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Rules of the Road: New REG Code makes change easier

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Rules of the Road: by Capt. Jake DesVergers

For yachts that charter, the acronyms LY1, LY2 and LY3 are common references. They signify a particular version of the Large Yacht Code and its applicability for a yacht.

The first version of the Large Yacht Code was published by the U.K.’s Maritime Safety Agency, or MSA, in 1997. It was originally titled the “Code of Practice for Safety of Large Commercial Sailing and Motor Yachts.”  

In 1998, the MSA and Marine Coastguard Agency merged to form the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, or MCA. Subsequent versions of the code were published in 1998 (LY2 Edition 1), 2000 (LY2 Edition 2) and 2012 (LY3).

In 2014, a similar code was published for carrying 13-36 passengers on board a commercial yacht. This was known as the Passenger Yacht Code, or PYC.

During 2016 and 2017, the Red Ensign Group, or REG – which comprises the ship registers of the U.K., the Crown Dependencies, and the Overseas Territories – began working alongside the large yacht industry to develop an “REG Yacht Code.” A preliminary version was released at the end of 2017, with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2019.

The new code consists of Part A and Part B. Part A is an update to the existing Large Yacht Code (LY3). Part B is an update to the Passenger Yacht Code (PYC).

Although combined into a single new code, the two parts remain separate entities. However, as there are many requirements that overlap between the two new parts, separate annexes have been created. These annexes are meant to illustrate which of those requirements are applicable to both Part A and Part B. The applicability of parts A and B of the new code have not been changed and are as follows:

Part A of the REG Code is applicable to yachts that are 24 meters and over in load-line length, are in commercial use for sport or pleasure, do not carry cargo and do not carry more than 12 passengers.

Part B of the REG Code is applicable to pleasure yachts of any size, in private use or engaged in trade, that carry more than 12 but not more than 36 passengers, and that do not carry cargo.

As a reminder to our readers, the threshold of 12 passengers is established by regulation in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS. Any vessel of any size that carries more than 12 guests is considered a passenger ship. Vessels carrying less than 12 are considered a cargo ship by regulation.  

We must remember that yachts are part of the larger maritime industry. The safety, environmental, manning  and labor regulations that have been implemented over the years are designed for merchant shipping. Yachts, until relevantly recent history, were never affected by these requirements as their size and use never reached a determining threshold. As yachts got bigger, merchant shipping regulations became applicable.

As has been the main goal since inception, the code prescribes standards of safety and pollution prevention that are appropriate to the size and type of yacht. The standards applied are set by a relevant international convention or, where it is not reasonable or practicable for a yacht to comply, by an equivalent standard.

The REG Code is an equivalence for the International Convention on Load Lines (ICLL), the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), and the International Convention on Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

The development of the REG Code, and its predecessors, is based on the consideration that full compliance with the provisions of certain international conventions is unreasonable. Compared with a typical merchant ship, yachts have very different operating patterns and uses.

While the majority of the REG Code remains largely unchanged from the last versions of LY3 and PYC, the new format should make the document more dynamic. This will allow the yachting industry to change and develop quicker, while eliminating the need to wait for multiple updates with every new regulation published. From a flag-state surveyor’s perspective, it is a welcome change. Yachts will be happy, too.  

Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau (yachtbureau.org). Comments are welcome below.

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