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Large Commercial Yacht Code (LYC/LY3)

What is the Large Yacht Code?

Passenger vessel in a shipyard harbor.

The Large Commercial Yacht Code (hereafter referred to as ‘The Code’) was developed to enable luxury yachts to operate under an alternative set of requirements given the nature of their use, rather than the unsuited application of conventional Merchant Shipping Regulations.  The Code applies to yachts which are 24 metres and over in load line length, are in commercial use for sport or pleasure, do not carry cargo and do not carry more than 12 passengers. The Code is equivalent to the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) SOLAS, Load Line & STCW conventions and as such, yachts can be issued with international certificates to enable free worldwide trade under the Cayman Islands Flag.


In 1997, the United Kingdom’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) published the first version of ‘The Code Practice for the Safety of Large Commercial Sailing and Motor Vessels’ (LY1), which established a "Code" approach for vessels which were unsuited to the application of conventional Merchant Shipping Regulations.  Since its original publication, LY1 made a significant impression on a maritime sector which previously had difficulty in embracing conventional regulation. LY1 enjoyed both national support and international recognition as a standard, breaking new ground both in its inception and methodology. Under LY1, within five years of  the ‘Code’ coming into force, the text could be revised. This resulted in LY2, which was published in 2005.

As the large yacht industry developed over the intervening years, it became necessary to issue a new code (LY3) in 2012, which included the new requirement that yachts must comply with the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention 2006.  The Code is continuously developed jointly by members of the Red Ensign Group of Administrations which consists of the United Kingdom and its relevant overseas territories and crown dependencies, of which The Cayman Islands is one.

Why Build to the Large Yacht Code?

The Code is an agreed upon set of standards designed specifically for luxury yachts. It provides the same level of safety as that of a vessel complying fully with SOLAS, Load Line & STCW Conventions, but ensures that a yacht owner can get the greatest amount of enjoyment from his vessel. The Code sets out technical, safety and operational standards appropriate to the size and operation of these vessels. The standards within the Code are largely based on the international conventions that apply to commercial vessels and include equivalencies where it is not reasonable or practicable to comply with the conventions and where there is an opportunity to enhance safety. Compliance with the standards required by the Code allows a yacht to be issued with the appropriate cargo ship certificates under relevant international conventions or under national law as the case may be.

Why is it good to be built to LY3? What does it mean for owners?

The creation of the Red Ensign Group’s Large Yacht Code broke new ground and delivered the industry with a framework that has been operating for almost 20 years. It is considered to provide the highest safety and quality levels for yachts designed, constructed and operated under The Code. This high standard is recognised worldwide. The IMO is notified of each edition of The Code through circular letter to ensure free movement of vessels certificate to them (copies of these letters can be found below).

Having a LY3 Yacht gives owners peace of mind that their investment is the best quality product possible and can allow for lower insurance premiums and higher re-sale value. The LY3 protects the welfare of the Crew and provides safer and higher standards for those living and working onboard which helps with the retention and turnover of crew. The benefits are widespread and the owner will know that they are operating the safest vessel possible for their friends and family onboard and protecting the marine environment, by certificating their vessel under the Large Yacht Code.