The Red Ensign Group is made up of British ship registers and includes the United Kingdom, along with its Crown Dependencies of the Isle of Man, Guernsey, and Jersey; UK Overseas Territories, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St Helena and the Turks & Caicos, all of which, operate shipping registers. These registers are collectively, one of the most important flag states in the world. The Red Ensign is the flag that most large yacht owners desire for their vessel, as it symbolises the highest standards in both yacht construction and operations.
Given that approximately 80% of all large yachts are registered as British, the new code is an important development in the regulation and governance of standards in the yachting industry. This means that with so many yachts flying the Red Ensign flag, there is already a common standard across most of the fleet.
The standards currently in force, were originally implemented in 1997 and have been updated periodically in the years since then. The new Code goes further than merely updating the standards however; this is a comprehensive change to the structure of current yacht regulations.
So, what does the new Code mean and how has it changed the existing standards?
Essentially, the new REG Code combines the existing Large Yacht Code (LYC3) and the Passenger Yacht Code (PYC). It brings the existing Codes up to date and consolidates them into one clear schedule. It will come into force from 1st January 2019.
Within the schedule there are two parts;
Part A: Large Yacht Code, (up to 12 passengers) – this is an update to LY3. This section is applicable to yachts that have a load line length of 24 metres or more, are in commercial use, (for sport or pleasure) and do not carry cargo, or more than 12 passengers.
Part B: Passenger Yacht Code, (up to 36 passengers). This section is an update to the Passenger Yacht Code 6th Edition (PYC). It applies to pleasure yachts of any size, in private or trade use, that carry between 12 and 36 passengers, but do not carry cargo.
The Large Yacht Code and Passenger Yacht code are in separate parts for practical and symbolic purposes. This is in recognition of the fact that there are distinct standards that apply to each of them. There will however, be common annexes for regulatory articles such as helicopter landing areas.
Each part was developed by industry working groups that each covered a specific part of the code. They were split into the following areas: Part A, (large yachts), Part B (passenger yachts), Helicopter landing areas and increased numbers on board passenger yachts. The yacht construction and management industry from around Europe has been well-represented in the working groups to ensure the Code has credibility and the necessary buy-in to ensure its success.
The main purpose of updating and redrafting the code was to ensure that the regulations were brought up-to-date with developments in technology, processes and changes within the yachting industry. Given that the Code was first established twenty years ago, a lot has changed, both in operation and design, but the requirement for safety and regulation remains the same. The new Code maintains these recognised International Standards, whilst allowing greater flexibility in design and construction through innovation and technical developments.
The Red Ensign Group formally launched the new Code, just over a year ahead of it coming into force. This gives yacht owners and operators more than enough time to ensure they are fully aware of – and in compliance with – the regulations.
In discussions about the new REG Yacht Code on networking platforms and in industry forums, many questions around the issue of Brexit are raised. Not least the form that Brexit will take and how this will impact, in terms of legislation for yachts. John Leonida is a Lawyer who specialises in the yachting industry. He advises owners and builders of superyachts, banks and others within the international marine industry. In a discussion relating to the launch of the new REG Code, he raised an important point around how Brexit could impact on Yachting, he said;
“The Red Ensign Group has been in the forefront of making regulations relevant for superyachts, but the elephant in the room is BREXIT and commercial operations by Red Ensign flags will be hampered by a hard BREXIT or if the deal is silent on the Red Ensign.”
“There is EU law, that is currently never used, to prevent non-EU flagged vessels conducting cabotage trade. Will an acrimonious BREXIT change that? In March 2019, the UK leaves the EU. Where will that leave UK project managers supervising builds in the EU? What if you are currently building to the code for post March 2019 delivery and want to operate commercially in the EU, what is your contingency plan if the Red Ensign becomes problematic?”
These questions are key to how the yachting industry is feeling the pressure of what might happen once the Brexit deal has been agreed and the UK finally leaves the EU. Yes, the REG Yacht Code is British, but will it still apply across Europe, if the UK is no longer within the jurisdiction of the EU’s legislature? OR, will there be another raft of standards that must be adopted and adhered to, for yacht owners and operators to fully utilise European ports?
There’s still more than a year before the new REG Yacht Code comes into force. It’s slightly longer than that until Brexit is no longer something people just argue about and actually happens. We are sure that the new REG Code will have a positive impact on the yachting industry, streamlining regulations and making them clearer and easier to adhere to. What might then change, in relation to the regulations, as Brexit dawns, is still anyone’s guess.