These are now administered by SCMS who instruct MCA approved surveyors for this work. I am authorised by the MCA & SCMS for this work & presently cover the area from East Cornwall to West Sussex. The number of surveyors is very limited as they have to be fully approved & accepted for this demanding work. At present possibly only 2 or 3 for the South Coast.
The owner/applicant contacts SCMS to apply for a Registration survey. I would suggest you contact one of the approved surveyors first as they will be able to talk you through some of the difficult requirements that your vessel will have to meet. SCMS will then send you the application & contact the nearest accepted surveyor to ensure availability, the surveyor will make contact with you after receiving the application from the FVA.
Download this sample MCA registration survey. This has similar layout & content to the existing FVA documents so you can see what is checked. Time & Place
The surveyor will need to be able to access all of the vessel above & below the waterline, internally & externally so it must be out of the water and safe to move around on both underneath & on deck. It may be possible to inspect between tides subject to agreement with the surveyor & acceptable inspection conditions.
The inspection process
The vessel will be measured , length, beam,depth (this is a measurement depending on the material the vessel is built from but on GRP it basically is the vertical measurement from the top of the sheerline down to the base of the keel amidships . These measurements compute using a formula that is known as the scantling numeral . It is this number that is used to determine all of the structural information such as frame sizes and spacing etc. that your vessel should conform to. The length also determines the number of watertight bulkhead required in the vessel. The vessel is now fully inspected with every part both structural and outfit (bilge pumps, steering etc.) listed & compared with what is required based on the length & type of vessel. All of this information is in the Constructional Standards MGN 628 from the MCA website which you are strongly advised to read & enjoy!.
The report is sent off to SCMS. Bear in mind that very few existing fishing vessels can or will precisely comply although the report has to note where they don't , the MCA may make some concessions but will not overlook some important areas such as lack of watertight bulkheads or missing emergency stop buttons on hydraulic equipment. In some places a vessel is relatively easy to bring up to standard if it just needs a notice or two, but some areas, like missing bulkheads are almost impossible to fit in some vessels so it is always worth contacting the surveyor first to talk over some possible problems that you did not know existed.
Here is a video of fishing vessels in extreme conditions which helps explain why certain requirements have to be met. In this case both vessels would surely have sunk without adequate freeing ports & sealed hatches. (permission of Geoff Mackley)
Links to useful pages on this site
Yacht surveys timber & general info
Fishing vessel inspection for the MCA
Survey faults & photos
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Links to useful sites.
Selling a boat tips
Repair Timber & GRP boats
Buying a Boat
Since Seafish withdrew from the administration of fishing vessel inspections in both the surveys for existing vessels & the new build construction progress inspections for under 15m vessels, the MCA appointed two new authorities for this work (also known as FV Authorities), these were Mecal & SCMS and all vessels under 15m with regard to construction & condition inspections & reports are administered by these two authorities. However , subsequently Mecal withdrew from this work many months ago & just left SCMS to undertake the surveys for all of the UK fishing fleet under 15m.
Types of construction
Sheathed plywood hulls are no longer accepted
Stability & Length
All vessels are subject to stability checks now & these will be done at the MCA Safety examination which follows the Registration inspection or new build completion. The overall length is also measured & can take into account cat catchers & hull additions, so be aware that if your vessel is close to one of the break point lengths (7m & 10m) the vessel becomes subject to a different set of rules.
On an open boat under 7m, this is a boat without a sealed deck and the deck area is level or below the waterline then the lowest point of the hull above the waterline must be a minimum of 400mm above the actual waterline. This will include the outboard transom if it is not isolated with a watertight barrier to stop water gaining access to the interior.
A major change a while ago made any fishing vessel with a sealed deck that was no higher than 200mm above the waterline into an open boat, meaning that NO freezing ports are permitted whatsoever. These vessels now have to have a bilge sump in the stern of the vessel that is fully sealed & extends down to the base of the hull.
If this freeboard is less than 300mm but above 200mm you can still have freeing ports but you are restricted to 20 miles from a safe haven. (this is only a basic info paragraph. For more details call me or refer to the MCA website.
Depending on the length of the boat you will need watertight bulkheads. On under 7m usually a collision bulkhead & sealed underdeck buoyancy will be acceptable, On 7m -10m you will need 2 watertight bulkheads.
Petrol tanks below decks are not permitted whatsoever. Fuel tanks in engine compartments must be metal & all pipes must be fireproof within engine compartments, this includes bilge pumps & any other critical pipework. On outboards a permanent tank must be 500mm away from the outboard minimum & there must be a full height division between the tank & engine. Portable tanks are permitted but they must be less than 27 ltrs.
All GRP vessels must have appropriate frames fitted (Strengtheners that cross the hull from port to starboard) This includes under the deck which becomes near to impossible to retrofit on a large GPR hull once the skin has been contaminated with oil and fuel detritus
A word of caution
Be very careful about purchasing a new or used vessel that has not got existing registration acceptance as the cost of bringing up to or building to standard can sometimes be prohibitive as the rules are very precise & strictly adhered to by the MCA . Additionally be very wary of a vessel that has been constructed after July 2007 as, any vessel constructed after this date but does not have the original Seafish build certificate will not be accepted on the register and will not be acceptable for survey.
Basic procedure would be that once the design has been approved by the MCA & the builder has had the "yard" inspection & has been approved then the FV authority forwards the application details & approved drawings to the surveyor. The day of the inspection is agreed & the MCA are notified of the time & day as in some cases they will audit both the surveyor & the builder as normal checking procedure to ensure all meets with the required standard.
If the vessel is under 7m then it will be inspected once out of the mould and at that time the underdeck structure should have been completed & in many cases , the deck (if sealed deck) will be fitted. The hull external will be checked for standard of build and Barcol readings taken (hardness) All of the required structure as listed on the supplied drawing should be present. This will be precisely checked to make sure it corresponds to the drawing in all ways. The quality of build will also be checked and noted.
The hull will be hammer tested to ensure there are no voids or obvious lack of uniformity of thickness or other faults that can be encountered.
The report is produced with photographs of any shortcomings and general views so the FV authority & MCA can get an idea of the vessel & sent off.
At this time under 7m will not be subject to an "outfit" inspection however, they will be required to have a full outfit installation prior to full acceptance.
On over 7m vessels the vessel MUST be inspected firstly under construction in the mould and must not be removed until that inspection has been completed
. At that time the vessel should be in at least the "early framing stage" which means that the hull skin should be fully complete and about half the supporting structure fitted. This is variable to a degree. Again, the vessel is compared to the drawings supplied.
The next inspection will require the vessel to be out of the mould and, as with under 7m, exactly the same inspection. The "Outfit" inspection on over7m is mandatory & will be done by an approved surveyor, In most cases two outfit inspections will be required as a minimum, however the vessel can be moved to a different yard for these if required. The vessel must be complete structurally in the same yard from start to finish in most cases.
Lack of records
The builder must keep material records of every resin/gel coat & fibre glass used. They also must keel data records of temperature & humidity during build process, If these are missing there will be serious issues in final acceptance.
Changes to design
Any change whatsoever must be approved before it is undertaken as this will serious impact upon final acceptance. Any change that alters the length of vessel into a new category such as a 6.9m into a 7.0m or more vessel (outboard pod, extension moulding etc.) will possibly result in total refusal. Beware!
Low Barcol test readings
These can be a real issue occasionally as if the gel coat readings are under 30 and cannot be raised, the vessel will not be accepted. The difficulty here is that it is impossible to check these before an enormous amount of time and money has been spent. This, possibly is what causes some builders the most concerns. Certain colour gel coats are notorious for low hardness. Dark Red, Dark blue and a few other dark colours are problematic. White is nearly always well above the minimum allowed.