Commercial Yacht

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Background to the requirement for Commercial Yacht Certification

In general, International Maritime Conventions - like:

The International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS),

The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW95),

The International Safety Management (ISM) code,

The International Convention on Load Lines (ICLL)

and others, do not apply to 'pleasure vessels not engaged in trade'. These International Conventions are implemented by each Flag State passing their own domestic Laws and Regulations which are then directly applied to the ships in that Flag State's fleet.

In 1993, the UK Merchant Shipping (Vessels in Commercial Use for Sport and Pleasure) Regulations re-defined what is - and what is not - a 'pleasure vessel'. The UK's definition of a 'pleasure vessel' is as follows:

"pleasure vessel" means-

(a) any vessel which at the time it is being used is:

(i) (aa) in the case of a vessel wholly owned by an individual or individuals, used only for the sport or pleasure of the owner or the immediate family or friends of the owner; or

(bb) in the case of a vessel owned by a body corporate, used only for sport or pleasure and on which the  persons on board are employees or officers of the body corporate, or their immediate family or friends; and

(ii) on a voyage or excursion which is one for which the owner does not receive money for or in connection with operating the vessel or carrying any person, other than as a contribution to the direct expenses of the operation of the vessel incurred during the voyage or excursion; or

(b) any vessel wholly owned by or on behalf of a members' club formed for the purpose of sport or pleasure which, at the time it is being used, is used only for the sport or pleasure of members of that club or their immediate family, and for the use of which any charges levied are paid into club funds and applied for the general use of the club; and

(c) in the case of any vessel referred to in paragraphs (a) or (b) above no other payments are made by or on behalf of users of the vessel, other than by the owner.

In this definition "immediate family" means-
in relation to an individual, the husband or wife of the individual, and a relative of the individual or the individual's husband or wife; and "relative" means brother, sister, ancestor or lineal descendant.

I other words - since 1993 any yacht operating for charter is considered (by the UK flag administration - the Maritime & Coastguard Agency - MCA) as being 'engaged in trade', and therefore all the various Merchant Shipping rules and regulations apply.

The same Regulations (1993 - and updated in 1998 and as later amended - download Statutory Instrument 1998 No. 2771 The Merchant Shipping (Vessels in Commercial Use for Sport or Pleasure) Regulations 1998 now from http://www.hmso.gov.uk/si/si1998/19982771.htm
provide for yachts to operate commercially without a total transformation into a passenger ship - provided they carry no cargo and not more than 12 passengers (so retain her yacht status), and provided they conform to a Code of Practice. There are now two different Codes, one for yachts under 24m (Load Line Length) and one for larger yachts.

These Codes of Practice offer an attainable alternative to the problems of modifying yachts to conform to the requirements of Conventions and Regulations which were written with ships (as we understand them) in mind - not yachts.

The requirements of the Codes become more demanding, depending on the area of the yacht's operation.


How our specialists can help

Most yacht owners appreciate the advantages of being able to charter their yacht to defray operating costs. Given the time it takes to obtain the necessary certification to be able to offer and operate a yacht for charter, it makes sense to plan ahead and meet the requirements of the various regulations within a time schedule which suits a particular yacht's cruising plans. Surveys can be arranged whilst the yacht is in dry-dock for her normal annual maintenance. Upgrades to materials (especially insulation and upholstery) can be done during off-season periods and as and when soft furnishings are renewed as part of general refurbishment. New equipment (life saving equipment and fire fighting appliances) can be selected with compliance in mind.

The team at ybi1.com have been helping owners and skippers through the maze of Commercial Yacht Certification since inception in 1993. We work closely with the owner and the skipper, and prepare a full assessment of the yacht, with estimated costs of the modifications and extra Life Saving Appliances and Fire Fighting Equipment. We submit this, together with plans to the Certificating Authority (the UK MCA if over 24m), and arrange the initial survey. We then liaise with Naval Architects to obtain Stability Information, and generally push things along until final survey and the issuing of the Certificates.

For yachts up to 500 Gross Tons our fee for co-ordinating the Application for (and obtaining of) the Certificates is a flat fee of Euros 20,000. Add to this the costs of modifications, extra equipment, Naval Architects fees, fees to MCA and/or Classification Society, Inclining Experiment etc., and the total can be substantial. Given a good set of original plans (including the Lines and Body Plan), the guard rail heights being 1m, the engine room being insulated with approved material (foil faced Rockwool is THE stuff) and existing approved fire detection and fire fighting equipment - costs drop drastically.

It is an important part of the requirements for acceptance of a yacht as a 'commercial yacht' (with all the financial benefits of exemption from VAT in mainland Europe) that the 'commercial yacht' is both registered as a 'commercial yacht' (or 'yacht in commercial use') AND operated commercially. This means that Charter Agreements must be in place for every voyage. The use of a yacht management company (we would obviously like you to use us) eases the burden of proper documentation.

Yachts flying other than British Flag are also now required to be registered and operated as commercial vessels by most countries in which they operate, and the requirements of the different flag states do vary - some have adopted (or are planning to adopt) the UK Codes of Practice, others have or plan to introduce their own, others require Statutory International Certificates (Load Line Certificate and appropriate Ship Safety Certificates). Initial discussion is important so that the 'route' most suitable to the Owner and the type of yacht may be chosen. The necessary requirements can then be appraised and the correct upgrades costed and considered.

We are always happy to make an quick initial 'pre-survey' inspection, without charge, to give owners an initial guess at the suitability of the yacht to meet the requirements of the Code of Practice PROVIDED the yacht is local to us.

The advantages of meeting the requirements and obtaining the Certification are many:

1. If the yacht is British-flag, it is a legal requirement.

2. Commercial yachts have been obtaining duty free fuel and other supplies.

3. The yacht will be a safer vessel.

4. The value of the yacht increases.

5. Many Charter Agents will not charter a yacht which is unable to produce the Certificates.

6. Insurers expect owners to comply with all necessary legislation.

Contact our Commercial Yacht Certification Experts here at ybi1.com to discuss further.


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