Small vessels operating commercially under the British Flag or in British waters must comply with the Merchant Shipping Regulations or an MCA Code of Practice.
MCA Codes of Practice apply to all boats under 24 metres in length that are in commercial use, carrying cargo and/or up to 12 passengers. If you have a boat of this size which you intend to use for this purpose, you are legally required to satisfy MCA Coding regulations.

How we can help . . . 

At Boat Certification we are authorised by MECAL and the YDSA to carry out the necessary MCA Code of Practice examinations and stability assessments. We will inspect the vessel initially to discover what is required, and offer you detailed advice on what is needed to comply with regulations. We will then make a second inspection after any necessary work has been carried out, before issuing the certification. In fact, we will help you do all that is required to enable you to start operating your vessel safely and legally.
If your vessel is already coded with either of the above authorities, then we can carry out annual, mid term and renewal inspections.

For more information about MECAL or the YDSA, please see the links page.

So how do you know if you require MCA Coding?

If you're still unsure, these explanations should help you.
If you operate, or intend to operate, your vessel for commercial use, which may include any of the following examples:

  • Privately owned boats, available for hire or charter 
  • Boats operated by charter companies, sailing schools, clubs, associations, universities etc.
  • Boats where there are contributions from paying or private guests, for example angling or diving parties
  • Workboats and pilot boats
  • Boats carrying cargo on a commercial basis, or providing a service where neither cargo nor passengers are carried
  • Passenger or sports boats operating from a Nominated Departure Point

If you intend to carry up to 12 passengers, who are paying you a fee or contribution, you will need MCA Coding. Passengers may be described as anyone on board who is not involved with the running of the vessel. (If more than 12 passengers are carried, irrespective of whether payment is made, the vessel is considered to be a "passenger ship" and a different set of regulations will apply.)

Vessels of all types and construction materials, up to 24 metres in length, are covered by MCA Codes. This includes mono-hulls, multi-hulls, motor and power boats, and sail boats.

What does MCA Coding cover? 

Many aspects are covered by MCA Coding, including construction, operation, stability, safety and manning.

What does MCA Coding do?

The old MCA Codes have recently been superseded by the new Harmonised Code of Practice. Once all the criteria have been satisfied, boats are categorised into areas of allowed operation, ranging from 0 to 6 depending on their size and capabilities. 

What happens after MCA Coding has been carried out?

As the vessel's owner or managing agent you must undertake to maintain the vessel in a sound and seaworthy condition. In the case of most vessels, a programme of self certified annual inspections must be carried out. A nominated surveyor is required for the mid term exam and renewal exam after five years. More rigorous inspections are required for certain vessels, including those carrying cargo and lifting gear. 

We will be happy to advise you on what is required for your particular vessel, and are able to carry out whatever tests and inspections are necessary to satisfy the current regulations.