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Charter yacht safety codes

Pleasure vessels in commercial service (i.e. commercial yachts) need to comply with stricter rules than yachts that are only used privately. Private yachts are defined as being used solely for the recreational purposes of their owners and guests, while commercial yachts are intended to carry passengers and are therefore subjected to the stricter safety requirements, akin to those applied to commercial passenger vessels.

The rules for the commercial use of pleasure vessels were developed during the 1990s and the relevant safety rules are therefore quite recent. Unlike commercial shipping rules and regulations, which are often introduced after major incidents or tragedies at sea, yacht rules were drawn up with the specific aim of satisfying industry needs and expectations.

Commercial yacht registration has been a key driver of the booming yachting market over the last decade. While introducing a stricter set of rules and regulations, commercial registration enables yacht owners to profit from the chartering activity of their boats and to take advantage of all the other fiscal benefits derived from their commercial operation.

The majority of flag administrations require yachts to be certified in accordance with their own specific safety codes. Although there are a number of different codes presently in force, some common definitions and a similar approach apply:

New ships are usually obliged to adhere strictly to the rules.

Existing boats can be granted dispensations or ‘equivalencies’, sometimes referred to as ‘grandfathering’.

The stringency of the safety requirements decreases when the limits of navigation are reduced and their operating conditions limited.

Safety requirements increase when the yacht has a gross tonnage greater than 500GT (corresponding to a full displacement motor yacht of approximately 45m to 50m LOA and upwards).

The safety codes apply to all vessels of 24m or over in load line length.

The safety codes are usually restricted to yachts having a gross tonnage less than 3,000GT (corresponding to a motor yacht of 85 to 90m LOA).

Yachts are certified to carry a maximum of 12 passengers.

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