How to code your vessel

Vessel coding is required on boats under 24 metres that are intended for commercial use

Vessel coding is required on boats under 24 metres that are intended for commercial use

Small commercial vessels under 24 meters load line length operating under the UK flag and in UK waters must comply with the merchant shipping regulations, or a Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) Code of Practice.

The International Institute of Marine Surveying is a leading UK Certifying Authority in the UK, authorised by the MCA (a UK Government department) by contract and provides vessel coding services. Through its network of approved coding surveyors around the UK, Europe and further afield, you can arrange to have your vessel coded for commercial use.

The small craft codes apply to:
– small motor vessels
– small sailing vessels
– small workboats and pilot boats
– small commercial vessels used for sport/pleasure

Click to view the various small craft codes currently in force.

It remains an extraordinary fact that anyone can buy and use a boat without experience or knowledge. However that changes as soon as paying passengers, or paid crew come onboard and for safety reasons legislation applies and vessel coding becomes a statutory requirment.

Those who are experienced commercial vessel operators know the lay and understand what is involved. Just like renewing their insurance annually for example, they make sure the same is done with their coding licence.

But for someone new to commercial operations, it is important to understand what is needed and to engage an approved vessel coding surveyor to help you complete the paperwork ensuring it meets the required regulations.

Put simply what is coding?
There are seven MCA categories, each of which limits how far a vessel may proceed to sea from shore or safe haven. To become coded, the boat must have a full survey to establish hundreds of parameters against MGN280, (the MCA’s bible), some of which are structural. The vessel owner is required to complete an SCV1 declaration form and then the appointed surveyor will complete and file a detailed SCV2 form for checking before a licence is issued. It is your responsibility to contract with and pay your chosen surveyor directly.

What happens if you do not code your vessel?
Ignorance in the matter is no defence. Not having a commercial vessel coded is illegal and demonstrates a lack of responsibility to the vessel and the safety of those onboard it. Some operators choose to sail illegally rather than make the investment to ensure the vessel complies with the rules. The penalties for non compliance can be harsh. You potentially leave yourself open to prosecution and a possible prison sentence.

What about other flag states?
Additionally, IIMS is approved to provide vessel coding for craft registered in the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Jersey.

Read our Coding Checklist page for yet more information.

If you have further questions about vessel coding, we would be delighted to help. Please email David Parsons.