CE Marking in the USA

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Reasons to be cheerful - part 1

When choosing an agent to undertake a CE marking assignment you may be presented with a wide spectrum of choice, from the opportunist boat fitter, to the surveyor doing it on the side, to the Notified Body trying to maintain impartiality and offer reasonable timescales (and prices).  Towards the latter end you will find a few professionals who, unshackled by conflicts of interest, offer the quality of the Notified Body at lower cost and faster too.  This is where the services from Gablemarine reside.

You will, we expect, have looked around and may well have found a cheaper agent, probably based in the US.  Seems like a great deal?  Perhaps it is, but more likely this could prove a false economy and here’s why….

Peace of mind

Here’s a question, how do you tell whether the documentation you’ve been given is correct, both in format and scope.  In most cases you can’t. You will however probably find out at the point you present the craft to customs.  If found lacking, we assume you’ll seek support from your agent, assuming they are still in business.  Take a look at our CE Marking Deliverables and compare.

Stricter implementation of the RCD at EU borders means those attractive ‘cheap’ CE compliance services now often fail to meet the requirements of EU customs.  As a result importers face both delay and significantly higher costs before craft are released for use/resale. 

Our aim is to provide a service you, the Notified Body, the customs agents in each port you visit and future owners of the craft can depend on and value.  Job done.

Where and who

There are several newer businesses offering CE Marking services in the US.  Some have operated under a number of names over time.  On the face of it there are a number of advantages to using such services, being local.  However there are also some disadvantages too.

US inspection

Let's clear something up straight away: There is no legal requirement to CE mark a craft before arrival in the EU, contrary to statements made by some US companies.  That said, inspection in the US has the advantage that the compliance process can run in parallel with the shipping.  It may also allow any non-conformities to be rectified with the craft in the US where labour and component prices may be lower and availability better (remember that US boats use parts based on imperial rather than metric units).  If done correctly the craft and compliance documentation should appear at the EU border at the same time, which generally does make for an easier discussion with the customs agent.

However, there are downsides too.  Where the alternative is an inspection on arrival this does give confidence to the customs agent that the process, as well as the resulting documentation, is visible and that queries can be answered/addressed immediately, without referral back to a compliance agent who has probably inspected another 10 boats in the intervening period (it’s easy to get confused with many craft).

Also, local inspection will typically be geared to local interpretation of the RCD requirements which may be more or less strict than the norm.  As an example the Norwegian authorities require engines to be CE marked, not the case in most European countries.

Who

The key thing to remember is that the true customer for CE compliance is not the importer but the customs agent(s) and future purchaser.  Thus the importer needs to be confident that the person performing the inspection and assessment is both up to date with current EU legislation and accredited by an EU licensed Notified Body to perform work on its behalf.  Many US based compliance agents are neither.  Some even fail to realise that issuing a Certificate of Conformity for PCA (Post Construction Assessment) work can only be done by a Notified Body.

It makes logical sense to use compliance agents with experience of the EU countries craft are being imported to, in preference to experience of the countries being exported from.

A last point, be wary of companies tied to Notified Bodies in 'new' EU member states where the English language is not commonly used.  Flags of convenience don't only fly from the masts of ships and as the customer you need to ask yourself whether there is good reason the company offering CE couldn't work with a more established Notified Body.  I'm sure I don't need to spell this out further....

Dependable timescales

We quote three weeks from inspection to provision of the full compliance pack.  In peak periods this may be longer (as the workload of the Notified Body increases).  Out of season this can drop to two weeks.  In some cases we can fast track work at extra cost.  If delays occur you will know in advance and if appropriate, documentation will be part-issued to facilitate importation.  Our clear objective is to complete work as soon as possible and keep you informed at all times.  This is in our mutual interest.

Other agents have been known to take over six months to deliver.  Some just take the money and run.

Transparent pricing and terms

If you’re like us you’ll want to know the bottom line cost, up front.  Our pricing is inclusive of (reasonable) travel, certification and other fees and will only rise if a) we have to add VAT, b) if travel costs are significantly higher than can reasonably be predicted or c) if additional testing, for example a pass-by noise test, is required (and hasn’t previously been included in the quotation).

We provide a clearly worded quotation/contract which both sets out our mutual terms and deliverables and confirms the pricing and its acceptance. 

Full service

The CE marking service is a core service offered by Gablemarine, supported by a significant number of partners across the EU and US who along with Gablemarine are equipped to provide a wide range of import related services ranging from sourcing craft to transport, delivery, taxation and commissioning, in effect any or all services required to purchase and successfully import craft to the EU.  Take a look at our other pages to find our more details.

CE marking service products - pre/post purchase

We appreciate that understanding CE marking issues before purchase is as important as after purchase, in some case more so.  The last thing we want is for clients to be faced with expensive compliance issues after purchase when these can and should be identified prior to purchase.  Of all the issues we see, engine emissions are the most difficult and have the most expensive consequences if not met.

Quality documentation

It’s important that documentation is presented in a manner expected by industry professionals, particularly the Notified Body (who reviews the TCF) and the customs agent (who may wish to inspect the OM and DoC).  Standards exist for certificates but you’ll still find many US originated certificates do not comply.

By using industry standard systems we ensure two key outcomes: first, consistent documentation that covers all aspects of the directive; second the layout and content expected by industry professionals and most importantly the Notified Body on whose decision the legal issue of a Certificate of Conformity rests.

The compliance process also includes the preparation of a new Owners Manual (OM) which may be required in a local language rather than the normal English (for example all Scandinavian countries require the OM to be in a Scandinavian language, we use Swedish).  We generate the OM from the TCF directly to ensure a consistent result with translated versions for alternative languages.  Similarly we can produce the Declaration of Conformity in over a dozen European languages to suit local requirements (for example as required in Scandinavia, Spain and Portugal). 

Although the TCF is not normally provided to the client, copies of this along with other documentation will be held in our archive for the required 10 years (free of charge).  The other documentation is also normally provided in electronic format on a CD as part of the compliance pack along with copies of the photographs (high resolution) taken as part of the initial inspection.

When you compare our deliverables against those provided by some of the ‘cheap’ alternatives you’ll start to see where the cuts start.  Typically you’ll find a mish mash of badly (i.e. internet) translated text and photocopied extracts from the manufacturers OM.  Far from impressive and a clear breach of copyright (as if they’d care).

Notified Body (NoBo)

You’d be amazed how many US agents don’t realise that a certificate for PCA work (Post Construction Assessment, i.e. CE marking second hand boats) can only be issued by a Notified Body (NoBo, licensed by the European Commission) in the EU.  We increasing find what are in effect illegal certificates issued in the US and rejected by customs in the EU (we then get brought in to do a proper job).  If in doubt ask the US agent who their NoBo is, what the unique number of the NoBo is and what the agents' unique identifier is when dealing with the NoBo.  Then Google ‘Notified Body RCD’ and check the NoBo against name and number (there are approx 20 NoBo across the EU). Make sure the NoBo quoted is authorised ti make RCD assessments as many NoBo are not (they deal with other Directives but not the RCD).  Feel free to contact the NoBo to ask whether the agent is known to them either by name or unique number.  You might also like to ask the NoBo whether the agent is authorised to act on their behalf (conducting inspections and/or assessments) and on what terms (i.e. is a site visit mandatory - yes).

By using our industry standard systems we have dispensation from our NoBo (HPIvs #1521) to conduct an inspection and assessment on their behalf.  This would not be the case if we were using the paper forms provided as part of the RCD documentation.

The bottom line is this: the agent acts on behalf of the client in preparing the documentation required to demonstrate compliance.  The NoBo reviews this and either issues a CoC/PCA certificate or rejects the submission (perhaps asking for clarification).  The DoC signed by the importer is their statement that the craft conforms (or will if non-compliance issues are still to be rectified) to the requirements and statements embodied in the CoC (to which it refers).  Thus the NoBo is responsible for saying whether compliance is met but it is the importer who signs off against the data provided to the NoBo and commits to rectify any non-conformities.  Hopefully you will have realised the agent bears little if any responsibility (except in cases where data is clearly falsified) which is why using an agent you can TRUST is so important.  It would also be good to know that they won’t have moved on to the next opportunity and shut up shop by the time you need remedial support or replacement copies of documentation.

Free archive services

These have been mentioned before, but its worth repeating.  As importer you are responsible for the initial compliance for a period of 10 (yes ten) years from the date the DoC is signed.  That means that any authority in the EU can ask you to prove compliance (in the same way as they may ask for proof of VAT payment).  The compliance relates to the condition at the time of the CE Marking assessment unless significant changes (e.g. re-engine – unless like for like) have occurred in which case the assessment and CoC/DoC should be updated.  This applies even if the craft has been sold on several times, the original importer will normally remain the responsible party (except in the case where a significant change was made by a subsequent owner in which case the responsibility is shared – and messy).   If you’re like me, archiving normally takes two forms – losing over time or storage in a safe place the location of which is forgotten.  Whichever we feel that by holding copies for clients it helps all when proof is required in a hurry or in support of a change of ownership.

Conclusion

Undertaking CE marking is somewhat like having your car serviced.  If you get the main agent to do this they will charge more but will both provide additional warranties and enhance or at least maintain the resale value.  We are a professional organization using industry leading systems and processes to ensure the best outcome for our clients. 

We are sometimes not the cheapest, but we will provide a service you and future owners can depend on when importing craft to the EU.  We look forward to helping you.

For CE marking we usually quote three weeks between the inspection and the delivery of the CE pack although this can be longer in peak periods (mid-summer in EU).

Generally speaking most countries are content to be shown that the CE marking is in process to release craft from customs, although there are a few notable exceptions.  In some cases inspection at source (eg USA) is preferable and we would normally look to group 3+ boats prior to making a visit.

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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