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The RCD and RCR explained

What are the Recreational Craft Directive (or RCD) and the Recreational Craft Regulations (or RCR)?

The Recreational Craft Directive is a European Directive that applies to all craft when first placed on the European market, this includes all new craft and second hand craft brought into the EU (e.g. from China or USA). It can also apply to craft that may have been used as commercial craft before being put on the recreational market, regardless of age. Its primarily aim is to remove barriers for trade between countries. In the UK the legal version of the RCD is called the Recreational Craft Regulations (RCR) and is an exact copy of the RCD.

Does the RCD apply in the UK now we have left Europe?

In a word, yes. Instead of being referred to as the RCD, it is called the Recreational Craft Regulations (RCR) and applies in the same way as the RCD when we were in the EU. At the moment there is no difference between the RCR and the RCD in terms of boat building requirements. Gradually in time the CE mark familiar with the RCD will be replaced with the new UKCA mark. You will see this new UKCA mark on lots of items sold in the UK, as the change from CE to UKCA applies not just to boats.


RCD stands for the Recreational Craft Directive, and RCR stands for the Recreational Craft Regulations. They are identical. Now that the UK has left the EU, it is the RCR that is the legally enforceable version.

When does the RCR apply?

The RCR only applies when the craft is first placed on the market or put into service, and in certain circumstances if it undergoes Major Craft Conversion (this type of conversion is as laid out in the RCR). There is no on-going requirement for the craft to remain compliant with the RCR.

Does the RCR ensure craft quality?

In a word, no. The RCR stipulates that a number of Essential Requirements should be met, which do not include a quality standard.

Does the RCR ensure that the craft is safe?

In a word, no. The RCR stipulates that a number of Essential Requirements should be met, which include some but not all aspects of safety.

If a craft complies with the RCR does it automatically mean that it complies with the Boat Safety Scheme requirements?

In a word, no. There are certain aspects of the Boat Safety Scheme requirements that are additional to those of the RCR. However, boats built to the 'Designated' standards supporting the RCR will be fully acceptable. There may be new craft that are supplied with a Declaration of Conformity to the RCR (showing compliance with the RCR) and a BSS Certificate to show compliance with the Boat Safety Scheme. This is perfectly acceptable. However, a BSS Certificate alone does not show compliance with the RCR.

Who certifies a craft to show that it meets the RCR?

For inland waterway craft (e.g. narrowboats), the boatbuilder may self-declare or use an Approved Body to certify compliance. This may mean that no independent person views the boat until it is 4 four years old and due for its first BSS Certificate.

What is the '5-year rule'?

If a craft is built by a DIY boatbuilder only for their personal use it is excluded from the RCR provided it is not placed on the market within 5 years of its first use as a boat. The boat does not have to be complete for the 5 year period to start, but does have to have been used as a boat (e.g. cruised on a waterway).

Can I buy a craft that does not appear to meet the RCR?

If brand new, then No. When brand new, the craft should include: a Declaration of Conformity; Owner's Manual; Builder's Plate (including a UKCA mark); and a Watercraft Identification Number (WIN). The WIN has to be permanently fitted to the craft (such as stamped in the hull). Make sure that you see these before buying the boat. If not brand new, then Yes. The RCR only applies when the craft is first placed on the market or put into service (an example of being 'put into service' would be when used as a hire boat). So, if being sold as second-hand (no matter the age), unless imported or being an ex-commercial craft, then it does not have to comply with the RCR. It is recommended that the craft be surveyed before buying.

Should I have a second-hand craft surveyed if it complied with the RCR or RCD when new?

It may be wise. The RCR only applies to the craft when brand new and there is no requirement for it to remain compliant after the first day. Original compliance with the RCR does not ensure quality or condition. A survey should inform on the quality and condition of the craft now.

Should I have a new craft surveyed if it is deemed to comply with the RCR?

It may be wise. The RCR does not ensure quality or condition. A survey should inform on the quality and condition of the craft. Further, if the boatbuilder self-declared the boat's compliance, then the survey should help highlight if any areas are not compliant.

Should I rely upon compliance to the RCR when deciding to purchase a boat?

No, because the primary aim of the RCR is not to ensure quality or safety or compliance with the Boat Safety Scheme requirements. (However, under the Boat Safety Scheme remit, compliance with the RCR should meet the BSS requirements.)

I've heard of RCR in relation to boat rescue, is this correct?

RCR in relation to boatbuilding regulations is reference to the Recreational Craft Regulations. RCR in relation to boat rescue is a reference to River & Canal Rescue and this service has no connection with boatbuilding regulations.

For further information, please try the following organisations:

British Marine


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