Owners of pleasure boats measuring between 13.7m and 24m no longer need to carry parachute rocket flares, the Coastguard announces

The Coastguard has relaxed its rules on distress signals, with parachute rocket flares no longer included as part of the mandatory equipment for pleasure boats between 13.7m and 24m (Class XII).

The change comes after three years of consultation with the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and British Marine, who were keen to improve the distinction between pleasure boats and merchant shipping vessels.

Stuart Carruthers, cruising manager at the RYA, told MBY: “We’ve got [the Coastguard] moving on the carriage of pyrotechnics.

“We don’t want to ban them, but we want them to be a personal choice. We’re starting to move in the right direction – they’re starting to come round to listening to a sensible part of the debate.”

Under the terms of Merchant Shipping (Fire Protection: Small Craft) Regulations 1998, skippers of Class XII boats are still required to carry at least two red had flares and two orange hand smokes, stored in a water-resistant 3-litre polybottle.

Previously, vessels heading more than three miles offshore we required to carry two red parachute rocket flares as well, but this exemption has now been extended to all Class XII boats as part of the Coastguard’s Marine Guidance Note 538, which was published last week (September 15).

Any pleasure boat measuring less than 13.7m in length is not covered by the regulations, but the RYA still advises that they carry a suitable means of signalling distress, including flares, personal locator beacons and VHF radio.

A full list of mandatory and recommended safety equipment is available on the RYA website.