For some people building a boat for their own use fulfils a life-long dream. However, to avoid problems in the future, thought needs to be given to the requirements that must be met before a boat can be sold.
If you are building a boat in the UK, key factors to consider are the application of the Recreational Craft Regulations 2017 as amended (RCR 2017) and VAT considerations.
RYA members will find information about how to demonstrate the UK domestic (VAT) status of a home build boat in the RYA VAT Guide for Boats
What is a home build boat?
For the purpose of the RCR 2017, a home build boat means a boat ‘built for own use’ that has been substantially built by its future user for their own use.
A member of the general public building their own boat from materials bought on the open market is deemed to be building a boat for own use.
It is acceptable for the builder/owner to sub-contract certain aspects of fitting out of a home-built boat to specialists e.g. electrical or electronic engineers.
Home build boat exemption from RCR 2017
Certain craft are exempted from compliance with the RCR 2017. The exclusions in Regulation 4 include: “(g) watercraft built for own use, provided that such watercraft are not subsequently placed on the EU market for a period of five years beginning with the date on which the watercraft was put into service”.
Craft predominantly built by their future user do not need to be built in accordance with the design and construction requirements (the Essential Requirements) as set out in the RCR 2017 Schedule 1 Part A and do not require a conformity assessment provided they are not placed on the market in Great Britain (GB) or Northern Ireland (NI) within five years of being put into service (the date on which the craft was first used).
However, if the boat is placed on the market before it has been in use for five years it will need to comply with the design and construction requirements of RCR 2017 and a conformity assessment will be required.
Recreational craft that are placed on the market or put into service for the first time in the UK and are required to comply with the Essential Requirements (set out in Schedule 1 of RCR 2017) must be issued with an identification number, known as a Watercraft Identification Number (WIN), that conforms with clause 2.1 of Schedule 1.
Recreational craft that are exempted under clause 4 of the RCR 2017 including home build boats are not eligible to be issued with a WIN and do not have to display one. However, owners may still wish to have an identification number for their boat.
The RYA is authorised by British Marine to issue an identification number for boats which are not required or eligible to be issued with a WIN i.e. craft that are outside the scope of the RCR 2017.
The RYA refers to this as a Craft Identification Number (CIN) to avoid confusion with the legally required WIN for craft that are within the scope of RCR 2017.
It should be noted that a CIN issued by the RYA:
does NOT conform to the requirement under the RCR 2017
does NOT indicate that the craft is exempt from or complies with the Recreational Craft Regulations.
If you have built a vessel which is exempt from the RCR 2017 you can apply to the RYA for a CIN
Demonstrating that a boat is exempt from RCR 2017
Documentation to prove that a home-built boat is exempt from the RCR 2017 needs to be retained. As there is no standard form, the builder/owner needs to keep evidence of when the boat was ‘put into service’ (first used). Ideally this will be a document which confirms when the craft was first launched e.g. an invoice, letter, or declaration (with dates). Examples of documents which may be useful in order to prove that the boat wasn’t offered up for sale on the GB market within a five-year period of the date if was first used (the ‘put into service’ date) are berthing receipts, insurance and boat registration.
Recreational Craft Regulations 2017 (RCR 2017)
The Recreational Craft Regulations 2017 preserved by the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 and as amended by Product Safety and Metrology etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and Product Safety and Metrology etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 apply to all recreational watercraft sold or put into service in the UK for the first time.
Unless exempt, boats must comply with the Essential Requirements of the RCR 2017 and applicable conformity assessment procedures.
There is one set of UK 2017 Recreational Craft Regulations, but some of the provisions apply differently in NI for as long as the Northern Ireland Protocol is in force.
The exclusion for home build boats can be found in Regulation 4(1)(g) of RCR 2017 which excludes certain watercraft from the design and construction requirements set out in Schedule 1 Part A. This exclusion applies in both GB and NI.
The Regulations are enforced by Trading Standards Departments of Local Authorities. Breach of the Regulations may result in a penalty. These can include a fine or a prison sentence of up to three months for the most serious offences.
What is NOT a home build boat
As detailed above for the purposes of the RCR 2017 to be a home build boat the craft must have been substantially built by its future user for their own use. The following types of craft are not considered to be a home build boat for the purposes of the RCR 2017.
Partly completed recreational Craft
A partly completed recreational craft is an incomplete craft consisting of a hull or a hull and fitted components. A partly completed boat is intended to be completed by another party by the addition of fittings and finishing parts. Partly completed boats are not exempted from compliance with the RCR 2017 and the party that completes the boat is regarded as the manufacturer and will need to ensure that the completed craft meets the Essential Requirements. When sold, a partly completed boat must fulfil the relevant Essential Requirements and have a declaration in accordance with Schedule 3 of the RCR 2017.
Boat kits consisting of panels and parts to make the boat are also considered as partly completed recreational craft, as such a kit boat falls within the scope of the RCR 2017. The party that assembles the kit is regarded as the manufacturer and will need to ensure that the completed craft meets the Essential Requirements. When sold, a kit boat must fulfil the relevant Essential Requirements and have a declaration in accordance with Schedule 3 of the RCR 2017.
A private person who enters into a contractual arrangement with a professional company, yard or individual constructor to build a one-off (bespoke) boat is deemed to have entered into an arrangement where there will be a transfer of ownership. Such a boat is not exempt as a home-built boat and must meet the Essential Requirements of the RCR 2017 and have a declaration in accordance with Regulation 10 of the RCR 2017.
For more information
RYA RCR and RCD Guide for Boats
RYA VAT Guide for Boats
Enquiries relating to buying and selling boats: Tel: 023 8060 4223. Email: email@example.com
Enquiries relating to importing a boat: Tel: 023 8060 4233. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org