MCA Coding

Charter Coding – MCA Small Commercial Vessel Code of Practice Certification

“It is a legal requirement that UK vessels (up to 24 metres load line length) in commercial operation or charter use, carry no more than 12 passengers and/or cargo, comply with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Small Commercial Vessel and Pilot Boat Code of Practice and be issued with valid Certificates by a recognised Certifying Authority.”

Who does this effect?

Anyone operating or intending to operate a vessel for commercial use or charter (skippered or bareboat). The vessel will need to be prepared and equipped to conform with the MCA Code of Practice MGN280.
The MCA Code of Practice applies to:
  • Sailing Yacht charter vessels – skippered and bareboat.
  • Motor charter vessels.
  • Angling and Dive Boats.
  • Motor vessels – carrying up to 12 passengers.
  • RIBs
  • Workboats
  • Pilot boats.
  • Survey Boats
Full details of the Code (MGN 280) are available on the MCA website here.

Area of Operation

The code requirements are divided into six main categories depending on the type and use of your vessel.
  • Cat 0: Unrestricted service.
  • Cat 1: Up to 150 miles from a safe haven.
  • Cat 2: Up to 60 miles from a safe haven.
  • Cat 3: Up to 20 miles from a safe haven.
  • Cat 4: Up to 20 miles from a safe haven, in favourable weather & daylight.
  • Cat 5: Up to 20 miles from a nominated departure point, in favourable weather & daylight.
  • Cat 6: To sea within 3 miles from a nominated departure point(s) named in the certificate and never more than 3 miles from land in favourable weather and daylight.
Oyster 62, UHURU. Built to MCA class 02 in order to comply with safety regulations. Recently sold by Berthon International.

How many passengers can a vessel carry?

The maximum number of passengers that you are allowed to carry is 12 (skipper and crew can be in addition to this).
The stability of the vessel will determine the number of people you are allowed to carry. You can refer to the ISO Design category of your vessel, which is located on your CE conformity plaque, normally found in the cockpit. This will give you a rating from A – C and the number of persons allowed to be carried.
This rating equates as follows:
  • A – MCA category 0 / 1
  • B – MCA Category 2 / 3
  • C – MCA category 5 / 6
Shipwright 70, DISCOVERY. A rugged and robust steel ketch built to MCA class 0 in order to comply with safety regulations.

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MCA & Coding Authorities

Certifying authorities such as:
  • Lloyds Register
  • Yacht Designer Surveyor Association (YDSA)
  • Mecal
  • International Institute of Marine Surveying (IIMS)
are responsible for administering the Code of Practice requirements set out by the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA). The certifying authority will appoint a registered coding surveyor to carry out the coding inspection.

What is required to maintain your coded status?

A coding certificate is valid for up to 5 years from the date of issue.
  • Any date sensitive equipment is required to be in date at all times.
  • The vessel and all its equipment must be appropriately maintained and in good working order.
  • At the end of the 1st, 2nd & 4th year of operation you will be required to certify that the vessel still complies with the MCA code. Depending on the code this could be a ‘self-certification’ or carried out by a registered coding surveyor.
  • At the end of the 3rd year you will be required to have an in-water inspection carried out by a registered coding surveyor.
  • At the end of the 5th year a full out of water inspection is required in order to recode your vessel for a further 5 years.


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What is involved?

Coastal survey vessel, SOLENT GUARDIAN. 18.3m × 6m coastal survey catamaran chartered by Environment Agency.
It is a requirement of code compliance that vessels are subject to a full out-of-water survey before the certificate is issued, including;
  • Hull, machinery, system and electrical inspection.
  • Stability assessment.
  • Fire safety assessment.
  • Verification of lifesaving equipment.
  • Safety & medical equipment inspection.
It is essential that you prepare and certify your vessel to comply with the MCA Small Commercial Vessel Code of Practice. Adhering to the Code of Practice is vital for the safety of your crew and charterers and peace of mind.

How can Berthon help?

Berthon Boat Company have the skills and experience to help you bring your vessel up to the required standard. We can also organise an authorised surveyor who will provide the following services, ensuring full and safe certification.
Liaising directly with the MCA and all UK certifying authorities, Berthon offer a complete coding solution. We work closely with approved equipment suppliers to provide the best solution for our customers, to comply with the very latest regulations including:
  • Code Compliance Surveys.
  • Stability Tests.
  • Mid-Term Compliance Surveys.
  • 5-Year Renewal Surveys.
  • Change of Ownership Renewal Surveys.
  • Pre-Code Assessment.


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Berthon Boat Company can:

  • Organise the survey, lifts and storage for your vessel.
  • Provide or service and fit all the required safety equipment.
  • Undertake any recommended vessel modifications in order to comply with a required coding standard.
  • Liaise with the surveyors and assist with any paperwork.
  • Or simply arrange renewal of a current coding requirement.
  • Undertake any services and vessel repairs while vessel is in Berthon’s care.
Please contact us for a competitive quotation. Help and advice is free.


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