MCA targets uncoded race yachts

It doesn’t matter if commercial yacht owners don’t want to hear this message and fail to get their yacht coded, enforcement action will be taken, says the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) following the conclusion of legal proceedings against two vessels.

MCA has warned that action will be taken against uncoded commercially operated sailing yachts engaged in racing while agreeing to discontinue prosecution against the owners of two yachts, under the condition both enter into a written agreement to ensure their vessels are coded when engaged in any commercial activity.

The outcome reaffirms the agency’s committed position to ensuring all vessels hold the correct documentation.

‘Small, commercially operated yachts must hold a valid code certificate when being used for any commercial purposes, including racing and training, while vessels must also only operate within the category of water for which they have been authorised,’ says the MCA’s statement. A failure to comply will result in enforcement action with the MCA committed to maintaining the rigorous standards of the UK Flag.

Despite initiatives to address concerns raised in 2019, such as publication of the information leaflet ‘Are you in code mode?’ and officers attending Gran Canaria for the start of the ARC, investigations began into several yachts.

The regulatory compliance investigation team found a number of breaches, resulting in the owners receiving official cautions, paying several thousands of pounds in intervention costs to the MCA, and ensuring their vessels were coded for future commercial use. Other yachts were sold or removed from the UK flag and no longer entitled to be UK registered.

“A misinterpretation of the code concerning yachts engaged in racing had developed. The MCA want to send a clear message and dispel this misinterpretation,” says Mark Flavell, the MCA’s lead investigator.

“Commercially operated vessels, including those engaged in racing, must be coded. This is to ensure commercial vessels are subject of an independent survey and inspection regime. The aim being, as with any scrutiny of commercial operations, is to keep employees and public safe.

“We will not hesitate to take enforcement action against yacht owners who don’t want to hear this message and fail to get their yacht coded.”

This article was edited (3Feb21) to remove the name of the yachts which MCA is no longer pursuing.

3 responses to “MCA targets uncoded race yachts”

  1. Jonathan Leach says:

    The key word in this item is “commercial”. It has always been the case that you can race as a private yacht, providing you comply with the race committee rules and safety requirements, and this has in the past been applied to commercially registered yachts as well. Race yachts that operate coastally, by their very nature, cannot easily comply with commercial coding requirements. It is quite easy to change flags to reduce problems. We flagged two Russian race yachts with a polynesian flag, but this was to reduce the paperwork hassle when crossing borders.

  2. Lindsay Gatward says:

    MCA is a growing beaurocracy and the only way such entities can measure their performance is by how big they can get which leads to trying to stretch the envelope to control more and more. Their major ambition is to introduce licencing for boats the same as for cars to see if they can get really big like the DVLA. Particularly appealing is the power of being able to confiscate by punishing with points the licences they issue for infringements of existing and many new rules they would like to feed to boats and boaters. They cannot help themselves it is what bureaucrats do to make them more and more important.

  3. Anon says:

    As you correctly identify it was previously accepted by MCA that race yachts were exempt from coding requirements under the ‘blue code’. Their updated ‘new’ code in 2004 amended that position slightly, requiring commercial race yachts registrar with RYA for exemption. However the MCA have still yet to get round to enacting the ‘new’ code!

    Their coding regime is a complete mess quite frankly, and I am very surprised they would want to shout about it!