What is the Recreational Craft Directive?
The recreational craft directive (RCD) applies to a boat builder. Every new boat between 2.5 and 24 meters built after June 16th 1998 must meet the requirements of the RCD (there are a few exceptions to the rule). The RCD documentation requires the craft to meet certain safety criteria such as the correct installation of gas and electrics.
Buying a completed Canal Boat
When a boat is fitted out and complete the boatbuilder will provide the boat an adequate owners manual and will make the hull permanently with a Hull Identification Number (HIN). The builders plate will also carry a 'CE' mark.
Fitting out a narrowboat yourself and self certification
However if you chose to purchase a shell and fit out the boat yourself or build your narrowboat from scratch under the terms of the RCD standards you are responsible for completing the boat to that standard. If you are intending on keeping your boat for more than 5 years, then you need not comply with the RCD, but you will have to have a boat safety certificate (BSC). It is worth remembering that the value of your canal boat will increase on completion of the RCD but there are obviously insurance implications.
If you wish to self certify your own narrowboat then you need to make sure that the hull builder provides you with a declaration on conformity to show that the steel work and engine intallation complies to that part of the RCD. This will mean that you have a firm standing to work from.
A narrowboat does not need to be inspected by a notified body if you choose to self certify your craft but you will need to provide a Builders Plate, HIN number, Declaration of Conformity and a Technical Manual.
Buying a second hand narrowboat
If you are going to buy a fairly new second hand boat (no more than 4 years old) they should normally state that they are RCD compliant. Which means that they comply with the RCD standards and do not need a BSC as well. But if you are purchasing a second hand narrowboat built after the 16th June 1998 and older than four years then it is worth asking if the boat has a BSC as well as the RCD documentation.
1. British Marine Federation - Recreational Craft Directive
2. The Royal Yachting Association - Recreational Craft Directive