About us

We work to prevent the loss of life on the coast and at sea. We produce legislation and guidance on maritime matters, and provide certification to seafarers.

Who we are

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport (DfT).

We provide a 24-hour maritime and coastal search and rescue emergency coordination and response service for the United Kingdom.

We produce legislation and guidance and provide certification to ships and seafarers. Through our survey and inspection regime, we enforce standards for ship safety, security, pollution prevention and seafarer health, safety and welfare. We promote maritime standards, encourage economic growth and minimise the maritime sector’s environmental impact.

Safer lives, safer ships, cleaner seas

Our vision is to be a world-leading organisation, accelerating the transition to sustainable shipping with non-negotiable safety standards. We put our people, our customers and our planet at the heart of everything we do.

Our focus is on the themes of safety and sustainability, growth and innovation.

Our values are safety, professionalism, trust and respect.

Why our work matters

We contribute to the wider Department for Transport objectives of boosting economic growth and opportunity, improving journeys delivering safe, secure and sustainable transport, promoting a culture of efficiency, and building a one nation Britain. The MCA fulfils an essential safety role across the United Kingdom’s maritime environment.

Examples of our work include:

  • HM Coastguard responding to more than 33,000 incidents in 2020
  • our marine surveyors carrying out more than 2,800 inspections and almost 3,000 surveys on United Kingdom registered ships; and close to 1,500 port state control inspections of foreign registered ships which can lead to around 40 ship detentions each year
  • setting standards to protect over 11,000 miles of coastline and being ready to respond to pollution incidents;
  • encouraging safe behaviours from over 200 million coastal tourist visits
  • promoting and enforcing better safety amongst the 12,000 workers on 5,700 fishing vessels
  • facilitate the implementation of trials and projects, support regulation updates and drive forward change in industry in the uptake of innovative technologies in both emission reduction and autonomy


Our core responsibilities are:

  • co-ordinating a 24-hour search and rescue service by HM Coastguard and all search and rescue helicopter operations throughout the United Kingdom
  • acting as lead authority and Category 1 responder for maritime emergencies under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004
  • preventing maritime pollution and responding to pollution events
  • monitoring vessel movement in United Kingdom waters and further offshore
  • supporting the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SOSREP)
  • promoting and administering the UK Ship Register
  • promoting and enforcing compliance with maritime rules, regulations and best practice, making sure that legislation is proportionate for business
  • undertaking the survey and inspection of United Kingdom registered ships
  • checking the safety and quality of ships and welfare, certification and training of seafarers operating under the Red Ensign
  • promoting the Red Ensign Group of Ship Registers as high quality, business-friendly flags
  • undertaking audit and providing assurance of the Red Ensign Group, in accordance with international requirements and the United Kingdoms obligations
  • certificating independent survey organisations
  • working with the Department for Transport on policy advice for Ministers

We are responsible for implementation in the United Kingdom of the following major international maritime conventions:

  • The International Convention of the High Seas, 1958, article 12
  • Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, and Protocol, 1988
  • International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs), 1972
  • Standards of training, certification and watch-keeping for Seafarers 1978 (STCW)
  • The International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979
  • Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), 1973, and Protocol, 1978
  • Load Lines, 1966, and Protocol of 1988
  • Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006
  • International Convention on the control of harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships (AFS), 2001


Our priorities are:

  • Becoming the world’s best performing flag state
  • Be a modern, progressive regulator
  • Grow UK maritime economy and employment
  • Be the world’s best performing coastal state
  • Reduce fatalities at sea
  • Be a world leader in maritime innovation
  • Be the go-to centre of expertise for UK maritime

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