Safer and less polluting leisure boats

The European Commission today proposed new legislation that will make the use of jet skis and sailing boats less harmful for European waters.

Scientific studies show lakes and seashores can be seriously polluted by the concentration of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions resulting from some six million jet skis and motor and sailing boats cruising in the EU. The proposed revision of the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) sets stricter limits for NOx, hydrocarbons (HC) and particulate matters for new recreational crafts. T oday’s proposal also improves market surveillance, for example by updating the rules on CE marking1. Member States will have to ensure that adequate checks are performed both at the EU external borders and within the Union itself, also through visits at the premises of economic operators that will guarantee the immediate prohibition and confiscation of non conform recreational boats.

European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship said: “The fact that recreational boats are becoming more sustainable, will not only benefit our health and the preservation of the marine environment, but also improve the quality of holiday resorts and boost job creation in the tourism industry. In addition, recreational craft enterprises will save costs and become more competitive, as they will be able to serve the world market with a single production line.”


The Recreational Craft Directive (94/25/EC) covers recreational craft (motor boats, sailing boats etc), personal watercraft (jet skis), their engines and the components which are not used for commercial purposes. It lays down the safety requirements that manufacturers shall respect when designing and manufacturing craft as well as the limits for exhaust and noise emissions from marine propulsion engines. It also foresees the relevant procedures for demonstrating the conformity of products to these requirements, including the affixing of the CE marking.

Producers and importers of boats need to respect essential safety requirements for boats as well as reinforced limits for exhaust and noise emissions from marine propulsion engines, if they wish to place their products on the EU market. Under the revised text, propulsion engines will have to be designed and constructed to emit 20% less of HC+NOx emissions and 34% less of particulate matters (for more details, see MEMO/11/542).

Improved market surveillance is necessary to guarantee a level playing field. To achieve this, the obligations for manufacturers, importers and distributors are strengthened in the proposal to better guarantee compliance with the new requirements for market surveillance in force since 01 January 20102. The proposal contains stricter obligations for private importers as well, as recreational crafts are quite often imported by individuals from third countries to the EU for their own use.

Today’s proposal also clarifies some safety requirements. In particular, new habitable multihull craft should be so designed that they cannot invert or must have sufficient buoyancy to remain afloat in the inverted position.

The legislation will also be simplified and technical requirements will be aligned with the EU major trading partners. This will strengthen the competitiveness of the European industry and EU manufacturers will save costs, in particular with respect to development, manufacturing and certification, since it will not be necessary to keep two separate production lines in place anymore.

At the same time the vulnerable position of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) should be taken into account as 97% of businesses of the recreational craft sector are SMEs. Producers of small quantities will therefore be given more time to respect the new emission limits.

The industry is strong both in the EU and the US: The vast majority of recreational craft manufacturers (RCD) is active on the EU market and the US market and two thirds of worldwide sales of recreational marine engines are produced at both markets. Currently US legislation regulating the exhaust emissions is stricter than the EU rules. Some EU Member States have undertaken efforts to reduce emissions from recreational craft by resorting to (national) measures for speed limits or ban of boats in specific areas. In order to protect the environment, ensure a global market for RCD and to prevent national single solutions leading to a fragmentation of the Internal Market it was regarded necessary to strengthen the exhaust emissions at EU level.

Approximately 6 millions of recreational crafts are in use in Europe. The recreational marine activities across Europe involve some 37 000 companies which represent a wide range of activities such as marinas, boat builders, engine or marine equipment manufacturers, hire charter and sailing schools, marine solicitors, insurance brokers etc. This sector which is gradually recovering from the economic crisis directly employs today some 272 000 workers.

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