Importing a Boat from outside the EEA
This advice is designed to provide basic guidance. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law. A large print version is available.
If you are thinking about importing a recreational craft you should be aware that boats have to meet the requirements of the The Recreational Craft (Amendment) Regulations 2004 before they can be used or sold in the UK and other EU and EEA states.
There have been regulations in force since 1998. They implement an EU Directive 94/25/EC on Recreational Craft, usually known as the RCD.
All EU and EEA member states have implemented the Directive into their National laws. This guide is based on the UK's Recreational Craft Regulations 2004. Other member states will have similar provisions.
The RCD applies to complete or partly completed craft, powered and sailing, from 2.5m to 24m, intended to be used for sports and leisure purposes. The RCD also applies to personal water craft and propulsion engines, inboard and outboard.
Other Directives may also apply to some of the equipment fitted to the craft, such as radio transmitters, electrical and electronic equipment and gas appliances.
The RCD places the responsibility for ensuring that the craft meets all the requirements with the person who is responsible for placing the craft on the market.
The RCD deems all craft imported from outside the EEA to be a new 'placing on the market'. Craft are deemed to be placed on the market when they clear Customs in Europe. This is because once they have cleared Customs; they are available to be used or to be sold on. An apparently non-compliant craft could be impounded by either Customs or Trading Standards.
No distinction is made between used and un-used boats. They should be fully compliant before they are first used in EEA waters.
If arrangements have been for a Post Construction Assessment to be carried out, the craft could be allowed to carry on.
The RCD applies whether the craft is being imported by a private individual for their own personal or in connection with a business.
The importer has the legal responsibility to ensure the craft will meet the requirements before it is used for the first time anywhere in the European Economic Area.
What are the options?
In common with most CE marking Directives, the intention is that the manufacturer effectively builds compliance into the product during the manufacturing phase. It has been recognised that recreational craft are unusual because completed craft are traded worldwide.
A Post-Construction Assessment Procedure (PCA) has now been added to the latest version of the RCD. If the completed craft has not been CE marked by the actual manufacturer, the PCA Procedure must now be followed.
What has to be done?
The steps laid down in the Directive for post-construction approval are:-
- The person who is taking responsibility for placing the craft on the EU market must lodge an application for a post-construction report with one of the Notified Bodies. A list of Notified Bodies can be found on the BIS website.
- The Notified Body must be provided with any available documents and technical files or information available from the date the craft was first placed on the market in its country of origin.
- The Notified Body examines the individual craft and carries out calculations and other assessments to ensure its equivalent conformity with the RCD i.e. it meets all the Essential Requirements that apply it.
- The Builders plate must have the words Post Construction Certificate on it and the number of the Notified Body who carried out the assessment next to the CE mark.
- The Notified Body gives the person responsible a report and informs them of their responsibilities.
- The responsible person draws up a Declaration of Conformity.
The Responsible Person
You, as the importer are the responsible person and can go through the entire process yourself. You may employ the service of specialists to help with the process but you remain the responsible person.
You may employ someone else who will place the product on the market under their responsibility. There are specialist firms and consultants who can do the complete job.
Producing a Technical file is not compulsory as it is with the other conformity assessment procedures. The Notified Body report replaces the Technical File in a Post Construction Assessment.
Declaration of Conformity
After receiving the Notified Body report, you can put the CE Mark on the craft builder's plate and draw up a written Declaration of Conformity.
There is no prescribed form for the Declaration of Conformity, but the RCD does list what it must contain.
A model form has been devised and is available from the Europa web site.
You must include a copy of the declaration of conformity in the owner's manual and keep a copy with the Notified Body report.
You are legally obliged to keep copies of these documents available for inspection for 10 years. The enforcement authorities of any EU member state can request copies of these documents at any time during these 10 years.
Under product liability legislation, you will also have a liability, for 6 years, if the product you placed on the market is defective and causes death or injury to anyone.
Failure to comply with any of the requirements could lead to a criminal prosecution with a maximum fine of £5,000 and/or 3 months in prison.
The enforcement authorities in all EU member states also have powers to remove non-compliant craft from the market and apply for their destruction.
- The Recreational Craft (Amendment) Regulations 2004
- Recreational Craft Directives 94/25/EC and 2003/44/EC
- Notified Bodies group, RSG
Trade, professional and representative bodies