CE Certification: What It Is and How It Benefits the Buyer
In 1998 the European Union created a Recreational Craft Directive that established design standards for most recreational craft from 2.5 to 24 meters, or 8 feet to 79 feet. New and used boats sold in Europe, including boats built in the U.S. – or anywhere else – for export to Europe, must be certified as complying with one of four CE design categories.
|All boats share a need for seaworthiness. Some, like this U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat, are built for very challenging offshore conditions. Others are built for less extreme conditions and more protected locations. It is helpful for every owner to understand the locations and conditions in which their boat can safely operate.|
The following four CE design categories help to quantify a boat’s degree of seaworthiness, based on the wave height and wind speed the boat is designed to encounter and handle. The further offshore the vessel is expected to venture, the higher are the expectations for construction strength, stability, freeboard, reserve buoyancy, resistance to downflooding, deck drainage and other seaworthiness criteria.
CE Categories from A to D
Category A — Ocean. Category A covers largely self-sufficient boats designed for extended voyages with winds of over Beaufort Force 8 (over 40 knots), and significant wave heights above 13 feet, but excluding abnormal conditions such as hurricanes.
Category B — Offshore. Category B includes boats operating offshore with winds up to 40 knots, Beaufort Force 8, and significant seas up to 13 feet.
Category C — Inshore. Category C is for boats operating in coastal waters and large bays and lakes with winds to Force 6, up to 27 knots, and significant seas 7 feet high.
Category D — Inland or sheltered coastal waters. Category D is for boats in small lakes and rivers with winds to Force 4, up to 15 knots, and significant wave heights to 18 inches.
While the European standards are no guarantee that a boat will be suitable in all respects for the conditions in its designated category, they help to separate the purely inshore craft from those capable of operating safely in more demanding conditions.
People On Board
Since the number of people onboard can impact a boat’s seaworthiness, changing the number of people on the boat can also change its category. More people aboard — and more weight and potentially less stability — put a boat into the next lower category.
|Beneteau’s Oceanis 60 can carry up to 12 people and remain Category A.|
All Boats Built by Beneteau are Rated in one of These Four CE Categories. For example, the Oceanis 60 has been given an A – Ocean rating if she has no more than 12 people aboard. But with 13 people aboard, her rating falls to B – Offshore.
|A crowd on the flybridge, cruising on the Gran Turismo 49, still within Category B.|
Typically, powerboats carry lower ratings, generally starting with B or C ratings. For example, the Beneteau Gran Turismo 49 is rated B – Offshore, winds to 40 knots and waves to 13 feet with 14 people aboard. With 16 aboard her classification is lowered to C – Inshore.
|Eight people cruising aboard the Gran Turismo 35 is within the boat’s Category B rating.|
Another example is the Beneteau Gran Turismo 35. She has a B – Offshore rating with 8 people aboard and a C – Inshore rating with 10 aboard.
American Standards for Boats Sold in the U.S.
|United States Coast Guard regulations deal with required safety equipment, carrying capacity and level flotation for small boats.|
Boats sold in the U.S. do not have to be CE rated, but rather, must only meet a few U.S. Coast Guard regulations which address required safety items such as PFDs and flares, carrying capacity for boats under 26’ and level flotation if swamped for boats 20’ and under.
|The American Boat and Yacht Council creates voluntary American boatbuilding guidelines.|
|The National Marine Manufacturers Association has selected a portion of the ABYC standards to be required to receive its certification.|
America’s version of CE Standards and Recommendations have been promulgated by the American Boat and Yacht Council – but they are strictly voluntary. Most critically, there are no ABYC design categories to differentiate between boats of different capabilities, a crucial distinction for CE ratings and American NMMA certification, which itself only requires about 70% of the ABYC recommended standards. While most quality U.S. builders follow the ABYC standards and many exceed those required by the NMMA, they are not mandatory as the CE standards are in Europe.
Beneteau meets all required standards for North America, including Coast Guard requirements and most of ABYC standards (as some design features may differ). To that end, Groupe Beneteau is actively taking part in the standardization and improvements of all safety regulations, both for ABYC and CE rules.
We suggest that when you’re picking out your next boat, be sure to ask what its CE classification is – or would be if it is sold in Europe.