Maritime Coastguard Agency
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 vessels 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
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).
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.
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.
These vessels must be surveyed by MCA against MGN 629, then undergo an MCA