the highest third of the waves over a given period. Waves of double that height may occasionally be experienced.
** The RSG, the Notified Bodies’ forum for the European Recreational Craft Directive, has recommended a wave of 7m be used for assessment purposes.

It is possible for a vessel to have a CE marking in more than one RCD design category provided all requirements for those categories are met.

When placed on the market or put into service, craft must be accompanied by a Declaration of Conformity. This attests that the vessel meets the Essential Requirements (ER) contained in the Directive.

A Technical Construction File (TCF) must be produced and maintained by the Manufacturer/Authorised Community Representative. This file must be kept whilst a particular model is in production and for a minimum of ten years beyond production of the last vessel.

The TCF describes how the vessel meets the Essential Requirements. It is a large document that works through every clause of every applicable standard, proving compliance.

The vessel must have an owner’s manual. This has to contain information about the safe operation of the vessel and other contents as prescribed in the technical standards used to create the TCF. The Declaration of Conformity accompanies the owner’s manual and should stay with the boat if ownership is transferred.

CEproof specialises in writing these documents for its clients and has written more TCFs than any other organisation in the world. Alternatively, the company’s software, CEproof Online, will allow its clients to compile all the required information themselves, in a simple and straightforward manner.

Essential Requirements
Not all the ERs are in fact safety related. There are thirty Essential Requirements set out in the directive. Not all ERs may be applicable to some small simple boats. The ERs are intentionally non-prescriptive to allow maximum freedom of design. For example, ER 3.1 requires the boat to ‘be strong enough in all respects’. To provide the missing detail, the ERs are supported by harmonised standards but it is perfectly legal to apply other standards if you can show equivalence. It can be difficult, however, to prove equivalence without expert help.

All EU Directives have conformity assessment modules. These define what documentation is required, whether a Notified Body (certifier) must be involved and to what extent. The choice of modules is restricted by the risk associated with the vessel. Risk is measured by design category and hull length. CEproof will be very pleased to advise on the options available. However, a private importer, who has a boat that needs CE marking without the involvement of the manufacturer, has no choice but to use a conformity route that is unique to RCD: Post Construction Assessment. This is discussed below.

Post Construction Assessment (PCA)
Since 1st January 2006 the RCD has included a specific conformity assessment process for craft being CE marked after build, without the involvement of the craft’s manufacturer. The process requires each individual boat to be certified by a Notified Body, regardless of category and size and even if the boat is brand-new and unused. This is because a private importer may not be technically minded and in no position to declare the compliance of a boat without verification. PCA is also mandatory where a home-builder sells the boat before the the 5 year exclusion-qualifying period is complete.

PCA still requires the boat to carry documentation, just like any other craft and the importer must sign the Declaration of Conformity, but even a 3m long category D imported boat needs full certification from a Notified Body. The boat will be issued with new identification numbers that point towards the certifier so that authorities wanting to check compliance know where to find the documentation.

Be aware however, that the importer carries the liability for the initial compliance of the boat – even after selling it. Thus the importer could be held liable for an accident on a boat that was later found to be non-compliant, even if he/she was not the owner the boat at the time. The certificate is some mitigation in this scenario but if a certifier is found to have issued a certificate in error, it does not absolve the importer from having imported the dangerous boat in the first place. This sounds frightening but the liability is easily minimised by conducting the RCD inspection and diligently generating all documentation.

There are some individuals offering CE marking without an inspection of the boat. They will issue the documents simply on the basis of the boat being a “known” model. But what if something has broken or has been modified between build and import? What if the boat was supplied by the builder with a mistake? Once the boat is imported, the error would now be the fault of the importer, not the builder. To pay for CE paperwork and not have the protection of a visit is not only a false economy, it could be deemed reckless in a court of law.

CEproof staff always inspect the boats whose CE marking we help oversee and what’s more, we always select the certifiers with great care. CEproof works with a number of certifiers and we have obtained more certificates from more Notified Bodies than any other organisation. We only work, however, with those we feel add value to the process – i.e. they do their job diligently and help to minimise the liability for us all… at a fair price.

Do it properly with CEproof and you can enjoy your boat in full confidence that your boat and your paperwork will stand up to any scrutiny.

American boats have always been cheaper in the US than Europe and as the US Dollar has fluctuated with EU currencies, so has the flow of boats crossing the Atlantic. For the most part, the imports are used sports boats.

Get Legal

RCD II has significantly changed the rules for import in two ways:

  • Only Private Importers (ie people importing boats for their own use) may now use PCA and CE mark a boat.  (RCD I allowed anyone to use PCA but the EU Commission took a dim view of brokers buying 10 used boats from Florida and reselling them in EU for profit).
  • The private importer must use ‘expertise’ to compile the mandatory documentation.  (RCD I required the certifier to do this.)

So grey Imports are perfectly legal but only for a private importer, for his/her own boat.  A private importer must have a consultant generate the documentation and a certifier conduct an inspection and review. CEproof is such a consultant and is also an approved inspector for certifiers. So with CEproof, only 1 visit/inspection is required, saving considerable cost.

It is also important that any applicable VAT and Import Duty is paid. This has nothing to do with CE marking, howerver. It is widely known that you can ‘grey’ import a car for instance but before you can register it you have to have various checks carried out. It is not that different for boats. Remember that a grey import simply means it has not been routed through an officially appointed dealer or distributor.


If a boat is not certified for CE Marking when it should be, it is no longer a grey import, it is quite simply illegal. If you put an illegally imported boat into service or on the market within the EU you are committing a criminal offence with the maximum penalty being a £5000 fine and / or 3 months in prison. In some countries you run the additional risk that the boat will be impounded until CE Marking is carried out.

Engines & Emissions

The Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) has been in operation since the 16th June 1998, but on the 1st January 2006, amendments to the Directive came into force. Since then, there have been specific rules about how CE Marking is to be carried out on existing and second-hand imported boats. Most significantly, there is now a need to obtain a report or certificate from a verification organisation known as a Notified Body. Additionally the boat must comply with new limits on noise levels and engine emissions. The effect of these changes brought an increased level of surveillance from the industry itself and the regulators. Remember, if you break the law, you could end up with a criminal record. This is very different from paying a civic penalty like a parking fine.

Regardless of the legal implications, it makes a great deal of sense to have CE Marking, because without it, your asset is seriously devalued. More and more people are finding out that they have a boat that they cannot insure a boat or sell through a broker or dealer when they try to trade up. Many unsuspecting private buyers have landed themselves with a problem by accepting an illegal boat. Don’t be one of these people.

4 Steps to CE Marking an ASB

1. Find out if your boat qualifies as an ASB.

Does it have ALL of the following parameters?

  • Hull length between 2.5 & 9m (8′ 2″ and 29′ 6″)
  • Glass Fibre construction (GRP)
  • Hard Chine hull
  • Powered by sterndrive(s) or outboard(s)
  • Design Category C or D
  • Built or re-engined less than 10 years ago?

If your boat has all of these characteristics, then it qualifies as an ASB and we can process your boat with standard procedures at pre-set prices. See below.

If any of the above characteristics do not apply to your boat, it does not fall within the ASB CE marking service but you may contact us for further advice.

2. CEproof Inspects the Boat

By law, each boat being assessed “post construction” must be individually certified. Certifiers, called Notified Bodies, of repute require that all boats are inspected. Note that it is the importer who takes responsibility for the craft’s compliance for 10 years after import – even if sold on. For the best protection against liability claims, it is essential that the compliance paperwork is robust. For this reason, CEproof do not work with certifiers who do not insist upon an inspection of every boat. CEproof’s compliance package is the best protection available.

So CEproof must visit the boat to make sure that your boat is a standard production model and to detail any non-standard features. It is your responsibility to make the necessary changes and advise us when they have been done. To save the costs of a second visit we ask you to send us copies of invoices and photographs as evidence that the work has been done. You will also be signing a note to confirm this.

Our experience shows that the modifications are usually very simple to carry out. The most likely non-conformities are:

  • Reduction in maximum number of persons allowed to be carried (Crew Limit)
  • Extra manually operated or portable bilge pump
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fuel filler inscription changed from Gas to Petrol
  • Non return valves to discharge hoses
  • Additional labeling

The sooner you can advise us that the work has been carried out, the sooner we can complete the project.

3. We supply the paperwork

We will then collect the second payment together with any travel charges that have been agreed. Within 7 working days of receiving the final payment we will send your new Owners Manual Certificate, CE Marking plate and Declaration of Conformity for you to sign as the importer. You are now legal and free to have the boat in service or to sell it anywhere in Europe.

4. Relax and enjoy your boat:

  • We have looked after all the requirements of the Notified Body
  • The new rules for Sound and Emissions have been covered in our documentation
  • The CEproof logo is recognised worldwide as a sign of high quality certification

Some Truths regarding CE marking

  • Not all boats require a Certificate of Conformity from a European Notified Body. Any boat shorter than 39’4” (12m), in design category C or D, can be self-certified by the manufacturer. You may choose to have a Notified Body certificate, but it is not a requirement for these boats.
  • There are over 30 Notified Bodies in Europe for a manufacturer to choose between. The idea is that competition keeps prices down yet in USA, there is a near monopoly for CE certificates.
  • Most Notified Bodies do not charge annual fees to renew a certificate for a boat that is technically the same as the previous year’s model.
  • CEproof has helped their clients earn certificates from 9 different Notified Bodies. None of these certificates have expired at the end of one year.
  • The manufacturer signs the EU Declaration of Conformity, not the Notifed Body. So the Notified Body’s certificate does not protect the builder’s liability.
  • In terms of product liability, the single most important CE document is the Technical Construction File (TCF) which should prove how the boat complies with the RCD. If your TCF is based on check/tick lists, then you are exposed to liability claims. A tick just says that you think the boat meets that requirement but a reader of the file cannot verify compliance. A TCF of ticks is, in a court of law, no help to the builder.
  • Think about it: if your TCF is full of ticks, then all your boat models must have identical files since a missing tick indicates non-compliance. Should a cruiser and bow rider really have identical files?

CEproof works with manufacturers all over the world to ensure that their exposure to adverse liability is minimized; that their documentation is accurate; that they do not pay for unnecessary certificates, unless they choose to; that they get clear, accurate advice and make an informed decision. We also have buying power in the CE world to ensure that you get the best price from the best certifier for you. Let us harness the power of competition for your benefit.

If you can prove that a second-hand yacht from a third country has been in service, or has been sold in any of the regions listed below, before 16th June 1998 you are in a position to claim exemption from the requirements of the RCD.

Qualifying evidence could be in the form of invoices / receipts or other documents or combination of documents.

The Directive Exemption Certificate (DEC) has been developed by CEproof to bring together this evidence into a single authoritative document. The DEC has proved effective where the RCD status of a vessel is not obvious and where the alternative might be to make the vessel compliant.

  • Clarifies status of a vessel in relation to the RCD
  • Justifies absence of a CE marking
  • Can have a useful function in the legal sale of a vessel from a Third Country into the EU / EEA
  • Resists restrictions being imposed on the use of a vessel according to assumed or perceived Categories
  • Guards against discrimination and loss of value of non CE marked vessels at point of sale
  • Carefully worded and designed, with texts clearly stated in the principal languages of the EU
  • Facility for the issue of HIN for those vessels not currently inscribed with a Hull Identification Number
  • Certificate is linked to the vessel by the HIN and stays with the vessel for its lifetime i.e. not another form of Registration.
  • Weatherproof Certificate for durability in a marine environment.
  • Once off payment
  • Recorded on a secure database for rapid verification of authenticity of Certificates even from remote locations
  • Provides reassurance in the event of qualifying documents being inadvertently discarded

Note: The DEC is not a legal document and may not prevent national rules being applied because the vessel is not CE marked.

Note: There are over 70 separate countries / territories around the world that are within the EU / EEA. At least 55 of these countries have extensive coastlines and ports in which a vessel may have been in service. Proof of any such service before June 16th 1998 may be adequate to establish exemption from the requirements of the Recreational Craft Directive.

See the next setion for a list of countries (including dependencies) that comprise the European Economic Area (EEA).

Boats Built For Own Use in EU

Home-Built Boats (built for one’s own use) do not need to comply with RCD but the boat may not change ownership until the boat is 5 years old i.e. 5 years after putting-into-service. Before the 5 years have passed, the boat is not exempt from the RCD. Exemption certificates may not be issued to home built-boats until they are 5 years old.

Cost of Exemption Certificates

Exemption Certificates for all boats are issued for a one-off fee of £450
(+20% VAT = £540 where applicable. EU clients must supply a VAT number to be exempt from VAT.)

Overview / EEA Country List

Territories within the European Economic Area (EEA)

1. Products that fall within the scope of a directive must comply when first put on the market or put into service in any of the following areas.
2. The above statement implies that products that have been on the market or in service in any of the following areas, before the implementation of a directive, are excluded from scope.
European Union (EU) Members

  • Austria
  • Bulgaria (2007)
  • Belgium
  • Croatia (2013)
  • Cyprus (2004)
  • Czech Republic (2004)
  • Denmark
  • Estonia (2004)
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary (2004)
  • Ireland (Eire)
  • Italy
  • Latvia (2004)
  • Lithuania (2004)
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta (2004)
  • Netherlands
  • Poland (2004)
  • Portugal
  • Romania (2007)
  • Slovakia (2004)
  • Slovenia (2004)
  • Spain
  • Sweden (1995)
  • United Kingdom

Non EU Members within the EEA

  • Iceland
  • Norway
  • Liechtenstein

EEA Overseas Countries and Territories

  • Anguilla
  • Aruba
  • Azores
  • Bermuda
  • British Antarctic Territory
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Canary Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • French Overseas Departments
  • French Polynesia
  • French Southern & Antarctic Territories
  • Greenland
  • Madeira
  • Mayotte
  • Montserrat
  • Netherlands Antilles
    o Bonaire
    o Curacao
    o Saba
    o Sint Eustatius
    o Sint Maarten
  • New Caledonia and Dependencies
  • Pitcairn
  • Saint Helena and Dependencies
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon
  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Wallis and Futuna Islands

Common Mistakes

Switzerland is a member of EFTA but is not a member of the EEA.

The Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Gibraltar are not within the EEA.

The following states are EU applicants and may become EU members in the future:

  • Turkey
  • Macedonia

For more information on membership status including the dates of joining, visit the EU Commission’s website.

At CEproof one thing will never change


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