What kinds of vessels get expanded inspections by the MCA, what happens during the inspections, notice, and where you can find more advice.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is responsible for checking that ships visiting UK ports and anchorages meet UK and international safety rules. Under a EU directive on Port State Control, the agency can inspect foreign-flagged ships calling at UK ports and anchorages. The MCA’s Regulation 2011 S.I. No. 2601, The Merchant Shipping (Port State Control) Regulations 2011 and Merchant Shipping Notice MSN 1832 explain how the directive is incorporated into UK law.
Vessels visiting EU ports are subject to periodic checks and in-depth ‘expanded inspections’.
Expanded inspections are carried out on the following types of vessels due for a periodic port state inspection:
- vessels with a high ship risk profile, as recorded on the Paris Memorandum of Understanding database
- oil, gas, or chemical tankers over 12 years old
- bulk carriers over 12 years old
- passenger ships over 12 years old
Masters, owners or operators of such vessels must give the MCA 72 hours’ notice, before their expected time of arrival, or before leaving the previous port or anchorage, if the voyage is expected to take less than 72 hours.
This guide explains what expanded inspections involve for different types of vessels, and lists organisations that can provide further information.
Vessels subject to expanded inspections
The MCA carries out expanded Port State Control inspections of foreign-flagged ships calling at UK ports or anchorages, under regulations explained in the MCA’s Regulation 2011 S.I. No. 2601, The Merchant Shipping (Port State Control) Regulations 2011 and Merchant Shipping Notice MSN 1832.
Expanded Port State Control inspections are carried out on high risk ships. The basis of a vessel’s ‘ship risk profile’ determines the length of time since its last inspection and ship type and age. Ships can be classified as:
- high risk profile - those that have not been inspected in the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) region during the previous five months
- standard risk profile - those that have not been inspected in the Paris MoU region during the previous ten months
- low risk profile - those that have not been inspected in the Paris MoU region during the previous 24 months
You can check the risk profile of a ship using the Paris MoU online risk calculator.
Expanded inspections are also carried out on vessels over 12 years old, irrespective of their Risk Profile, in the following categories:
- oil tankers
- gas and chemical tankers
- bulk carriers
- passenger ships
Ro-Ro or high-speed passenger craft do not need to undergo an expanded inspection under Port State Control.
For more information, see the page in this guide reporting requirements for vessels subject to expanded inspections.
How to report requirements for vessels subject to expanded inspections
If a vessel is eligible for an expanded inspection, the owners must complete the MCA’s Expanded Inspection Ship Arrival form and send it to the MCA Marine office for its next UK port of call.
Owners should send the form either 72 hours before the vessel arrives, or when it leaves its previous port if the voyage is due to last under 72 hours. Forms can be emailed or faxed to MCA offices, or to the MCA’s headquarters via the ship’s agent.
It is an offence not to report a vessel eligible for an expanded inspection, and enforcement action may be taken. Such failures to report are recorded in the Paris MoU inspection reporting system - making the vessel a priority for inspection at its next port of call within the Paris MoU region.
For more information see the page in this guide on what an expanded inspection involves.
What an expanded inspection involves
Expanded inspections of vessels involve detailed checks of construction elements and safety systems by inspectors from the MCA. Inspectors must ensure that their visits do not compromise the safety of seafarers carrying out on-board operations, such as cargo handling.
Areas checked during an expanded inspection
All ship types are subject to expanded inspection and the following areas will be checked:
- structural condition
- watertight/weathertight condition
- emergency systems
- radio communications
- fire safety systems
- living and working conditions
- lifesaving appliances
- pollution prevention measures
Structural checks involve assessment of the hull and deck condition. Watertight doors, ventilators and hatchways are also inspected.
Emergency system checks cover emergency lighting, as well as steering gear and bilge pumping equipment. Radio communication assessments cover areas such as main installation functioning, global maritime distress safety systems, and back-up energy sources.
Fire safety tests include tests of the crew’s ability to use firefighting equipment and firemen’s outfits. Tests of fire doors, extinguisher systems, alarms, and remote stopping of ventilation and fuel pump systems are also carried out.
Inspectors also check seafarer living and working conditions, such as the condition of mooring equipment, including machinery foundations. They will also review launching arrangements for survival and rescue craft and test the effectiveness of oil filtering equipment in preventing pollution.
In addition to the above the following areas will also be inspected depending on ship type.
Bulk carrier inspections
Specific areas checked for bulk carriers and ore-bulk-oil (OBO) vessels - if carrying solid bulk cargo - include documentation and structural condition.
Vessel owners must provide evidence that certified enhanced survey programme (ESP) documents are on board, including:
- structural survey reports
- thickness measurement reports
- condition evaluation reports
- approval for loading instruments
- documents associated with dangerous goods cargoes
Structural checks of bulk carriers cover areas such as bulkheads and ballast tanks.
Gas tankers and chemical tankers
For these types of vessels, expanded inspection checks cover areas such as:
- documentation - a relevant certificate of fitness
- cargo operations - cargo tank monitoring and safety devices
- fire safety - fixed fire-fighting installations on deck
- living and working conditions - cabin escape sets of appropriate respiratory and eye protection gear
General cargo vessels
Expanded inspections also cover the following types of vessel:
- general cargo
- refrigerated cargo carrier
- heavy load carrier
- offshore service
- special purpose
- mobile offshore drilling unit - known as MODU
- floating production, storage and offloading - known as FPSO
Inspectors will assess watertight conditions - such as access to cargo holds or tanks - and cargo operations, eg lashing arrangements and loading equipment.
Oil tanker and OBO vessels certificated as oil tankers
The expanded inspection for oil tankers involves checks of:
- certified ESP documentation - structural survey reports and condition evaluation reports, such as foam certificates for deck foam systems
- structural condition - ballast tanks within cargo area from tank manhole or deck access
- fire safety - fixed deck foam systems, including gas and pressure controls
Checks of passenger vessels such as high-speed craft (HSC) and Ro-Ro ferries should cover:
- documentation: evidence of crowd-management and safety training
- watertight condition: bow and stern doors and remote operation of watertight bulkhead doors
- emergency systems: familiarity of crew with damage control plan
- cargo operation: including lashing arrangements
- fire safety: remote and local controls for closing fire dampers
- alarms: including public address and fire detection systems
- lifesaving appliances: the ‘abandon ship’ drill
Expanded inspections can take place on Ro-Ro ferries and HSC vessels during passage to or from European Union ports, to check safety procedures are working properly. Inspectors and Port State Control officers must not cause any obstruction to the vessel’s operation.
Ro-Ro cargo vessels
Expanded inspections of Ro-Ro cargo vessels should cover:
- watertight conditions - bow and stern doors
- cargo operations - lashing arrangements
See MSN 1832 New Port State Control Directive for The Merchant Shipping (Port State Control) Regulations 2011.
For more information, see the page in this guide on vessels subject to expanded inspections.
Further information on expanded inspections
Several organisations can provide useful advice for vessel owners on expanded inspections for foreign-flagged vessels.
The MCA is the agency responsible for implementing the government’s maritime safety policy. Its branches include:
- Port State Control: contact the MCA Port State Control on 023 8032 9343 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ship surveys: contact the MCA Ships Surveys Team on 023 8032 9213 or email them at email@example.com
- Health and safety of seafarers: contact the MCA Seafarer Safety and Health Branch on 023 8032 9246
Read the Fisherman’s Safety Guide.
The International Group of Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Clubs is a mutual association of ship owners providing mutual insurance services for the shipping industry. The group provides liability cover for around 90 per cent of shipping worldwide.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a UN agency overseeing international standards to regulate shipping. You can contact the IMO Helpline on 020 7735 7611.
Nautilus International is a UK-based trade union, representing maritime professionals at sea and ashore. You can contact the Nautilus International Enquiry Line on 020 8989 6677.
Unite is a UK trade union, representing some UK seafarers. You can contact the Unite Helpline on 020 7420 8900.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) is a UK trade union, which represents some UK seafarers. You can contact the RMT Enquiry Line on 020 7387 4771.
[MCA department contact details(https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/maritime-and-coastguard-agency/about/access-and-opening)