MCA Coding

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Code of Practice applies to all small (<24m) vessels, carrying less than 12 passengers and used for commercial purposes, operating within British waters or under a British flag. All such vessels are required by law to comply with this Code of Practice, and carry certificates issued by an Authorised Certifying Authority – the MCA appoints various agencies to administer the code on its behalf.

The legislation covers sailing school vessels, whether power or sail, chartered vessels, angling schools and charters, dive vessels, ribs and pilot boats; and covers all aspects of the vessels soundness, stability, suitability, equipment and manning. It is intended to protect all persons involved in the commercial business, both operating and paying for the service.

The codes were grouped for different types of vessels:

  • Blue Code: Small commercial sailing vessels
  • Yellow Code: Small commercial power vessels
  • Brown and Red codes for other requirements

These colour codes are now being amalgamated under one new code, MGN280, applicable to all small vessels.

The full new MGN280 code is available from MCA:

Survey requirement

An out of the water full survey is required initially and is valid for five years. A mid-term examination between the second and third year is also required and occasionally annually.

The equipment to be carried and the requirements vary according to the size of vessel, number of passengers and intended category you intend to code to which have clear limitations as described below:

Category Description of Limitations
6 To sea, within 3 miles of a nominated departure point(s) and never more than 3 miles from land in favourable conditions and daylight
5 To sea, within 20 miles of a nominated departure point(s) in favourable weather and daylight
4 Up to 20 miles from a safe haven, in favourable weather and in daylight
3 Up to 20 miles from a safe haven
2 Up to 60 miles from a safe haven
1 Up to 150 miles from a safe haven
0 (zero) Unrestricted

For Solent and English Channel use, Category 2 is sufficient for most requirements.

To anyone unfamiliar with the code requirements, the forms and procedures may seem a little daunting at first, please do contact us and we will assist.

J97 racing in The Solent