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Spring 2007

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



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If there is an aspect of maritime law which enjoys absolute internationality it is certainly the subject of contractual agreements. Using this very broad term, we mean practically most of the contracts in use on the international yachting scene. Now recently - and for this reason we must insert a brief preamble - much work has been and is being done at world level in the wake of the process of yachting standards internationalisation, with view to putting vessels on the global market that are increasingly uniform with regard to building criteria. It is no accident that it has been decided at international level to proceed farther on the standards front, as happened for vessels up to 24 metres with the well-known directive 94/25, setting up CE Marking. In a word, the importance of creating a "strong marking" of western yacht production has been realised, including vessels over 24 metres. It is therefore very important to examine the work of the ISO/TC8 Planetary Meeting, which the Italian Register of Shipping (RINA) attended, where activation of a new ISO subcommittee to develop technical Standards for "Large Yachts" was definitively ratified. It should be remembered that a series of activity areas had already been identified which would be assigned to the relevant work groups. It is therefore worthwhile recalling that the main areas of work were as follows: Design Criteria - Structural Watertight Integrity - Deck Equipment - Systems - Quality Production Control - Safety and Security.

But it is symptomatic that these matters were also discussed at the recent Standards Harmonisation Meeting held during the METS in Amsterdam last November. In effect it was realised that the theme of ABYC and ISO standards harmonisation deserved to be tackled in greater depth and resolved, this in the light of the increasingly international dimensions assumed by the pleasure craft market. But also on the basis of the exponential growth of yacht production in the east, notably China. Consequently the need to harmonise ABYC standards (American Boat & Yacht Council) for products placed on the USA market with those of the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) for the EU market is something that can no longer be postponed. Of course ICOMIA, through its associates, has also realised all this and believes that it is of fundamental importance to create internationally recognised standards. What this will change in terms of international contracts is certainly worth going into, though it cannot be entirely dealt with in the space available here. We may however add that technical congresses have recently been held on the subject, in consideration of the delicacy of the material. If the objective is to arrive at a marking that certifies quality in guarantee of determined building requirements - and therefore of reliability and safety - then there is an implicit necessity to identify the legal effects which construction and sale of these vessels will involve for the purchasers, companies or private individuals. Similarly, it is highly probable that for large size vessels, of which a fair percentage are owned by companies and used for charter, new regulations will be introduced in agreement with the most authoritative registers, with view of course to safeguarding these new "strong" western markings. It is therefore permissible to envisage the effects that such a process of uniformity will bring to the standard forms of international maritime contracts (BIMCO forms). And it is well-known, in fact, that in recent years we have seen the main standard forms of international maritime contracts suitably adapted to the world of yachts.

Wèll be returning to the subject in the next number of Superyacht. In particular wèll analyse the new influences that this evolution in standards might have, especially on yacht building and sales-purchase contracts. A subject which will be of great interest to shipyards and brokers, but also to prospective owners.