What are the Distinctions between Certification, Registration, and Classification?

In the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK), recreational crafts below 24 meters must adhere to specific regulatory processes. In the EU, this involves compliance with the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD); in the UK, it’s governed by the Recreational Craft Regulations (RCR). To facilitate compliance, ISO standards offer a concept known as the “Presumption of Conformity.” This means that if you adhere to these ISO standards, it’s presumed that you are in accordance with the RCD/RCR. These ISO standards hold global significance, with 81 standards and participation from 66 countries. Although the Recreational Craft Directive pertains to recreational crafts, ISO standards also apply to standardizing equipment and construction details for recreational crafts and other small craft, including small workboats.


Certification of a recreational craft is mandatory before it can be placed on the EU\UK market. An EC-type or UKSA certificate is handed out upon inspection by a so-called “Notified Body” such as IMCI. However, this certification does not necessarily imply that the craft is suitable for use. To ensure suitability, the craft must also be registered, and additional national laws may impose further requirements, primarily related to safety equipment like life jackets, flares, liferafts, and more. These specific requirements vary from one country to another.

Additionally, maritime authorities may prescribe varying equipment standards depending on whether the boat is intended for pleasure or commercial use. For example, US Coast Guard CFR 33, the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) MGN538 or France’s Affaires Maritimes Division 222 may specify different requirements. However, when it comes to construction standards for crafts under 24 meters in length, these authorities typically refer to the same ISO standards.

Now, let’s delve into the concept of classification. Vessels are considered “in class” when their hulls, structures, machinery, and equipment conform to the standards of the International Maritime Organization and MARPOL (Marine Pollution). Vessels that fall out of class may face challenges, such as being uninsurable or not being permitted to sail by regulatory agencies. It’s important to note that this classification process is typically relevant to larger vessels, and it is rare for vessels under 24 meters in length to undergo classification. Furthermore, some classification societies, such as Bureau Veritas and Lloyds, often operate as distinct entities. For instance, one branch may function as “Bureau Veritas Classification,” while another may serve as “Bureau Veritas Notified Body,” and yet another as “Bureau Veritas Quality Systems Auditors.” Despite sharing the same name, these branches operate as separate institutions.