New proposed Workboat 3 code from the Maritime & Coast Guard Agency is open for consultation

Rules governing workboats, pilot boats and remotely operated vessels have been revised and remade to support innovation in industry. The revised Merchant Shipping (Workboats, Pilot Boats and Remotely Operated Unmanned Vessels) Regulations 2022 and accompanying Code is now going out for consultation across the marine industry.

It is felt the new version of the Code will help clarify the survey and inspection requirements and also addresses the growing autonomous vessel industry. Existing rules did not reflect those and other developments which is why the regulations and Code have been revised.

Rob Taylor, Code Vessel Lead for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “We don’t compromise on safety. It’s as simple as that, so the safety underpinning these regulations will not change.

“However, we needed to reflect the fact that there is innovation happening right across the industry and we want to support that with appropriate regulations and guidelines. That’s led to this work to provide a clear framework so that vessel owners and operators can continue to operate in confidence that they are fulfilling their legal obligations.”

The consultation is due to last for 12 weeks and will close on 29 December 2022 at 11.45pm.

This is a consultation on revoking and remaking the Merchant Shipping (Small Workboats and Pilot Boats) Regulations 1998 (S.I. 1998/1609) (“the 1998 Regulations”) with amendments and modifications that will then provide a coherent legal framework for operators of workboats and pilot boats.

It will clarify the survey and certification requirements and responsibilities and updating the Code of Practice to reflect the current international standards that apply to these vessels and the equipment carried on board. This instrument also introduces new provisions for remotely operated unmanned vessels which now operate in this sector.

The original Code of Practice for the Safety of Small Workboats and Pilot Boats was one of four Codes of Practice published for small commercial vessels operating in UK waters under a common set of standards. The Code set a national standard and was generally accepted by industry because it could be easily referenced and understood, and it created a level playing field within the sector. The Code was also recognised internationally and is used by other national maritime administrations as a basis for standards of their own vessels. As a result, UK flagged workboats were able to win contracts and operate widely across the UK and the rest of Europe.

Consultation description
This consultation seeks your views on a new Statutory Instrument (SI) and accompanying code, The Safety of Small Workboats and Pilot Boats — A Code of Practice (“Workboat Code Edition 3”), which will provide a domestic legal underpinning for Workboats and Pilot Boats to operate on a commercial basis.

The Merchant Shipping (Small Workboats and Pilot Boats) Regulations 2023 and accompanying Code of Practice applies to workboats, including remotely operated unmanned vessels operating as workboats, and pilot boats that are less than 24m load line length.

This instrument updates the provisions previously made in the 1998 Regulations so that they set out in greater detail the application and certification process for vessels, the requirements on owners and masters to report incidents, the processes to be followed where a vessel is deficient or detained and the penalties that can arise if the Regulations are breached. The instrument also sets out the process that applies if a surveyor determines that a vessel is deficient to the extent that it does not correspond with the particulars under which it was certified or if it poses a danger to the vessels or a person on board. In addition, the instrument provides for disputes in relation to survey outcomes to be settled by arbitration.

The instrument also makes consequential amendments to other instruments which are needed to enable the provisions to apply to remotely operated unmanned vessels used as workboats.

Remember you have until 11.45pm on 29 December 2022 to make your views known.

Click to view all the documentation regarding the consultation.

Click to view the main consultation document (including details on how to make your comments to the MCA).

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