The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has said it will be targeting the owners of uncoded commercially operated sailing yachts

Action will be taken against uncoded commercially operated sailing yachts engaged in racing, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) has warned.

It has just agreed to discontinue prosecutions against the owners of two yachts after they agreed to enter into a written agreement to ensure their vessels are coded when used for commercial activity. 

Small, commercially operated yachts must hold a valid code certificate when being used for any commercial purposes, including racing and training.

The boats must also only operate within the category of water for which they have been authorised. 

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Mark Flavell, Lead Investigator at the MCA as part of the Regulatory Compliance Investigations Team, said: “A misinterpretation of the code concerning yachts engaged in racing had developed.

“The MCA want to send a clear message and dispel this misinterpretation.  

“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,” he continued 

“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,” added Flavell.

In 2019, MCA officers found a number of breaches during the start of the 2019 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) in Gran Canaria.

Owners received official cautions and had to pay thousands of pounds in intervention costs. Other yachts were sold or removed from the UK flag and are no longer entitled to be UK registered. 

The ARC is run by the World Cruising Club.

Its director Jeremy Wyatt acknowledged that when MCA officers visited the 2019 ARC there were issues with a small number of boats about the level of coding, and the correct paper work for crews, for the distance offshore that the boat were due to sail.

“The MCA are to be congratulated for taking steps to both clarify and enforce their code more widely,” he said.

“Indeed, no other flag state authority involved in regulating commercial sailing activities, has ever visited boats overseas, in my 20+ years involvement with transocean sailing rallies,” added Wyatt.

This article has been updated after it incorrectly stated that MCA officers visited the 2020 ARC start.

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