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The MCA adopts YDSA equivalence proposal for Small Commercial Vessels

Published on: 16 November 2020

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has published, to all certifying authorities for small commercial vessels, the proposal from The Yacht Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA). This is to accept ISO 15085 in lieu of the 1m guard rail height requirement for motor vessels in specific circumstances and upon application with supporting evidence. 
The YDSA demonstrated that the ISO 15085 standard, which covers man-overboard prevention and recovery for small craft, when applied through the recreational craft directive (RCD), as being of an equivalent standard of safety to motor vessels having a guard rail height of 1m. 
ISO 15085 covers a wide range of safety elements that a boat manufacturer has to comply with, which includes guard rail heights, the combination of which when applied to a vessel creates a level of safety that is sufficient to ensure the safety on board vessels under the RCD. It is this overarching safety principle that ensures that the essential safety requirements of the relevant regulation are met and, in some cases, exceeded by compliance with ISO 15085.
Ross Wombwell, British Marine’s Head of Technical, commented: “This is a big step forward, particularly for the charter industry. Small commercial vessel owners will now be able to code vessels more smoothly with the clarity that compliance with ISO 15085 will now be accepted within the MCA Commercial Code requirements.” 
Bas Edmonds, Chief Executive of the YDSA, added; “This has been an issue for small commercial vessel owners for some time, where there has been a disparity between what can be legally sold as a recreational vessel but where the same vessel cannot be put into commercial use without modification. The YDSA recognises that there are different expectations when it comes to passenger safety limits and believe that the ISO standard clearly provides a safe standard for persons onboard both recreational and commercial vessels.”
Bas further comments; “The application for an equivalence from the requirements from the regulations has been built into the statutory instruments since 1998 but hasn’t been overly utilised by Certifying Authorities. The equivalence process is important as it flags to the MCA what potential changes may be needed to the commercial regulations to ensure alignment with vessel design and construction standards across both the recreational and commercial sectors. The team responsible at the MCA for responding to these applications have been very helpful in supporting our vessels through the equivalence process and we will continue to put forward applications to ease the process of coding small commercial vessels.”
For further information, or details about implementing the ISO standard as a Certifying Authority, please contact British Marine at