Standards I

An EU Directive provides a legal framework for prescribing harmonised safety rules and standards for passenger ships.  The Directive applies to both passenger ships and crafts engaging on domestic voyages.  It deals with new passenger ships, existing passenger ships of 24 m or more and high-speed passenger crafts.

Each EU state which registers ships must ensure that ships and high-speed passenger craft engaged in domestic voyages meet the requirements of the directive.

The Directive does not apply to

  • passenger ships intended for military purposes,
  • pleasure yachts which carry no more than 12 passengers and are intended for commercial purposes;
  • passenger ships and craft without means of mechanical propulsion or of primitive build or constructed in material other than steel or equivalent;
  • historical ships or replicas;
  • passenger craft exclusively engaged in port areas.

Passenger ships are divided into classes A, B, C and D.  This reflects the areas in which they may operate.  Each EU state contains a list of sea areas under its jurisdiction.  It is to provide for the areas in which operations ships are to be permitted to operate for part or all of the year.  The lists are to be made publicised on the authority’s website.

EU states are to authorise passenger ships and high-speed passenger craft under the Directive which comply with the relevant safety rules and standards.  States must recognise certificates issued by other countries.  The host state may carry out inspections in order to audit documentation and compliance.

Standards II

The Directive sets out the detailed safety requirements for ships of the various classes.  They cover the range from standards of construction, machinery, life-saving equipment, electrics, fire protection etc.

States must take measures to ensure that persons with reduced mobility have access to passenger ships and high-speed pleasure craft operating a transport service.

States have limited flexibility in relation to the safety requirements.  In the context of the procedures under the Directive, they may

  • take measures which improve safety requirements;
  • authorise on a basis equivalent to the rules provided in the Directive;
  • exempt some from requirements for domestic voyages within the sea areas subject to certain conditions.

Where a passenger ship or craft which complies with the Directive is considered to be a risk for persons, property or the environment, it may be suspended from operation or be required to take additional measures.


Ships registered in an EU state must be subject to survey.  New ships are subject to an initial survey before being put into service.  Existing ships are subject to an initial survey before being put into service on domestic voyages in another EU state.

Ships are subject to annual and if necessary more frequent surveys. A safety certificate is issued for a period of 12 months after survey.  The renewal of the certificate is subject to further survey.

An EU Directive provides for common rules and standards for ship inspection and survey bodies and for certain aspects of maritime administration.  States must ensure that their administrations implement international conventions in relation to inspection and certification of ships in order to comply with the standards provided by conventions.

States may only give the duties of inspection, survey, alteration or renewal of certificates to recognised organisations.  States may not refuse authorisation for recognised organisations. They may limit the number of organisations so authorised in accordance with objective and non-discriminatory criteria.  The organisations may offer their services through the regulators in other states.

The authorisation arrangements must be regulated by an agreement or equivalent legal arrangement containing requirements in relation to financial liability orders of duties, random inspections and compulsory reporting.  Authorisations can be suspended or withdrawn where the relevant conditions are no longer complied with.

Passenger Ferries

A Council directive provides for a mandatory system of surveys for regular roll-on, roll-off on ferries and high-speed passenger craft services.  It applies to all such services operating from a port in the EU regardless of their place of registration when engaged in domestic or international voyages in relation to certain ship classes.  States may extend the application to domestic voyages in other areas.

The directive provides rights for states to conduct and participate or cooperate in the investigation of maritime casualties on such services.

Services are regular if it they consist of a series of crossings operated between two or more ports or series of crossings without intermediate calls in accordance with a published timetable or with crossings so regular or frequent that they constitute a recognisable systematic arrangement.

Prior to the commencement of any such regular service, states must ensure that the operators take the measures required to ensure the application of the rules and requirements set out in the annex to the directive and agree that any host or other states particularly concerned may participate and cooperate in the investigation of incidences and casualties and furnish the relevant information including voyage data recorder information.

For vessels flying third-party flags, the administration of the flag state may accept the operator\’s commitment to the requirements of the directive.

High-speed passenger and roll-on, roll-off ferries

  • must carry valid certificates issued by the flag state.
  • must be surveyed for certificates in accordance with the IMO provisions.
  • must comply with classification standards for construction and maintenance of hull machinery, electrical and control installation.
  • must be fitted with a voyage data recorder.
  • must comply with specific stability requirements.

Passenger Ferries II

The host state must carry out an initial survey in accordance with the provisions of the directive to satisfy itself that the craft complies with the requisite safety requirements.  The survey may be undertaken prior to entry into operation or within 12 months.  Each state is to carry out a further specific survey every 12 months in accordance with the provisions of the directive and subject to the detailed requirements to ensure that every craft fulfils the relevant requirements.

Specific surveys are also required after major repairs, alterations or modifications.  Where craft have been subject to specific survey they are exempted from more rigorous inspection under other directives.

Shortcomings identified in the survey must be rectified and the rectification must be vouched and verified; otherwise, the craft must be prevented from operating.

Whether the state has an interest, it may take part in the investigation of casualties.

There are provisions for collaboration between the host state and the state of the flag regarding exemptions.

There are provisions for the establishment of shore-based navigation guidance systems, communications to be Commission of copies of survey reports and the establishment of operating restrictions.

The Commission is to compile a database based on inspection reports.  Provisions are made for access to the database.  States are to inform other countries which bear either the flag state or hold state responsibilities for  requirements imposed.  The states must provide penalties as required.

Ship Equipment

An EU directive provides safety standards relating to marine equipment on board ships.  International conventions, including the convention for the safety of life at sea, require marine equipment to comply with safety regulations.  The EU directive seeks to enhance safety and prevent marine pollution through the uniform application of the international rules and free movement of marine equipment within the EU.

The directive applies to equipment for use on a new EU ship, regardless of where constructed, equipment based on an existing EU ship at the time of entry. The marine equipment is listed in the directive.  Equipment used must be manufactured in accordance with the international rules.

Standards bodies are responsible for the assessment of conformity with the directive.  Different examination procedures may be used depending on the equipment.

For individual equipment or equipment produced in smaller quantities, EC-type examination module B or EC unit verification module G may be undertaken.  Equipment must bear a conformity mark.


Directive (EU) 2017/2108 amending Directive 2009/45/EC on safety rules and standards for passenger ships

It aims to introduce uniform safety standards for people’s lives and property on passenger ships and high-speed craft, such as hydrofoils, used in domestic voyages in EU waters (i.e. between ports in the same EU country).

While it was originally intended as a codification of Directive 98/18/EC, it was decided instead to recast the 1998 directive. Directive 2009/45/EC thus repeals and replaces Directive 98/18/EC.

In 2017, following a review of the directive under the regulatory fitness and performance programme initiative (known as REFIT), Directive (EU) 2017/2108 was adopted. It amends Directive 2009/45/EC and clarifies and simplifies the rules and standards for passenger ships.


The legislation applies to passenger vessels made of steel or an equivalent material and to high-speed passenger craft.

Passenger vessel classification and areas of operation

Passenger vessels are divided into 4 classes (A, B, C and D) according to the sea areas they may operate in.

EU countries publish the list of sea areas and classes of vessel concerned, including any restricted periods, in a publicly available database.

Technical safety requirements

The legislation sets out detailed technical requirements on safety measures vessels must respect, such as:

fire protection and life-saving.
National authorities may have additional safety requirements if they consider that specific local circumstances merit them.

Inspections and safety certificates

Each passenger vessel registered in an EU country is inspected before it enters into service and at least once a year after that.
All passenger vessels that meet the safety standards are given an annual passenger ship safety certificate.
National authorities must apply penalties that are ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive’ for any breach of the safety standards.


The legislation does not apply to certain types of vessels, such as:

primitive wooden ships;
original or replica historical passenger ships;
yachts with fewer than 12 passengers;
vessels used exclusively in ports.

Amending Directive (EU) 2017/2108

This amending directive:

excludes from the scope of Directive 2009/45/EC
all existing and new passenger craft shorter than 24 metres — which will be subject to nationally defined safety standards (in May 2018, the European Commission presented a proposal to coordinate safety rules for small passenger ships of less than 24 metres in length)
offshore maintenance vessels carrying workers to and from offshore installations and ship-carried tenders used to transfer more than 12 individuals from a passenger ship to the shore and back
pleasure craft, and traditional boats and sailboats if they are equipped with additional mechanical propulsion;
simplifies the definitions of maritime zones C and D;
classifies passenger ships (A, B, C and D) depending on the sea area in which they can operate;
requires ships built in aluminum before 20 December 2017 to comply with its requirements by 22 December 2025. However, if an EU country has more than 60 aluminium-alloy passenger ships flying its flag on20

December 2017 it may exempt aluminium passenger vessels of classes B, C and D from the directive for 12 years after that date, provided that their safety levels are not compromised;
requires all new or existing passenger ships to carry a passenger ship safety certificate.

Directive 2009/45/EC has applied since 15 July 2009. Directive 2009/45/EC revised and replaced Directive 98/18/EC (and its subsequent amendments).

Directive (EU) 2017/2108 entered into force on 20 December 2017 and has to apply in the EU countries by 21 December 2019.


Vessels used for domestic voyages in EU waters must meet basic safety standards to protect the lives of their passengers and crew. These standards have been considerably strengthened since the ferry Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994.

Directive 2009/45/EC is the most extensive EU legislative instrument in the area of passenger vessel safety. It is complemented by specific EU rules for roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) passenger ships and high-speed craft, and the registration of persons on board ships.

For more information, see:

Safety of passenger ships (European Commission).


Directive 2009/45/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 on safety rules and standards for passenger ships (recast) (OJ L 163, 25.6.2009, pp. 1-140)

Successive amendments to Directive 2009/45/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Directive (EU) 2017/2108 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2017 amending Directive 2009/45/EC on safety rules and standards for passenger ships (OJ L 315, 30.11.2017, pp. 40-51)


Proposal for a Council Recommendation on safety goals and functional requirements for passenger ships below 24 meters in length (COM(2018) 314 final, 23.5.2018)

Directive (EU) 2017/2109 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2017 amending Council Directive 98/41/EC on the registration of persons sailing on board passenger ships operating to or from ports of the Member States of the Community and Directive 2010/65/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or departing from ports of the Member States (OJ L 315, 30.11.2017, pp. 52-60)

Directive (EU) 2017/2110 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2017 on a system of inspections for the safe operation of ro-ro passenger ships and high-speed passenger craft in regular service and amending Directive 2009/16/EC and repealing Council Directive 1999/35/EC (OJ L 315, 30.11.2017, pp. 61-77)

Council Directive 98/41/EC of 18 June 1998 on the registration of persons sailing on board passenger ships operating to or from ports of the Member States of the Community (OJ L 188, 2.7.1998, pp. 35-39)

See consolidated version.

Council Directive 98/18/EC of 17 March 1998 on safety rules and standards for passenger ships (OJ L 144, 15.5.1998, pp. 1-115)


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