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CE Categories: A Brief Explanation For Boat Owners (including 2023 update)

*This article was originally published in June 2021, before being updated in February 2022, and then again in November 2022, to reflect timeframe changes made by the UK government. The latest update was in August 2023, following the announcement that the CE mark will be recognised indefinitely. 

Whether you are a seasoned boat owner or in the market for the very first time, the decision-making process when purchasing a boat can certainly be an overwhelming experience. There is so much to consider – from available budgets and financing, to licencinginsurance, storage and more.

However, your first decision will typically be focused on what type of boat you should buy. When researching the marketplace, you’re likely to come across various “categories”, so we felt it was important to explain what type of vessels fall under what category, and, of course, the implications…

Table of Contents

 

A brief explanation of CE categories in Europe

Brexit, boating, and the transition to UKCA categories

CE & UKCA category A (Ocean)

CE & UKCA category B (Offshore)

CE & UKCA category C (Coastal & Estuary)

CE & UKCA category D (Inland or Sheltered waters)

The need for CE and UKCA certification

Recognising a CE or UKCA certified boat

 What boats do not require UKCA or CE certification?

Advice on type of boats

 

A brief explanation of CE categories in Europe

 

In 1998, a Recreational Craft Directive (EU RCD) was introduced by the EU to satisfy its demand to establish design standards for recreational boats – specifically those vessels measuring 2.5 to 24 metres. As a result, all new and used boats being sold in Europe must be certified as conforming to one of four CE (Conformité Européenne, meaning European Conformity) categories: A, B, C and D. This obligation applies to newly built and imported boats and yachts.

These categories have been put in place to determine the seaworthiness of any vessel, based upon the wind force and typical wave height a boat would be expected to encounter and navigate when sailing in different environments.

Brexit, boating, and the transition to UKCA categories

 

The Brexit vote and the UK’s subsequent withdrawal from the EU has had a profound effect on multiple industries across the country, especially how we interact and collaborate with our cousins on the continent – and the UK’s boat sector is no different. After 24 years of working to the CE standards set out in the EU’s RCD, the industry now adheres to the UK’s Recreational Craft Regulations (UK RCR) and will need a UKCA mark.

The UKCA marking came into effect on the 1st of January 2021. However, many British manufacturers had already taken the opportunity to sufficiently prepare by using the new marking in the lead-up to the switchover. A further announcement from the UK government in August 2021 confirmed an extension to the date ending recognition of the CE mark in Great Britain. As a result, CE marked goods may now continue to be placed on the GB market until 31st December 2024.

In a statement, UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) said (in August 2021) that whilst the extension is in place, the government is encouraging businesses to start using the UKCA mark as soon as possible.

Currently, the two sets of standards (EU RCD and UKCA) have the same requirements, which will initially make the transition somewhat seamless, however, we are aware things could change in the future. For more information, we recommend you take a look at this comprehensive article from trade magazine Boating Business.

CE & UKCA category A (Ocean)

 

Designed to undertake long voyages, these vessels should be expected to withstand winds in excess of Beaufort Force 8, as well as substantial waves above 4 metres. This would include those superyachts you’d commonly see in Puerto Banus (or even the Solent, which welcomed Superyacht Zen in June), plus some larger yachts.

CE & UKCA category B (Offshore)

 

Falling within category B will be smaller yachts and cabin cruisers with offshore capabilities. These boats can withstand winds up to and including Beaufort Force 8, plus waves up to 4 metres high. Our category B boats include:

CE & UKCA category C (Coastal & Estuary)

 

This group contains most tenders, open day-boats, smaller cruisers, bowriders and narrow boats. These vessels must be able to withstand winds of up to Beaufort Force 6 and waves up to and including 2 metres high. You’ll find that many of our customers – including those mooring at our marina – will be owners of category C vessels.

Our portfolio consists of:

CE & UKCA category D (Inland or Sheltered waters)

 

Finally, category D covers those vessels most suitable for sheltered waters, typically small lakes, canals, and rivers. The boats have been built to comfortably handle Beaufort Force 4 winds, and waves of up to and including 0.3 metres – most likely caused by other passing vessels. The majority of our boats are Cat C and above, but there is an option to have a Cat D version of some models which allows for more passengers, such as the Corsiva 650.

The need for CE and UKCA certification

 

The four categories above have been largely put in place to provide a clear understanding of the capabilities of any individual boat, as well as a reflection of the structural strength and the overall integrity of the vessel – including the hull, the power system (if there is one), and other parts of the boat (we have a useful guide to boat parts if you’re not entirely used to boating language!)

As you can imagine, you would be a lot safer and more comfortable on a Class A boat when experiencing rough weather and stormy waters. If you are taking a trip on a boat, don’t be afraid to ask for confirmation of the CE/UKCA Marking and subsequent class, as well as information on what safety equipment they have on-board.

Recognising a CE or UKCA certified boat

 

To comply with the relevant inspection (either CE or UKCA), a boat must have the following:

  • A Hull Identification Number (HIN), also known as a Craft Identification Number (CIN)
  • Identification plate, including maximum allowed load and UKCA/CE category
  • An owner’s manual featuring key information about the boat
  • A declaration of conformity from the boat builder, shipyard, or importer

What boats do not require UKCA or CE certification?

 

Not all boats need a UKCA or CE marking. For instance, those vessels that have operated in EU/EEA countries prior to June 1998, plus boats built for personal use only, are exempt. Other types of vessels include hydrofoils, traditional canoes, pedalos, kayaks, sailing surfboards, historical boats, racing boats and gondolas.

Advice on type of boats  

 

Looking for further guidance on different types of boats before making an investment? Get in touch with our experienced and friendly team. We are an independent business that prides itself on offering impartial advice. You can get in touch via our website, over the phone (01189 403211), or by visiting our beautiful marina (map here).

Announcement by the UK government on 1 August 2023

 

On 1st August 2023, the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) announced its intention to recognise the CE mark indefinitely, in what the BBC called a “post-Brexit climbdown”.

As a result of this latest decision, British companies now have the option to either adopt the new UKCA symbol or keep the CE mark by seeking certification for their products from an accredited European body. In a statement, Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake explained the government had “listened to industry”, and the move will allow firms to “focus their time and money on creating jobs and growing the economy”.

The decision to recognise the CE mark indefinitely in the UK will simplify matters considerably, particularly for the boating industry. Bearing in mind that RCR (UK regulations) and RCD (EU regulations) were already mirroring each other, the reduction of an additional certification process is certainly welcome.

This latest change will streamline the sale of CE certified boats in the UK, allowing businesses like ours to focus more on quality, innovation and customer service. While we are ever adaptable to changes in regulations, this move aligns with the practical needs of the market. It’s a common-sense approach that is likely to be well-received across the sector.

The change in regulations was also welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses who said the continued recognition of CE marked products would enable their members to concentrate on expanding their business both at home and internationally.

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