When is CE certification for boats required?

CE certification plate

Since 15 June 1996 CE certification has been mandatory in Europe on recreational craft with a length of 2.5 to 24 metres. This means that boat builders, shipyards and importers of pleasure boats are only obliged to sell boats with a CE certification. This obligation applies to newly built and imported boats and yachts.

When the law came into force, there was a transitional phase to give boat builders and shipyards the opportunity to adjust their production. This means that from 15 June 1998, any new pleasure boat to be built with a length between 2.5 and 24 metres must meet the CE requirements.

How can you recognise a CE certified boat or yacht?

A boat or yacht that complies with the CE inspection can be recognised by the following:

  • Identification plate with factory and technical data, maximum allowed load and the CE design category;
  • CIN (Craft Identification Number), a code that states country, builder, type, construction number, model year and delivery date;
  • Owner's manual describing information and instructions about the vessel and its area of operation;
  • Declaration of conformity. A document in which the boat builder, shipyard or importer of the recreational craft declares that it meets all requirements. It also describes under which technical regulations the craft is designed and built.


There are exceptions where recreational craft do not have to comply with CE certification, these are:

  • canoes
  • surfboards
  • demonstration and experimental recreational craft
  • replicas
  • racing boats and yachts

There is also an exception for vessels built entirely by a private individual for his own use, provided that they are not sold until five years after they are launched.

CE design categories

In determining the requirements, a distinction was made between sailing yachts and motor yachts, a length limit of less than or greater than six metres was determined and the circumstances for which the yacht was built were taken into account. For the latter, the design categories have been determined and described.

The CE design category only determines under which circumstances the builder of the vessel can be held liable if problems occur to the sailing yacht or motor yacht.

In the European Directive for recreational craft, the design categories are described as follows:

Design category Wind force Typical wave height (metres)
A more than 8 more than 4
B up to 8 up to and including 4
C up to 6 up to and including 2
D up to 4 up to and including 0.3*

CE category A
The vessel is designed for long voyages but without abnormal conditions. These conditions could occur on the ocean.

CE category B
The vessel is designed for sea voyages.

CE category C
The vessel is designed for sailing on coastal waters, large rivers and lakes.

CE category D
The vessel is designed for sailing on sheltered waters such as small lakes, rivers and canals. The waves may occasionally increase to 0.5 metres, for example waves from passing ships.

For boat buyers

When buying a boat, always check if a CE certificate is required and the design category corresponds to your sailing areas. On BoatZilla, a seller can always specify the design category.

For boat sellers

When you sell a boat through BoatZilla we advise you to always enter the design category in the dedicated entry field. Buyers benefit a lot from this information.