Lack of surveyors at UK MCA highlighted as a programme of modernisation gets underway

The UK’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) is modernising the way the UK Ship Register operates with a number of new initiatives being rolled out as the Agency is also addressing the issue of a shortfall in surveyors on its books.

At the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Maritime and Ports, attendees were informed that the MCA is considering increasing the fee structure for the UK Ship Register to above 2016 levels.

The registry is working to improve the response time for enquiries to one working day, while for complex issues it will take three working days. Increasing ship registry fees would match the higher levels of service being offered, the MCA said. The register also plans to roll out a package fee option in April 2018. Further, a new online ship registry service is expected to be completed by Christmas this year.

Moreover, latest data reveals 15.7m gt is registered currently under the UK flag, which is up 9.0% from 2015. The aim is to ultimately reach 30.0m gt.

Meanwhile, plans are underway to establish a new MCA directorate, which will deal with shipping companies and will open by the end of the year.

The suggestion that the MCA could become a GovCo – a privately held state-owned company that is subject to government oversight but with greater commercial freedom – was argued as currently unnecessary, especially as the transition would take between three and five years, while Brexit will continue to parliamentary schedule until at least 2019.

A problem that is being addressed is the lack of MCA surveyors. The agency has just under 100 surveyors and aims to meet its target of 128 soon. The agency will have a surveyor based out in the Far East by the end of the year. Recognised private companies such as Lloyd’s Register have been permitted to undertake MCA surveys on selected ships since September last year. The reaction has so far been mixed, the meeting heard, so the scheme will continue to be trialed.

The UK Chamber of Shipping has long argued that the MCA should be reformed, become more commercialised and offer an enhanced level of service.

“It is crucial for the UK’s shipping sector that the MCA offer best-in-class service and maintain its international reputation for high safety standards. That way it will be better able to compete on the global stage,” commented Robert Carington, policy advisor at the UK Chamber.

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