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Understanding the 12-Guest Rule for Yacht Charters

Maritime regulations pose limits on guest numbers

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"Why is there a 12-guest limit on the yacht I want to rent?" is a commonly-asked question among charterers considering booking a crewed yacht vacation for the first time. To help explain why the majority of charter yachts, regardless of size, have a 12-guest limit, we've outlined the reasons and some points to consider before booking a yacht vacation.

12-guest limit on yacht charters explained

In general, the number of guests allowed on board a charter yacht depends on the license it holds to carry passengers for yacht charters. This can be anything from 4 up to a maximum of 12 guests, usually commensurate with the size of the yacht.

If you are looking to entertain extended family, host your huge social circle for the vacation of a lifetime, or a mix of the two, you might be wondering why most charter yachts do not allow a higher number of guests, regardless of their size. Even for seasoned charterers, the limits can still be a point of contention.

This is largely to do with international maritime regulations, as yachts that carry more than 12 guests are legally considered to be passenger ships, which means they have to meet a different set of criteria to cruise at sea under the Passenger Yacht Code (PYC).

event yacht charter pyc compliant vessel
lady s yacht decks
sunrays yacht event

In 2017, the PYC was replaced with the Red Ensign Group (REG) Yacht Code, developed to be more specifically geared towards the superyacht industry.

What is the REG Yacht Code?

This code sets out the technical, safety and operational standards for a yacht, including the number of passengers allowed on board. As a result, the code is made up of two parts;

  • Part A – (updated version of the Large Yacht Code - LY3) applies to yachts 24 meters and over in load line length, in commercial use for sport or pleasure, do not carry cargo and not more than 12 passengers.
  • Part B – (the updated version of the Passenger Yacht Code - PYC) applies to pleasure yachts of any size, in private use or engaged in trade (commercial charter), which carry more than 12 but not more than 36 passengers, and do not carry cargo.  

The REG Yacht Code Part B is a superyacht alternative to full compliance with the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) convention. The latter is a set of rules applicable to most merchant or cruise ships.

What does this mean for yacht charters?

The REG criteria for yachts carrying more than 12 passengers sets out strict rules governing design and construction standards, as well as other important safety measures.

Yachts will usually need to undergo rigorous testing, extensive surveying, hire more crew and may even need to be completely refitted. Unsurprisingly, this can be inconvenient, time-consuming and often prohibitively expensive for the owner.

Consequently, many yacht owners decide to keep the maximum number of guests onboard to 12 (plus crew) for chartering. 

This means, for example, that an 80-meter yacht with 8 staterooms may well have the ability to sleep 16 guests while in private use, but on a commercial charter is only allowed to sleep 12 guests. 

Can I secure a yacht charter for more than 12 guests?

larger yacht charters party onboard
legend-large-charter-yachtelements yacht charter

There is a fairly healthy selection of yachts available for charter that can sleep more than 12 guests on board. That said, if you are interested in securing one for your next yacht charter, it would be wise to inform your broker of your guest numbers as far in advance as possible as demand for these yachts can be high.

Tandem yacht charters

If you do not secure a luxury yacht rental that accommodates all of your party, tandem yacht charters are a popular alternative.

A tandem charter involves two or more vessels being booked together, and can provide a lot more flexibility. For example, guests may decide to split itineraries between yachts for particular activities (one yacht could take a group sport-fishing, the other for a day's pampering) or divide the yachts up between adults and younger ones (with accompanying staff, if applicable).

Need more yacht charter advice?

charters yachts over 12 passengers

For more advice on booking a luxury yacht charter, please speak with your preferred yacht broker. Whether you are looking for assistance on booking a charter suitable for 12 guests or under, or for a vessel that can cater to a much larger party, a broker will be able to carefully curate a vacation entirely to your needs and requirements.

Take a look at our advice guides for more information on chartering a superyacht, covering everything from charter contracts to yacht vacation packing tips.

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