Basis for exemption

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Exemption principles

The RCD applies to all countries within the European Economic Area or EEA.  The EEA comprises those countries in the ‘official’ EU plus a number of countries have yet to join, e.g. Norway. All craft in use or for sale within the EEA between 2.4m and 24m in length are subject to the requirements of the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD), introduced in 1998 and subject to revisions in subsequent years. The RCD includes a number of exemptions which broadly speaking fall into two categories, those:

1)    linked to the age, design or use of the craft

2)    relating to past use within EU waters prior to the introduction of the RCD on 16/6/98.

Age, design or usage based exemptions

Without going into too much detail craft designed prior to 1950 are exempt, as are craft solely used for commercial or racing (or other non-recreational) purposes.  Note that this latter exemption will be lost if subsequently used for recreational purposes.  There are also a number of design types eg canoe which are specifically exempt.

This is not as black and white as we might hope (e.g. is a canoe with a sail still a canoe) but is enough for us to work with.

Prior use in EU waters

By EU waters we mean any areas considered territorial waters of an EEA state at the time of the visit/use.  This clearly includes waters bordering mainland EEA country but importantly this includes any dependencies, for example a number of the Caribbean Islands.  This last point is significant as it is likely that a significant number of older, larger US yachts may well have visited an EU dependency in the Caribbean prior to 16/6/98 and if evidence of the visit can be found could potentially claim exemption.  Given many such craft will have engines which will fail to comply with current emissions requirements the savings provided by exemption could run into 10,000’s of dollars.

What does the exemption cover?

This can be open to interpretation but in our view if a craft is exempt so are all the systems (including engines) fitted to the vessel prior to 16/6/98.  If however and engine were fitted outside the EU after 16/6/98 then although the craft may be exempt the engine would not be and a separate Declaration of Conformity for the engine would be required.

Proof, what proof?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  True and useful as backup but (sadly) easily falsified.  More useful are receipts for mooring, fuel, provisions, repair work, haul out/in etc.. you get the picture.  Peversely getting arrested back on a Caribbean Island all those years ago may save thousands…. Note though that you have to prove USE in the EU water. Thus it is often the case that craft built in the EU but immediately shipped to the US (eg Sunseeker et al) are not exempt as they were never in USE.  It’s doubtful that even a sea-trial would be sufficient so just because the US yacht was built in the EU prior to the RCD don’t assume exemption.

Remember that ultimately we need proof that links a specific vessel (based on CIN/HIN rather than name, to a place (EEA territorial waters) to a date (prior to 16/6/98).  If you can find that in an official document we’re probably there.

Written By: Rowland Smith

Rowland Smith is a Naval Architect and founder of Gablemarine.  His industry experience includes Lloyds Register, British Shipbuilders Hydrodynamics Ltd, Cammell Lairds, BP Shipping Ltd & Conoco.  He has a degree in Naval Architecture, a Diploma in Marketing (CIM) and an MBA (Cranfield School of Management).  He has also held Director level positions in a number of technology and engineering companies, including CEproof, which provides RCD compliance software to builders. 

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