MEPs back new rules to make watercraft safer and greener  

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New rules to make the outboard engines used in sports and leisure watercraft safer and cut their pollutant exhaust emissions by 20% got the thumbs up from the European Parliament on Wednesday. Small firms making small engines will have six years to comply, compared with three years for larger ones. Parliament also scrapped potentially misleading names of boat design categories.

"This revision of rules on recreational watercraft significantly reduces the overall level of toxic emissions from both petrol and diesel powered watercraft while allowing specialist engine manufacturers time to adapt their products. It brings the added benefit of aligning EU exhaust emissions with US levels, which will then provide the foundation for the adoption of common global emissions regulations", said rapporteur Malcolm Harbour (ECR, UK).

The updated EU rules on the safety and environmental performance of recreational craft and personal watercraft cover vessels between 2.5 and 24 metres in length, such as motor boats, sailing yachts and water scooters.


Given the deadly accident risks associated with losing the controls of tiller-controlled outboard engines and falling off the boat, MEPs added a further safety requirement that these engines must be equipped with an emergency stopping device, such as a power cut-off switch possibly linked to the helmsman using a "kill cord".


Parliament backed a European Commission proposal to impose tougher exhaust emission limits on watercraft, to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) and hydrocarbon (HC) emissions by 20%.

The new rules give the industry as a whole three years from the date they enter into force to comply with these limits. However, small and medium-sized enterprises making engines with a power rating equal to or less than 15 kW will have a six-year transition period in which to comply.

Design categories

MEPs deleted the titles of boat-design categories "ocean", "offshore", "inshore" and "sheltered waters" from the rules on the grounds that they are misleading for users.

The only appropriate criteria for defining watercraft are the environmental conditions that they can withstand, namely wind force and wave height, rather than the area or type of navigation, says the text.

The new directive, approved by 626 votes to 17 with 11 abstentions, still has to be formally approved by EU member states.

Procedure: Co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), 1st reading agreement