What a BSS Certificate is:
Since 1997 all boats have been required to have a Boat Safety Scheme certificate issued following an inspection, at the owner’s cost, by a registered examiner. Each certificate is valid for 4 years but can be renewed at any time during that period following a re-inspection. Canal and River Trust will not issue a navigation licence without proof of a valid certificate.
A boat is checked against a list of certain safety criteria designed to minimise risks of fire and explosion and covers systems such as electrical installations, inboard/outboard engines, appliances, ventilation and fuels. Some criteria are mandatory, others are ‘best practice recommendations’. Leisure boats have only to satisfy the mandatory items; live-aboards can come under pressure to satisfy the advisory recommendations as well.
What a BSS Certificate is NOT! :
A BSS certificate does NOT certify seaworthiness and you must never rely on it as confirmation that e.g. the hull is sound and the engine and stern gear are in good condition. It merely certifies that only on the day of inspection it met certain safety criteria. It can never replace the need for a full out-of-the-water survey when you are considering buying a boat.
Even if the certificate was issued only a year ago the boat may now longer comply and a new certificate could be refused unless certain modifications or replacements are carried out. This may be because the owner has carried out alterations, an appliance or installation has developed a critical fault or the BSS criteria have changed.
Recommendations when buying a boat:
If you agree to buy a boat then, apart from making your offer “subject to survey” you should also consider making it “subject to current BSS compliance”. You can then ask your surveyor to issue a new BSS certificate at the same time you commission his full pre-purchase report. There may be an extra charge for this. Should the boat not comply in any important respect then we can take up possible rectification issues with the seller.
New boats do not normally have a BSS certificate. Instead, the boat builder will usually have issued a Recreational Craft Directive Certificate of Conformity In these circumstances a BSS certificate will not formally be required until the craft is 4 years old. In some respects the RCD criteria are more demanding than the BSS. However not all boat builders get everything right or the first owner may have done some modifications that will affect the BSS. So, if you are buying a boat within its first 4 years and even if you have decided to risk not having an out of water survey, it will do you no harm, and possibly a lot of good, to make your offer subject to the issue of a BSS certificate as described in the preceding paragraph.