Japan Craft Inspection Organization (JCI) Rules Simplified

The following is my attempt to explain simply the JCI rules as related to me by the staff in the head office in Tokyo. These rules are quite complex, so if you have any specific questions about your vessel or area please contact me and I’ll try to explain in detail. I’ve tailored this explanation to the type and size of sailing vessel usually operated by those sailing pleasure craft in Japan.

In Japan you need to have not only a vessel operator’s license (2 kyu 5 nm limit or 1 kyu unlimited range), you also need to have your vessel registered and pass regular inspections. Vessels can be registered according to the following 6 classes:

Class 1: Smooth water. Think lakes and protected ocean bays

Class 2: Coasting area. 5 nm range from coast.

Class 3: Limited coasting area. 12 nm range RADIUS from home port. Example for Tokyo area: http://www.jci.go.jp/areamap/pdf/049901099.pdf. Example for Mie area: http://www.jci.go.jp/areamap/pdf/049903099.pdf. Note that you need to register your home port, and apply for a transfer of area if moving to another area.

Class 4: Limited major coasting area. 20 nm from the coast of Japan, and some outlying islands. The red line around Japan on this map: http://www.jci.go.jp/areamap/pdf_etc/enkai_a2.pdf. You could circumnaviate Japan with this registration, including Okinawa, excluding the very southernmost island group.

Class 5: Major coasting area. The area
bounded on the east by the meridian of 175゜E, on the south by the parallel of lat. 11゜
S, on the west by the meridian of 94゜E, and the north by the parallel of lat.63゜N. The area indicated on this map: http://www.jci.go.jp/areamap/pdf_etc/kinkai_enyou.pdf. Basically Sakhlalin to the northern tip of Australia.

Class 6: Ocean going. The world unlimited.

For full details on the Ship Safety Law refer to this PDF: http://www.jci.go.jp/english/pdf/en_regulations.pdf (heavy reading, and largely non-applicable to sail craft).

*Note: when purchasing a vessel in one area and moving it to a new home port, you need to apply for a transfer permit to traverse to the new area. This permit is good for 30 days.

Safety equipment

Each class also has required safety equipment. The requirements build on each other, so you keep the previous class requirements and add more equipment as you go up. Note that all equipment must be “Sakura mark” stamped and approved by the JCI. This usually means that it’s made in Japan and is quite expensive.

Class 1, 2, and 3


Lifejackets (per passenger/crew member), radar reflector, fabric bailing bucket/fire bucket, life ring, anchor and chain/rode:

Your vessel must also be equipped with a fire extinguisher, working navigation lights, a horn (handheld air horn is fine) or whistle, compass, and charts/GPS navigation system.

Class 4

Class 4 is where the real fun begins, you could circumnavigate pretty much all of Japan (and Korea) with this one, so the requirements are stricter. On top of the Class 1-3 requirements, you also need the following. Note that it is possible to “split” your registration so that you can be approved for say 8 people for Class 1-3, and reduce that to 4 people for the Class 4 up.

Liferaft. Must be rated to float all crew members aboard. However, it does not have to be enclosed. It can be one of these chunks of foam, which as I pointed out to the JCI staff only gives you something to hang onto while the sharks eat your legs:

You can also use one of these compact capsule rafts to save space:

Class 4 also requires 2 fire extinguishers, a high-powered handheld spotlight, EPIRB, radar transponder (SART), and wireless radio (international VHF 25 watts, SSB). AIS strangely not required. Note that radio licenses are required in Japan.

*Exception: Vessels under 12 m do not require EPIRB, radar transponder, and wireless radio.

Also a self-igniting light:

Class 5 & 6

Adds the need for a proper, enclosed liferaft and radio. If over 12m EPIRB and radar transponder.

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