Superyacht design rules and regulations: Resource finder

It can be difficult to keep up-to-date with the overwhelming amount of rules and regulations that are applicable to new build superyachts...

The way in which safety regulation combines with design innovation within the superyacht industry is vital to both its economic growth and evolution: If regulation is too lax, then the well-being of those on board could be compromised; too tight then it will surely stifle new design innovation. SYOG keeps track of the latest developments in safety rules and regulations, as set by the industry’s naval registries and classification societies.

Lone superyacht anchored in misty bay

Within the superyacht sector, there has always been a well-disputed paradox present in regards to the effect of regulation over design innovation and creativity: Is the balance right, or could the equilibrium be shifted ever so slightly in order to create optimum stability in the interest of yacht designers, naval architects, shipyards and their governing bodies?

This paradox is, of course, present in similar industries, including not least the aerospace and automotive, but these sectors are often regarded as being more innovative than that of marine and maritime industries, begging the question of possible overregulation in the marine and maritime sectors.

Regardless of personal opinion, regulation within the industry is vital to safety on board, meaning it’s here to stay. According to many yacht designers it’s difficult to stay up to date with regulations, as they vary depending on location, size and purpose. SYOG has therefore devised this one-stop resource to assist superyacht owners, designers, naval architects and engineers throughout the design process, encouraging innovation within the realms of regulation.

Latest updates

Below are the most recent safety regulations, as applicable to the superyacht design and build sectors:

1. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has announced that IMO Tier III is set to come into action 1st January 2016 for all those eligible sailing in Emission Control Areas (ECA), in order to regulate NOx emissions. Read the full notification, here.

2. The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Maritime Administrator has introduced a new requirement that all on-load release mechanisms used to launch dedicated rescue boats must comply with paragraph of the Life-Saving Appliances (LSA) Code, and evaluated in accordance with IMO circular MSC.1/Circ.1392. Read the full report, here.

3. The 46 maritime authorities of the Paris and Tokyo MOUs on Port State Control announced that they will be running a joint Concentrated Inspection Campaign (CIC) from 1st September 2015 to 30th November 2015, addressing crew familiarity with enclosed space entry. Read the full release, here.

Design resources

Flag and Port States

Flag and Port States are the governmental authority under which a country exercises regulatory control over the vessels that are registered under its flag. The activities of such organisations involve inspection, certification and insurance of safety and pollution prevention documents in accordance with international conventions and national regulations. A full list of Flag and Port States and their current legislation can be found via ChartCo.

Large superyacht moored alongside in marina

Classification societies

For a vessel to be ‘classed’, it must be designed, constructed, tested, operated and maintained in accordance with the rules and regulations of the applicable Classification Societies. In accordance with more recent versions of SOLAS and the Large Yacht Code, compliance with the rules and regulations of a recognised classification society is mandatory.

There are over 100 classification societies in the world today, with the ABS, DNV and LR leading the sector, classing approximately 90% of world shipping.

American Bureau of Shipping (ABS)

Access the latest ABS rules and guides, here.

Det Norske Vertitas (DNV GL)

Access the latest DNV rules and guides, here.

Lloyd’s Register (LR)

Access the latest Lloyd’s Register standards, schemes, codes and directives, or obtain a user license to the LR Rulefinder software, here.Royal Institute of Naval Architects (RINA)

The latest class documents and resources from RINA can be found, here.

International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO)

The ISO international standards catalogue for the marine industry can be accessed, here. View the latest updates, here.

International codes and conventions

The following codes and conventions apply to charter yachts of all Flag States unless otherwise stated, and are generally valid for five years, requiring re-validation every year by means of a periodic survey by a Flag State inspector or authorised Class Surveyor.

Lone superyacht moored alongside in marina

International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

IMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN), founded in 1959 to develop and maintain regulatory framework for the shipping industry regarding safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and shipping efficiency. Within yachting, IMO is best known as the body that maintains and updates its main conventions: SOLAS, Load Lines, MARPOL, STCW and COLREGs:


Applicable to all yachts, the Convention on the International regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGs), can be viewed, here.

Load Lines

For charter yachts in excess of 24-metres LOA, the latest International Conventions on Load Lines, 1966, can be viewed,here.


Applicable to all yachts over 400GT, or those carrying over 15 persons on board, the latest standards of the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78) can be viewed, here


With chapters applicable to all yachts over 500GT, the latest standards of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, can be accessed, here.


Updates to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) can be found,here.

Large Commercial Yacht Codes (UK MCA, Marshall Islands, Malta, France, Italy)

Containing equivalents to the SOLAS, Load Lines and STCW conventions, the latest in Large Commercial Yacht Codes (LY3), applicable to charter yachts in excess of 24-metres LOA, can be accessed, here.


The various regulatory documents affecting superyacht design, construction and operation can also be accessed via various industry associations, plus they can often represent the views and interests of those working within the sector.

International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA)

ICOMIA is the international trade association for the global marine industry. View legislative news or join ICOMIA, here.

Royal Yachting Association (RYA

A national body for all forms of power and sail boating. View regulatory documents or join the RYA, here.

Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss)

SYBAss represents large yacht builders and shipyards to ensure that their views and interests are given the necessary attention to account for the specific nature and challenges of the yachting industry. Join SYBAss, here.

Superyacht compliance

A full list of the rules and regulations applicable to yachts over 24 metres in length that are engaged on international voyages can be found via Mantra Marine, here.