Guidance

Fishing vessels: construction and maintenance standards

Codes of practice and standards for constructing, maintaining and operating fishing vessels

Introduction

The construction, maintenance and operation of fishing vessels is controlled by national and international regulations and legislation. These form the basis of the classification, certification and inspection of fishing vessels.

This guide outlines the standards and regulations applying to fishing vessels. It also covers sources of additional information for owners, operators and crew.

Fishing Vessels: Codes of Practice

The standards for the construction and maintenance of fishing vessels vary according to the vessel’s overall length.

There are separate standards for fishing vessels, covering fishing vessels of the following length:

  • up to 15 metres overall length
  • from 15 overall length to 24 metres registered length
  • over 24 metres registered length

Vessels under 24 metres registered length

Vessels of less than 24 metres are covered by codes of practice, set out in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) documents, Merchant Shipping Notice (MSN) 1871 Amendment No.1 (F) and MSN 1872 Amendment No.1 (F).

Vessels over 24 metres registered length

The code of practice for fishing vessels over 24 metres in length were published in 2017. The code MSN 1873 (F) Amendment No.1 and regulations cover fishing vessel design and construction - as well as maintenance, safety and emergency procedures. They form the basis for surveys of new vessels, and of the periodic surveys of all fishing vessels over 15 metres length.

Vessels under 15 metres overall length

Fishing vessels under 15 metres are not subject to statutory surveys, but the MCA will inspect them periodically to ensure they are seaworthy, equipped to a safe standard, and that they comply with the relevant code.

Construction standards for fishing vessels

If your fishing vessels are registered in the UK, or operating in UK waters, they are required by law to be seaworthy and equipped to a safe standard. Specific construction standards cover the physical structure of the vessel - including deckhouses and superstructures - and machinery and equipment.

The MCA has established construction standards for fishing vessels of up to 15 metres overall length, and of 15 to less than 24 metres. All new vessels must meet these standards.

Vessels up to 15 metres overall length

Important note:

From 21 July 2020, MCA will undertake the survey of new build fishing vessels of 12m registered length to less than 15m length overall.

This service is not available for fishing vessels being built for registration or operation as fishing vessels in countries other than the United Kingdom.

A notice of intent to build form (MSF1356) should be submitted to the Marine Office closest to where the vessel is to be built. This is the start of the application process for every newbuild fishing vessel of less than 24m RL.

For further information on vessels which will be built after this date and vessels currently in build please download:

If you want to register a vessel of up to 15 metres on the UK register, you must demonstrate its seaworthiness and safety. If your vessel build was completed between 16 July 2007 and 20 July 2020, it must conform to the Seafish Construction Standards and present a Seafish Construction Certificate and, if 7m length overall or over, a Seafish Outfit Certificate to the Registry of Shipping and Seamen (RSS).

If the vessel build is completed on or after 21 July 2020, to register you must present to RSS, either MCA Construction and Outfit Certificates if it is 12m registered length to less than 15m length overall, or if it is less than 12m registered length a Fishing Vessel Certifying Authority Construction Certificate (and a Fishing Vessel Certifying Authority Outfit Certificate if they are 7m Length Overall to less than 12m Registered Length).

Download MSN 1871 (F) Amendment 1 The Code of Practice for Small Fishing Vessels of less than 15m Length

From 21 July 2020, if your vessel was built before 16 July 2007, you must prove it is seaworthy by getting your vessel surveyed by a Fishing Vessel Certifying Authority against MGN628, the Construction Standards for fishing vessels of less than 15m. The Fishing Vessel Certifying Authority will provide a report to the MCA who will decide whether your vessel can be registered or not.

MCA authorised surveyors will no longer be able to undertake new Registration Surveys from 31 December 2020 but can finish any Registration Surveys commenced before that date. For further information please see MGN630 Amendment 2 - Pre-registration surveys for fishing vessels of less than 15m length overall built before 16 July 2007 and existing vessels of 15m length overall to less than 24m registered length wishing to join the UK Register.

Download MGN630 Amendment 2 - Pre-registration surveys for fishing vessels of less than 15m length overall built before 16 July 2007 and existing vessels of 15m length overall to less than 24m registered length wishing to join the UK Register

If your vessel underwent a registration survey prior to 21 July 2020, but has yet to be registered, please see the Fishing Vessel Instructions to Surveyors MSIS27 Chapter 1 – General Section 1.8 Click here

Vessels not certificated to Seafish Construction Standards after 16 July 2007 will not be accepted.

After registration, you will need to arrange a MCA inspection of safety equipment and crew qualifications. This inspection must be repeated every five years, along with annual self-certification. For more information, see the guide fishing vessel classification, registration and inspection.

Vessels 15 to 24 metres overall length

Medium-sized fishing vessels must meet the construction requirements in the code of practice for fishing vessels of 15 to 24 metres.

Download MSN 1872 (F) Amendment 1 The Code of Safe Working Practice for the Construction and Use of Fishing Vessels of 15m Length Overall to less than 24m Registered Length

New vessels in this size range must also conform to the Seafish Construction Standards if built before 21 July 2020 and to the MGN 629 Constructions standards for fishing vessels of 15m length overall to less than 24m registered length.

Download MGN629 Construction standards for fishing vessels of 15 length overall to less than 24m registered length

These vessels must be surveyed by MCA against MGN 629, then undergo an MCA survey under the code of practice MSN 1872 Amendment 1. The vessel should be resurveyed after five years to renew its Fishing Vessel Certificate, and also undergo a mid-term inspection. Owners must also complete an annual self-certification. For more information, see the guide to fishing vessel classification, registration and inspection.

Important note:

From 21 July 2020, MCA will undertake the survey of new build fishing vessels of 15m length overall to less than 24m registered length.

This service is not available for fishing vessels being built for registration or operation as fishing vessels in countries other than the United Kingdom.

A notice of intent to build form (MSF1356) should be submitted to the Marine Office closest to where the vessel is to be built. This is the start of the application process for every newbuild fishing vessel of less than 24m RL.

For further information on vessels which will be built after this date and vessels currently in build please download:

Vessels over 24 metres

The construction of larger fishing vessels is governed by The Code of Practice for the Construction and Safe Operation of Fishing Vessels of 24m Registered Length and Over.

MSN 1873 Amendment No.1 The Code of Practice for the Construction and Safe Operation of Fishing Vessels of 24m Registered Length and over which can be downloaded

Fishing vessels over 24 metres must be surveyed annually by UK-authorised Classification Societies, to ensure compliance with the regulations. The Classification Society will carry out a full survey every five years, to ensure the vessel remains in class.

The five Classification Societies are:

  • American Bureau of Shipping
  • Bureau Veritas
  • Det Norske Veritas Germanischer Lloyd
  • Lloyds Register of Shipping
  • Registro Italiano Navale

The MCA will survey the vessel for its International Fishing Vessel Certificate when the owner wishes to place it on the UK Register, and at intervals of four years afterwards. The MCA will also carry out an intermediate survey, 21 to 27 months after the certificate was issued. For more information, see the guide to fishing vessel classification, registration and inspection.

Maintenance standards for fishing vessels

Fishing vessel codes of practice emphasise the importance of regular maintenance of a high standard - particularly of safety equipment and systems. For vessels below 24 metres in length, this requirement forms part of the annual self-certification needed to maintain the Fishing Certificate.

The MCA inspects vessels of 15 to 24 metres overall length. Vessels over 24 metres have safety equipment and systems checked annually, and are also subject to more detailed statutory intermediate surveys. If safety equipment is not properly maintained, vessels may be detained and the owners prosecuted.

The MCA also provides guidance on specific problems, such as:

  • premature failure of copper pipes in engine cooling water systems
  • avoiding engine failure due to fuel contamination
  • avoiding flooding by using suitable grades of stainless steel for pipe work
  • bilge systems and additional/alternative equipment to help prevent flooding
  • testing of emergency sources of electrical power
  • maintenance of electrical equipment
  • maintenance of portable fire extinguishers
  • fire detection and alarm systems on fishing vessels

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) publishes a range of leaflets, reports and DVDs on fishing safety [insert link here]

A FREE online folder Safety Folder has been developed by industry, which can assist you with planning your maintenance. As well as this, it can help to conduct and record risk assessments, help you to comply with ILO188 regulation, keep track of crew training and certification and provides reminders of equipment certification and servicing

Flooding

The condition of seawater pipework within a fishing vessel is an important factor in preventing flooding in a vessel.

Stainless steel seawater pipework can reduce pipework corrosion, but some grades of stainless steel are not suitable for marine use. For example, austenitic stainless steels (304/304L and 316/316L) may be at risk of chloride stress corrosion cracking when used with seawater or polluted water, possibly leading to fracture. One solution is to increase the nickel content (eg alloy 330, 904L) or to use a duplex or ferritic stainless steel, eg 329, 2205, 439, 26Cr 1 Mo.

You can contact the RNLI helpline on 0800 328 0600 or email fishingsafety@rnli.org.uk.

Operational standards for fishing vessels

Fishing vessel codes of practice and regulations provide guidance on best practice in areas such as:

  • fire protection, including fire precautions and the deployment and use of fire-protection equipment
  • protection of personnel, including risk assessments, accident prevention and securing of equipment
  • life-saving equipment
  • emergency procedures, including inspections and drills in relation to emergency procedures

You must ensure that all onboard equipment is of serviceable condition and regularly maintained. Equipment and maintenance schedules are inspected during statutory surveys of vessels over 15 metres in length.

A FREE online folder Safety Folder has been developed by Industry, which can assist you with planning your servicing. As well as this, it can help to conduct and record risk assessments, help you to comply with ILO188 regulation, keep track of crew training and certification and provides reminders of vessels maintenance requirements

The MCA will check these areas in smaller fishing vessels during normal inspections.

Vessel modification

Fishing vessels are required to ensure that, prior to modifications being carried out on their vessel, they seek MCA approval to ensure that safety of the vessel is not affected. This approval should be sought regardless of whether these modifications are being undertaken with or without funding from MFF.

By approaching MCA prior to applying for MFF funding, owners can ensure they:

  • Incorporate any amendments to the proposed modifications that MCA may require into the application; and
  • Obtain MCA approval to proceed with the modification

Therefore, if work commences without MCA approval, the owner is at risk of his certificate being suspended whilst the MCA conducts an inspection or survey of the vessel. The MCA may require amendments to the intended modifications or potentially the vessels to be reinstated to its original condition. This work may not be covered by additional funding.

For this reason it is particularly important that owners approach the MCA prior to submitting an application for MFF funding to minimise the risk of the vessel being suspended fishing and from having to undertake additional work to address the vessels safety.

Further details can be found in MIN 593 (F).

Further information

RNLI helpline

0800 328 0600

Download MSN 1871 (F) Amendment 1 The Code of Practice for Small Fishing Vessels of less than 15m Length

Download MSN 1872 (F) Amendment 1 The Code of Safe Working Practice for the Construction and Use of Fishing Vessels of 15m Length Overall to less than 24m Registered Length

Download MSN 1873 Amendment 1 The Code of Practice for the Construction and Safe Operation of Fishing Vessels of 24m Registered Length and over which can be downloaded

Download MGN 190 (F) Fishing Vessels: The Premature Failure of Copper Pipes in Engine Cooling Water Systems from the MCA website

Download MGN 165 (F) Fishing Vessels: The Risk of Flooding from the MCA website

Download MGN 52 (M+F) Testing of emergency sources of electrical power from the MCA website

Download MGN 132 (M+F) Electrical Equipment, Maintenance and Incidents from the MCA website

Download MGN 276 (M+F) Fire Protection - Maintenance of Portable Fire Extinguishers from the MCA website

Download MGN 291 (F) Fire Detection and Alarm Systems on Fishing Vessels from the MCA website

Download MGN 570 (F) Fishing Vessels: Emergency Drills

Download MGN 571 (F) Fishing vessels: prevention of man overboard

Download MIN 608 (M&F) Amendment 2: new build fishing vessel procedures from 21 July 2020

Download New build fishing vessel survey guide

Download MGN 628 - Construction standards for fishing vessels of less than 15m length overall

Download MGN 629 - Construction standards for fishing vessels of 15m length overall to less than 24m registered length

Download MGN 630 Amendment 2- Pre-registration surveys for fishing vessels of less than 15m length overall built before 16 July 2007 and existing vessels of 15m length overall to less than 24m registered length wishing to join the UK register

Download MSF 1356 Notice of intent to build

Download MIN 593 (F) Vessel modifications - Pre-approval by MCA

Published 17 September 2012
Last updated 15 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. adding link to new version on mgn 630 a2, also updated broken links

  2. Link added to MIN 593 (F)

  3. Uploaded links and details in MSF 1356 Notice of intent to build

  4. Uploaded links to MGN 630 Amendment 1

  5. Updated guidance on construction and maintenance standards of fishing vessels.

  6. Update of link to MIN 608 Amendment 2

  7. Link to MIN 608 (M + F) Amendment 1 added.

  8. Important note added regarding provision of marine survey service

  9. Text amended. Text added.

  10. updated MSN links

  11. Links to new MSN's added

  12. updated link

  13. Updated links and MSN's

  14. First published.