Private Yacht – Passenger Yacht Code Compliance

The introduction of the Passenger Yacht Code (PYC) by the Red Ensign Group (REG) was a great step forward for the industry: finally removing the 12 passenger limit; aligning the safety and survivability of the yacht with passenger ship regulations; and allowing owners to maximise the potential of their investment.  Today there are a number of of yachts operating successfully under this Code, or SOLAS – very similar in an operational sense and the only option prior to PYC – as evidence of its success.

Following on from various presentations and discussions at GSF 2015 I would like to opinion that whilst the advantages of the Passenger Yacht Code (PYC) are clear for pleasure yachts ‘engaged in trade’ (Charter) the story for pleasure yachts ‘not engaged in trade’ (Private) is perhaps less clear.

The Code:

  • PYC states it applies to ‘pleasure yachts engaged on an international voyage’ and, goes on to a define a ‘pleasure yacht’ as ‘one that engages in trade and one that does not engage in trade’e. applicable to both Charter and Private yachts.
  • But the United Kingdom Government statement to the IMO in Circular Letter No. 3171 pertaining to the PYC and equivalence, states ‘It also provides a standard for pleasure yachts not engaged in trade, but noting these yachts are not subject to the convention but the Code may be voluntarily applied by operators or administrations to demonstrate an appropriate level of safety for their vessels’.


The application of the Code therefore seems a little ambiguous and also appears to call into question the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) long standing position that any vessel carrying more than 12 PAX is a ‘passenger ship’ and would need to comply with SOLAS passenger ship regulations, or the equivalent i.e. PYC.

As the letter states, an Administration, in this case a Red Ensign Group (REG) member, may apply the Code to Private yachts, so the level of compliance will be determined by the REG – in reality no different to the application of LY3 to Private yachts.  We already have a precedent for this with Equanimity; a Cayman Island flagged yacht that chose to opt out of PYC for various reasons including manning ( see article: –  Equanimity – Superyacht News  ).

Clearly, once a PYC yacht is built, surveyed and delivered, there is a choice an owner can make if they intend to use it privately. They could opt out the Code, and, with the agreement of an Administration, choose to voluntarily operate as an LY3 ( less restrictive operational and manning requirements ) or simply comply with the parts of either LY3 or PYC necessary for the 12 PAX exemption for Private yachts currently being granted.  However for this to be possible there are questions that need to be answered, including: –

  • Can a Private yacht built to PYC 13 – 36 opt out of operational compliance;
  • would such yacht have to follow the PYC survey regime;
  • on what basis would an exemption to carry more than 12 PAX be issued and what would be the restrictions;
  • safe manning would be one of the criteria for an an exemption so would PYC or LY3 (or MSN 1767 if LY3 over 3000gt) safe manning levels be applied;
  • will there be other operational requirements as per PYC such as, but not limited to:  drill frequency, departure stability calculations, decision support system, training in crowd and crisis management and human behaviour, etc.;
  • does 120 max POB limit still apply if not PYC compliant;
  • would such a yacht still be able to benefit from the MLC passenger ship crew accommodation rules;
  • does a management company operating such a vessel require a passenger ship DOC.


I think owners and their project teams need to have clear guidance on this right from the outset as many decisions will be made on the basis of Code compliance, not least the manning levels.  And, although I am sure there will always be negotiations with Administrations on a case by case basis, it will be important that as an industry we can see consistency in the application of the rules.

As an example: I have heard of negotiations relating to the use of yacht qualifications on 100m+ yachts; with one rumour that an Administration has agreed that a 5000t yacht can be commanded by captains with Master Yachts <3000gt.  No doubt this yacht will be capable of carrying more than 12 PAX, so if true, under what basis has this been approved – there may be other owners and crew who might like to take advantage of this.

Although there may be questions about compliance and operational issues post delivery,  I do not think there are any real alternatives to PYC for the design, construction and certification of yachts wanting to carry 13 – 36 PAX irrespective of Charter or Private – except SOLAS for Administrations without an equivalent Code – for reasons including the very real value of higher standards of safety and survivability that the Code bestows on a yacht and the following :

  • An owner may later decide that he wants to charter;
  • non compliance would have an impact on marketability and future resale value;
  • the current flexibility over the carriage of more 12 PAX may eventually be phased out voluntarily, or by the imposition of future regulation – possibly as a result of a maritime casualty.


In all the above situations the costs and practicalities of reverting back to full compliance would be minimal if built to PYC and almost certainly impossible if not.

As I stated at the outset, I believe the Code has been a great step forward for the industry, and the REG should be applauded for their work on this.  However, there should be no ambiguity in it’s application; if Private yachts can opt out it should be clearly stated, along with the rules governing the carriage of more than 12 PAX as a Private yacht.  Within the industry we have had too many examples, whether by Flag Administrations or Class, where we have seen rules and regulations applied dependent on the surveyor on the day, only for the ruling to be disputed by another surveyor on another date – this will always be the case if rules are poorly applied and open to interpretation – let us hope this will not be the case with PYC.

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