Why are only a maximum of 12 people allowed on most boats?

The reason lays in regulation. Once a vessel carries more than 12 passengers, even if it is being used as a private yacht, it is considered to be a passenger ship and has to comply with the SOLAS convention (Safety of Life at Sea) set out by the IMO (International Maritime Organization).

The SOLAS convention involves adhering to a comprehensive list of stringent safety restrictions that are very expensive to implement and this is consequently reflected in the chartering cost increase between boats licensed for up to 12 passengers and boats licensed for more than 12 passengers. As most yachts are rarely requested to carry more than 12 passengers the additional cost does not make economical sense both for the boat owner and the charterer who would have to pay the extra cost regardless of their party’s number.

But do not worry, this does not mean that boats with licenses for carrying up to 12 passengers are not safe. They also have to adhere to a certain set of standards set down by the local authority or the code of charter practice to achieve their license. If in doubt it is always worth asking to see a boat’s license to charter to ensure the boat is covered by insurance in case of an accident. Most importantly, enjoy yourself, but sensibly!

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