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Maritime safety: marine equipment

The European Union (EU) adopts standards to ensure the safety and quality of marine equipment carried on board ships. These standards will also contribute towards tackling marine pollution and to ensuring the free movement of marine equipment within the internal market.


Council Directive 96/98/EC of 20 December 1996 on marine equipment [See amending acts].


This Directive applies to equipment (Annex A) * for use:

  • on board a new European * ship, even if it was constructed outside of the EU;
  • on an existing European ship in order to replace equipment or to install additional equipment.

This Directive does not concern equipment placed on board a ship before its entry into force.

Conformity assessment

Member States appoint bodies responsible for assessing conformity of marine equipment (Annex B). This assessment aims at:

  • ensuring the quality of equipment before being placed on the market;
  • checking marine equipment when issuing or renewing the safety certificate.

Equipment conforming to European standards must bear a mark.

Where a vessel, which is to be transferred to the register of a Member State is not registered in the EU, that State carries out an inspection in order to establish the actual condition of the equipment and whether it complies with European standards.

Non-compliant equipment

If a piece of equipment may compromise the health and/or safety of the crew or passengers, or to damage the marine environment, the Member State responsible shall withdraw it from the market, prohibit or restrict its use.

Testing standards

Certain types of marine equipment require international testing standards to be adopted. In cases where international organisations do not adopt the standards within a reasonable timescale, the standards of European standardisation organisations may be applied.

Key terms
  • Marine equipment: any article which could be used on board a vessel, voluntarily or in accordance with international rules, and for which the administration of the flag State must give its authorisation. In particular, this relates to life saving, fire protection, navigation and radiocommunication equipment.
  • European vessel: any vessel for which safety certificates are issued by EU Member States or in their name.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 96/98/EC



OJ L 46, 17.2.1997

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 98/85/EC



OJ L 315, 25.11.1998

Directive 2002/84/EC



OJ L 324, 29.11.2002

Directive 2008/67/EC



OJ L 171, 1.7.2008

Regulation (EC) 596/2009



OJ L 188, 18.7.2009

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 96/98/EC have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for information only.


Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on marine equipment and repealing Directive 96/98/EC [COM (2012) 772 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 28.03.2013
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