Any person who uses their boat to carry 12 passengers or less must comply with the Regulations on vessels of less than 24 metres carrying 12 passengers or less. These Regulations set out requirements for the construction and outfitting of the boat and for the master's qualifications.

The company and the master must have a Safety Management System with completed risk assessments. In addition, the company and the master must meet the requirements for safety briefing, manning, equipment, radio communication and life-saving appliances.

“The Regulations were set up to prevent tragic accidents. Any person intending to carry people in a boat must read the Regulations carefully to ensure compliance with the applicable requirements”, says Alf Tore Sørheim, Head of Department of Operative Supervision at the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA).

Applicable to a wide range of activities

The provisions of the Regulations apply to sightseeing, sea rafting, boat taxis, shuttle rides, photo safaris, whale watching, fishing guiding services, etc. The Regulations apply regardless of what the activity is called.

“Unfortunately, there have been incidents where operators have been trying to avoid the regulations by redefining themselves as guides or instructors rather than masters. But the law is clear. The legislation must also be complied with when the hire operator or any person acting on behalf of the hire operator is on board”, adds Sørheim.

The Regulations apply even if the passengers are not charged for the trip, for instance in cases where the accommodation or restaurant offer a ”free ride” or a boat transport included in the price.

Registration with the NMA is required

Any company that provides such services and is responsible for ensuring compliance with the safety requirements of these Regulations, must provide information about their operations to the Norwegian Maritime Authority prior to any transport of passengers. The company will thereby confirm that the requirements of the Regulations have been reviewed and complied with. The registered information is valid for one year and must be renewed provided that the vessel operates under these Regulations.

Supervision by the NMA

We have chosen to increase our supervisory activity in this industry in 2023.

“We will be highly visible in the months to come. We expect the actors to comply with the current requirements and, needless to say, we encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with the requirements that apply. We aim to ensure that the passengers have a pleasant and safe journey”, says Sørheim.

Hiring boats without a crew is subject to other regulations

Anyone who hires a boat without a skipper or crew must comply with the regular legislation on recreational craft. Nevertheless, the hire operator has a significant responsibility to ensure a safe activity.

Hiring boats is a consumer service industry, and the Product Control Act and the Internal Control Regulations set out requirements that the hire operator must provide safe services. The Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB) supervises those who hires a boat without a crew.

An average of 29 lives are lost in recreational craft accidents every year. The last few years, there have been an increasing number of fatalities related to borrowed or hired boats.

“Too often, tourists are observed in rough weather in boats that are not equipped for the conditions. It is essential that those who hire boats are provided with information about how to operate the boat, the limitations of the boat and who should be notified in case of emergency. Notification at an early stage is key”, says Petter A. Søreng, Head of Section for Recreational Craft at the NMA.

In collaboration with DSB and a number of other actors, the NMA has drawn up a checklist that the hire operator of recreational craft should go through together with the hirer. It is important to ensure that hirer understands the information before being allowed to take the boat out. The guidance has been translated into several languages.

We wish you a happy and safe boating season.

More information

Additional information about relevant legislation can be found on our website on vessels carrying 12 passengers or less.