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July 25th 2018. By Alex Smith.

The Yacht Designers & Surveyors Association

Ever wondered what the YDSA is and what it could do for you? Alex Smith explains.

In spite of Britain’s largely non-regulatory stance on the management and personal responsibility of recreational boaters, the UK is one of the safest places in the World to go boating – and part of that comes down to the accessibility, the expertise and the maintenance of standards provided by respected industry bodies like the Yacht Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA).

What is the YDSA?

Alongside the Association of Brokers and Yacht Agents (ABYA), the YDSA is one of two bodies that makes up the Yacht Brokers, Designers and Surveyors’ Association (YBDSA) – the only professional UK-based association for yacht brokers, designers and surveyors. Since its foundation in 1912 as a promoter and guardian of professional standards in marine design and surveying, the YDSA has developed a worldwide network of independent specialists, achieving widespread renown for its technical authority, professional integrity and marine expertise.
Notwithstanding the exemption of ships and cargo vessels, the association’s core aim is to provide the highest standard of service in surveying and designing for both commercial and recreational craft of all sizes. Their approach revolves around members who are suitably qualified and experienced but it also involves the provision of ongoing training and support. It operates a strict Code of Practice for its members, providing professional guidance on business protocols and operation and ensuring that all YDSA members hold Professional Indemnity and Public Liability insurance. It also operates a Code of Ethics, an insurance scheme and a range of training events to promote the professional development of its members.
There are three grades of membership – Affiliate, Accredited and Full. Affiliate Members are entry-level grade; Accredited Members will have passed the in-house exam and submitted three full condition surveys; and Full Members are senior Association professionals with extensive industry experience. Whether you need a surveyor or a designer, you can find a YDSA member in your area, who specialises in the kind of work you need, by means of a simple search on the YDSA website. And while its range of modern marine services is extremely broad, the core areas of expertise, as far as the UK recreational boater is concerned, are as follows…

Survey - equipment chaek

Since its foundation, the YDSA has developed a worldwide network of independent specialists, achieving widespread renown for its technical authority, professional integrity and marine expertise.


If you want to charter your boat or use it commercially, you have to comply with the relevant Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA’s) code of practice. The YDSA is the largest authorised certifying authority for UK-owned small commercial vessels in need of such certification, with its administrative authority extending to other Red Ensign regions, such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey and Jersey. Coding covers everything from boats offering fishing trips or public pleasure rides to oil rig transfer boats, charter vessels and police craft. You can use one of the YDSA’s Coding Surveyors to carry out an initial Compliance Examination, to organise the appropriate paperwork and to begin a five-year cycle that will be subject to annual renewals and (depending on the specific code of practice) additional compliance surveys.


There are plenty of tangible benefits to registering your boat. In addition to illustrating your boat’s nationality, it simplifies your ease of passage through foreign ports by means of internationally recognised documentation. It also enables you to use your boat as security against a marine loan and when the time comes to sell your boat, it can be used as evidence that you actually own it, as well as evidence of your boat’s date of build.
In order to register your boat in the UK on Part 1 of the Ship’s Register, one of the required documents is a Certificate of Survey for Tonnage and Measurement. The YDSA is an approved certifying agency for exactly that. Of course, Part 1 Registration does require renewal on a five-yearly basis, but once the Survey for Tonnage and Measurement has been done there is no need for another, unless substantial changes (for instance, a new engine) are being made to your boat. For more on the UK Ship Register, see https://www.gov.uk/register-a-boat/the-uk-ship-register.

Design services

As experienced naval architects and chartered engineers, YDSA Designer Members are able to liaise with builders or shipyards in the execution of all kinds of work, from small fit-out and refit projects to complete new builds. They understand building materials, construction, modification and repair for a wide range of boat forms and have the industry experience to offer advice on the right products for your boat’s fit-out and likely application. They can also create bespoke designs, prepare contract, specification and tender documents, inspect work in progress, attend sea trials and provide analysis on a wide variety of issues from for structural integrity to propeller matching. In addition to assisting with regulatory compliance, they can also advise on technical problems and act as expert witnesses in design-related disputes.

Sea trial

YDSA Designer Members are able to liaise with builders or shipyards in the execution of all kinds of work, from small fit-out and refit projects to complete new builds.

Inland waterways services

The YDSA’s Inland Waterways Group liaises with other waterways organisations to keep members abreast of ever-changing rules and regulations, including those relating to the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS). Established in 1997, the BSS is designed to promote safety on the inland waterways. Compliance with the criteria of the BSS is required in order to secure a navigation licence and an insurance policy for inland boats on most parts of the network. While many YDSA member surveyors are also approved BSS inspectors, all YDSA members working in the inland sector are able to assist with full condition surveys, repairs and re-fit, as well as surveys for purchase or insurance purposes; and advice when buying or selling your boat or preparing it for coding or charter.

Courses and events

You don’t necessarily have to be a member of the YDSA to take advantage of its calendar of marine courses. As you might expect, the purpose of these courses is generally to assist surveyors and designers in their professional development, but for the boater who wants to hone and develop his theoretical knowledge and practical expertise, some of the YDSA’s courses remain extremely attractive. For the latest list of training options, visit https://ydsa.co.uk/courses-and-events/

Alex Smith is an ex-Naval officer, with extensive experience as a marine journalist, boat tester and magazine editor. Having raced as a Pilot in the National Thundercat Series and as a Navigator in the inaugural Red Sea RIB Rally, he has now settled in the West Country, where he lives and works as a specialist marine writer and photographer from his narrowboat in Bath.