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Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Recreational craft sector

The recreational craft sector refers to boats with a hull length of 2.5m to 24m that are intended for leisure or sport use. It includes the internal market legislation these products must comply with, so they can be sold freely on the EU/EEA market.

Recreational craft are high-value and very mobile products, intended mainly for end users. They have a long life-cycle, which means they are on the market for a long time. The market is predominantly based on builder-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer relations.

Importance of the recreational craft sector

The recreational craft industry is important because of its impact on the environment and its economic significance for the EU

  • The recreational craft manufacturing industry mainly consists of small and medium-sized enterprises (97% of businesses are SMEs), a few large companies (over 1,000 employees), as well as numerous 'family companies' (up to 10 people)
  • The manufacturing sector accounts for 4,500 companies and 35,000 jobs
  • The sector represents approximately 32,000 businesses with at least 280,000 employees
  • It produces €​20 billion in annual revenue
  • The sector is dynamic and shows great potential for growth, despite a temporary downturn between 2009 and 2013

Challenges faced by the sector

The recreational craft sector faces a number of challenges

  • Unfair competition: Sectorial stakeholders have demanded the reinforcement of market surveillance to protect business against unfair competition. The responsibility for market surveillance lies with EU countries and activity has sometimes been uneven
  • Need for improved regulation: The industry emphasises the need for a stable and smart regulatory environment, in line with international standards
  • Environmental issues: The health of the end-user must be considered, as well as the reduction of exhaust and noise emissions
  • Access to markets: Barriers to trade and other administrative obstacles to accessing international markets require attention

What the Commission is doing

The sector is regulated at EU level to ensure its sustainable development from an economic, social and environmental perspective:

  • Recreational craft sold in the EU must comply with harmonised technical safety and environmental requirements, and meet the administrative obligations defined by the Recreational Craft Directive. These safety and environmental requirements refer to the design and construction of the craft with specific limits for exhaust and noise emissions
  • The Directive also requires that the manufacturer keep a technical file of all relevant data and officially declare the conformity of his product. A CE marking must be affixed to the product and users must be provided with detailed information about safety and maintenance
  • The Commission has harmonised the different EU national legislations for recreational craft
  • The Commission has also concluded bilateral agreements with non-EU countries to facilitate the export of European-built recreational craft

Overall, European legislation has had a positive effect on market conditions in this sector, which has benefited revenue, trade, and jobs. See the recreational craft support page

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