Recreational craft manufacturers: responsibilities and penalties

Regulations and directives for design and construction of recreational craft, including safety requirements and acceptable noise emissions.


The Recreational Craft Regulations 2004 bring the Recreational Craft Directives 94/25/EC and 2003/44/EC into UK law. The regulations require manufacturers and suppliers of recreational craft and specified components to satisfy essential requirements and carry CE markings. The product must not endanger the safety and health of persons, property or the environment.

This guide explains your responsibilities as a recreational craft manufacturer, including design and construction, safety and marking responsibilities for products placed on the market, and what happens if you do not comply with the regulations.

Recreational craft: definitions

If you manufacture recreational craft, personal watercraft or their components, you must comply with the Recreational Craft Regulations 2004. The regulations also apply to partly completed recreational craft.

Under the regulations, a recreational craft is:

  • any boat of any type regardless of its means of propulsion
  • a boat between 2.5 metres and 24 metres long
  • intended for sports or leisure purposes

Under the regulations, a personal watercraft is a vessel that:

  • is less than 4 metres long, which uses an internal combustion engine
  • uses a water jet pump as its primary source of propulsion
  • is designed to be operated by a person or persons sitting, standing or kneeling on, rather than within the confines of, a hull

Under the regulations, components refer to:

  • ignition protected equipment for inboard and stern drive engines
  • start in gear protection devices for outboard engines
  • steering wheels, steering mechanisms and cable assemblies
  • fuel tanks intended for fixed installations and fuel hoses
  • prefabricated hatches and portlights

Design and construction requirements for recreational craft

Recreational craft, personal watercraft and their components may only be placed on the market in the UK and put into service for use if they meet the essential safety requirements set out in the Recreational Craft Regulations 2004. This includes:

  • recreational craft intended for sports and leisure purposes and measuring between 2.5 and 24 metres in hull length
  • personal watercraft less than 4 metres in length
  • partly completed recreational craft
  • components constructed in or imported into the UK

Exhaust emissions

The exhaust emission requirements take the form of limits of acceptable emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and, in the case of diesel engines, particulates. They apply to engines placed on the market after 1 January 2005, and also to engines placed on the market after 1 January 2005 that subsequently undergo major modification.

Noise emissions

The noise emission requirements are presented in terms of maximum acceptable sound pressure levels determined from a pass-by test or alternative methods of calculation. They apply to craft placed on the market after 1 January 2005, and also to craft placed on the market after 1 January 2005 that subsequently undergo major conversions.

Conformity assessment procedures for recreational craft

Any craft you manufacture or otherwise place on the market must meet the essential requirements of the Recreational Craft Regulations 2004.

To meet the requirements you should consider that:

  • where a harmonised standard covers one or more of the essential requirements, a product that conforms with that standard shall be presumed to comply with those essential requirements
  • in the case of a partly completed recreational craft, it complies with the requirements which apply at the relevant stage of construction

Depending on their design category and subject to a limited exception, recreational craft, personal watercraft and the specified components must satisfy conformity assessment procedures.

In the case of products within the scope of the Regulations, the appropriate conformity assessment procedure must be determined in accordance with its boat design category.

CE marking for recreational craft

Recreational craft, personal watercraft and the specified components which meet the essential safety requirements specified in the regulations, must bear the CE marking in a visible, legible and indelible form.

In the case of any component, the CE marking must be affixed either on the component itself, on its packaging or on both.

Where a Notified Body is involved in the conformity assessment procedures, its identification number must accompany the CE marking. If a recreational craft, personal watercraft or specified component is subject to any additional directives, the CE marking indicates that the product or products also fulfils the provisions of those directives.

Notified Bodies

Notified Bodies are appointed by EU Member States to support the implementation of Directives, including the Recreational Craft Directives. They will have been assessed to ensure their competence in determining whether or not a product complies with the requirements laid down in the regulations.

Enforcement of the Recreational Craft Regulations

Local Authority Trading Standards departments in Great Britain enforce the regulations concerning recreational craft. This is the responsibility of district councils in Northern Ireland.

To ensure that only compliant craft are being placed on the market, these enforcement authorities will carry out their own surveillance. They will investigate complaints from industry and the public to establish whether there are grounds for taking enforcement action.

Enforcement authorities will seek evidence, with the assistance of technical experts such as Notified Bodies where necessary, that the regulations have been breached and consider what action should be taken.


Anyone who is served a ‘prohibition notice’, ‘notice to warn’ or ‘suspension notice’ and fails to comply with that notice will be committing an offence under the Consumer Protection Act 1987.

Depending on the nature of the offence and any mitigating circumstances, penalties for contravening specific provisions of the regulations are a fine of up to £5,000, up to three months in prison or both.

Safeguard procedure

If your products fail to meet the safety requirements for the Recreational Craft Regulations 2004, they will either be removed from the market or prevented from being sold in the first place.

If this happens to your product within the UK, the European Commission will then be notified of any action taken against your product. If the Commission is satisfied that the action is justified, it is required to send details of the case to other European Union member states so that they can consider taking similar action.

Further information

Download the boatbuilders guide to the Recreational Craft Directive from the British Marine Federation website

Recreational Craft Regulations guidance

Download a list of UK Notified Bodies (PDF, 128K)

Published 18 September 2012