Despite the fact that the 'Permanent International Association of Congresses of Navigation' (the former name for PIANC, see Wikipedia for some historical information) was born in 1885, the matter of recreational navigation infrastructure was included in the Association attention in more recent decades.

Actually recreational navigation is ancient as mankind. Historical traces exist about pure recreational navigation activities dated more than four thousands of years ago in Egypt and China.

Westcar papyrus, Hyksos period (18th to 16th century BC)

‘Story of the green jewel’, king Sneferu (c. 2613-2589) enjoys his pleasure boat trips

Making rituals, exploring, fishing, trading, travelling by boats, both in seas and internal waters, in ancient time were somehow intimately connected with some recreational aspects of the life. This kind of ancestral relationship between mankind and navigation for curiosity and leisure remains until now, and recreational navigation today is the most pure expression of it.

As it is normal, from when boats for leisure exist, the same was for idoneous places and facilities for sheltering and mooring these.

In 1928, the word "marina" (latin female term for "of the sea") was used for the first time in the U. S. by the 'National Association of Engine and Boat Manufactures' to define a recreational boating facility. Ever since then, marinas have been an integral part of the worldwide boating community. And at the same time, marinas have an increased reponsibility to maintain sustainable, safe and pleasant facilities for the boating public.

Hundreds of millions around the world, growing more and more, are nowadays familiar with boating for tradition, sport and recreational time. Tens of thousands of waterfront communities around the world depend upon local marinas to serve as safe, family-friendly gateways to the boating experience.


How the PIANC Recreational Navigation Commission was born

In the sixties, prosperity in the industrialised world grew rapidly. As a result people had more leisure time and had more money to spend. Buying one's own boat was no longer an unattainable desire. The number of pleasure boats increased and so did the technical problems related to sport and pleasure navigation. PIANC became aware of the situation when deliberating the subjects for the 21st Congress in 1965. Recreational navigation was one of the subjects, and fourteen papers were sub-mitted.

One of the conclusions of the Congress was the recommendation to set up a working party on this subject. One year later (1966), the International Commission for Sport and Recreation Navigation, chaired by Mr. J. Verhey was established. When Mr. Verhey unfortunately died in 1967, the chair was taken over by Mr. J. Couteaud. At the first meeting, attended by fifteen countries, a general work programme was discussed. From a long list of possible items, eleven subjects for study were selected and subsequently Working Groups were established and work commenced on the following:

· Telecommunications and radio-guiding
· Prepatation of a card index
· Economy of yacht harbours
· Advantages and disadvantages of the presence in a port of both fishing and pleasure craft
· Nuisances caused by pleasure craft
· Compulsory insurance
· International certificates
· Saferv regulations
· Sailing and signaling regulations
· New principles for dike construction
· Reinforced concrete landing-stages from prefabricated elements

Every year, Mr. Couteaud reported the progress to the Permanent International Commission like the other Study Commissions. The study on sailing and signaling regulations was undertaken as a result of a request made by the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) of the United Nations. In 1970, a first document was send to the ECE to be inserted the European Code for Inland Navigable Water-ways (CEVNI). 

Between 1972 and 1982 several approaches were considered in PIANC for re-organizing the already existing 'International Commission for Sport and Pleasure Navigation'.

In the October 1972 meeting of the Expanded Executive Committee, the Dutch delegation proposed 'to suspend this Commission in its present form'. The main reasons given were the lack of progresses and too much emphasis on Mediterranean countries.

As a result the PIC (Permanent International Commission of Navigation, the fore-runner of the present day Annual General Assembly)  decided in 1973 to restructure the Commission. Mr J. Couteaud remained Chairman. Two years late the Chairman had to admit again that no reports had been produced, apart from the document concerning signaling and several progress reports published in the Bullettin. The PIC decided to redraft the Terms of Reference, wich came into use in November 1977.

Obviously this intervention helped, because between 1979 and 1981 the Commission published reports on standards for yacht harbours, dry berthing of pleasure boats, and the design of breakwaters for yacht harbours. The report on standards on the construction, equipment and operation of yacht harbours and marinas, published in 1979, was paricularly successful. It even became part of italian legislation on marina design.

The Commission concluded its assigned program in 1981 by publishing the last of its four reports.

However the rapid growth of the recreational sector posed new problems and there were noumerous matters to be studied. It was generally accepted that the subject should not be discarded by PIANC.

The two Permanent Tecnical Committees Chairmen (PTC I on Inland Waterways and Ports, PTC II on Maritime Ports and Seaways) were in favour of a working group on pleasure navigation, but the Executive Committee suggested after lenghty internal discussions the formation of a Sub Committee for Sport and Pleasure Navigation under the sponsorship of both the PCTs.

Finally in 1982 the joint SubCommittee for Advice on Sport and Pleasure Navigation (SPN) was estabilished, with Mr P. Hofmann Frisch as its first Chairman.

From 2000 PIANC saw an important general modernization. The management team elected in May 1999 in Ghent (Mr Eric Van den Eede, President, and Mr Louis Van Schel, Secretary General), started with the ambition to improve the position and image of PIANC in the technical world. For this purpose a new housestyle had to be developed, a Strategic Plan had to be drafted and the Statute and Rules & Regulations had to be revised. Moreover familiar commission names were changed at the first PIC meeting in the new century. Between the others, SPN become definitely the Recreational Navigation Commission.   


The 'Jack Nichol Award'

In 2001 Mr Jack Nichol, a long time and active member of the RecCom and well known marina designer, unexepctedly died. The United States Section of PIANC in conjuncytion with 'Moffatt and Nichol Engineers' proposed to estabilish an award in his memory. The purpose of the award is to recognise excellence in the design of recreational boating facilities around the world under specific criteria.

During the cerimony on 26 February 2003 the first winner that received the Award was 'Cabrillo Marina' in Los Angeles, USA

In 2012 the Award concept and rules were redraft with the aim of widening the audience, being still now the only award of this kind at an international level.


The Marina Design Training Program

With the growing of general feeling towards sustainability, needing of combine environmental, economic and social aspect for succesful projects, caused the exigence more and more important of skilled experts in planning and design marina and waterfronts developments.

For this reason after the preparatory discussions in PIANC, the RecCom started in 2012 the 'Marina Designer Training Program', with the scope to help sharing of state of the art knowledge in such a multidisciplinary professional activity. This should help in minimizing or avoiding substandard or unexpected effects for the final users, owed to professional activities done from not fully experienced and educated designers.




From the left: Mr. Leopoldo Franco, Mr Elio Ciralli, Mr Eric Van de Eede, Mr Andrea Ferrante, Mr Louis van Schel

- exibition of "the beatles" (a joke) during the PIANC World Congress MMX Gala Dinner in Liverpool, 2010 -


Past Chairmen of the PIANC SPN / Recreational Navigation Commission (RecCom)

1982 - 1994 Mr P. Hofmann Frisch, Germany  





1994 - 2005





Mr Caes Van der Wildt, The Nederlands






2005 - 2009





Mr Marcello Conti, Italy






2009 - .......





Mr Elio Ciralli, Italy