Commercial Charter and Cruise Guidelines

Date published: 21 May 2021

Guidelines for Commercial Boat Operators Dated 21st May 2021

Commercial operators of charter and cruise vessels up to a maximum of 12 passengers

Working on behalf of it’s members and the wider marine tourism industry in Scotland, Sail Scotland continues to be encouraged by the positive progress being made in vaccinations and the continued easing of restrictions.  The following was agreed with the Scottish Government on 17th May 2021 and published on the Scottish Government website under the FAQs section Here and reads:

Overnight boating and small cruising Valid 21st May 2021

Overnight boating or cruising can take place for boats or ships that carry up to 12 passengers from multiple households from Level 2 of the Strategic Framework.

For catered boats, the Tourism and Hospitality guidance should be applied from the point of embarkation throughout the voyage and while disembarking. This would mean that 1m physical distancing can be applied in hospitality settings provided appropriate mitigations are in place as outlined in hospitality section of this guidance eg seating only in households or extended households, with at least 1m between tables.   Out with hospitality settings, 2m physical distancing remains the default for example while embarking/disembarking and in public spaces.  

*In addition, any accommodation, regardless of format, that is used to for overnight accommodation on an unmanaged self-catering basis such a bare boat charter, is treated as a private dwelling, for the purpose of these regulations, and therefore covered by the in-house socialising rulesGiven the transmission risks associated with different households, cabins should only be occupied by one household or extended household.  This is the position in levels 0-3 (closed in 4).  Yacht Charter businesses etc. should be particularly mindful of the need for there to be sufficient space with the accommodation to allow for in-house socialising.

In both cases, businesses will be required to undertake a full risk assessment and ensure appropriate mitigations are in place. In order to be compliant, businesses may wish to give consideration to rotating meal times, one way systems etc. For suggestions on practical solutions please see the industry guidance on the SailScotland website.

Overnight boats are not permitted to operate in any Level 3 or 4 area. 

Children under the age of 12 from these households do not count towards the total number of people permitted to meet.


Voyages should comply with guidance in force for the mode of operation, thus supporting the validity of the operator’s risk assessment and procedures be it under:

  1. Under this Guidance
  2. Under Hospitality Guidance. hospitality guidance
  3. Group guidance as applicable for training, sports teams or commercial crew; RYAS guidance Here

Leisure, training, competition & events, organised outdoor activity (non-contact) sailing in Scotland.  

  • Refer to Royal Yachting Association Return to Boating Guidance Here
  • Transit through Scottish Canals. Refer to Scottish Canals guidance Here

*For clarity a bareboat charter is deemed to be the same as a private dwelling and unmanaged self-catering property allowing, as of 21st May, 6 persons from 3 households to undertake overnighting charters as long as there are separate cabins for each household and appropriate in-house socialising rules are applied that minimise the risk of spreading the virus. Eg Visitors should, where practicable, use shared rooms one at a time with cleaning and ventilation in between (e.g. preparing and eating a meal). Where communal toilets are being used providers should implement measures to decrease the risk of contamination, including enhanced cleaning, and consider reducing access to a one in, one out basis. Cleaning materials should be provided for users to ‘clean as they go’.

Sail Scotland will update this document as and when further announcements are made by the Scottish Government.


Sail Scotland