The EU’s new Recreational Craft Directive (RCD), which becomes mandatory as of 18 January 2017, could lead to quite a shake-up for boatbuilders, operators and buyers seeking to do business within Europe.
The original RCD has, to date, been applied to vessels sized 2.5-24m and built after 16 June 1998, in an attempt to enforce technical, quality and safety standards for predominantly leisure and recreational craft. Compliant vessels may be affixed with a CE certification and can enjoy the benefits of operation and trade across the EU member states.
As Alasdair Reay, CEO of CE certification services provider HPi Verification Services (HPiVS) last year put it in his article ‘Get ready for the new RCD’ (see Ship & Boat International January/February 2016, pages 16-17), the original RCD was “the first piece of legislation to regulate across the whole European Economic Area”, with the main intention of delivering “a consistent minimum safety and quality requirement to the entire European market…[covering] the whole process of bringing the craft into operation in EU waters, from design through to manufacture, importing and purchasing.”
A year on and, with the new RCD about to become mandatory, we asked Reay: how ready is the marine sector for ‘RCD II’? Fortunately, he tells Ship & Boat International, most players in this sector, dealing with those boat types affected by the forthcoming RCD, appear to be on top of their game.
Nonetheless, he warns of a “busy time ahead”, adding: “There are still a few areas of uncertainty that need to be cleared up.”
Reay identifies three areas of RCD II that might pose the most significant challenges, from a naval architect’s point of view. The first is related to holding tanks, which must be “laid out so that there is no discharge between the head and the tank,” says Reay. This stipulation has been welcomed by most builders and buyers, the majority no doubt glad to limit the number of connections in the plumbing, thus reducing the potential for foul odours.
Secondly, there is the question of visibility from the helm requirements. “We’re still waiting for the standard which will provide clarification on this,” Reay adds. “It’s an important factor as it has the potential to impact upon craft design and layout – for instance, it could affect boats with small steering wheels at centre consoles.”
Thirdly, and perhaps most problematically, is the new RCD section covering the means of re-boarding the vessel – or, as Reay puts it, “the question of how to re-board without pull-cords floating everywhere”. The new RCD evaluates the means of a man overboard (MOB) casualty re-boarding the craft, unaided, from the water. Reay continues: “Designers and boatbuilders could add folding or recessing ladders to the vessel, but there’s a risk these will interfere with the outboards. On large sailing boats, unless you factor in a ‘sugar scoop’-style transom, even a transom-hung rudder may be difficult to reach. With high freeboards, releasing a folding ladder down to water level could be a significant danger in itself.” Builders may have to consider some sort of electro-mechanical release system– preferably a motorised model, “using a safety battery so as not to drain the onboard power source,” Reay suggests – though this could prove costly and a maintenance nightmare.
However, manufacturers should not panic; although the visibility from helm and re-boarding requirements still remain vague, Reay is confident that, with the guidance of a quality CE certification provider, “the majority of cases should prove OK”. He continues: “As long as manufacturers don’t adopt a ‘don’t know, don’t care’ attitude, it shouldn’t be too hard to draw up a workable solution.”
Complying with the documentary burden of the revised RCD should become easier, with the launch of a new software tool by global boating association ICOMIA at the Düsseldorf Boatshow (21-29 January 2017). Called the ICOMIA Technical File Generator (ICOMIA TFG), the software enables the manufacturer inputs factors (ie vessel’s length, power output, number of hulls) and, in turn, generates a task list, customised for the specific boat, based upon relevant standards. The software ensures all the requirements are satisfied and eliminates the need to waste time reading through the numerous sections of standards that are largely irrelevant to that particular, unique vessel seeking CE compliance.