Rules for the operation of Private Pleasure Yachts under the British Flag - A Guide


The purpose of this guide is to provide information concerning the flag state rules applicable to British registered yachts that are operated for private pleasure use.

The United Kingdom’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) through Marine Guidance Note 599 provides a very helpful overview of the Merchant Shipping legislation that applies to pleasure yachts, including the rules relating to certification and manning requirements.

The MCA are an Executive Agency of the UK Government’s Department for Transport holding responsibility and accountability for UK merchant shipping regulations and their enforcement.

The guidance note is titled ‘Pleasure Vessels – Regulations and Exemptions – Guidance and Best Practice Advice’ and is published as Marine Guidance Note (MGN) 599.

A copy of MGN 599 can be accessed at the following link:

MCA MGN 599 (M) Pleasure Vessels – Regulations and Exemptions – Guidance and Best Practice Advice

Although the regulations apply specifically to UK registered pleasure yachts wherever they may be operating and also to non UK registered pleasure yachts operating in UK waters we would recommend that the rules are considered as best practice guidance by all yacht owners sailing under the red ensign.

The guidance notes contains the following useful definition of a ‘Pleasure Yacht’:

(a) any vessel which at the time it is being used is:

(i)

(aa) in the case of a vessel wholly owned by an individual or individuals, used only for the sport or pleasure of the owner or the immediate family or friends of the owner; or
(bb) in the case of a vessel owned by a body corporate, used only for sport or pleasure and on which the persons on board are employees or officers of the body corporate, or their immediate family or friends; and

(ii) on a voyage or excursion which is one for which the owner does not receive money for or in connection with operating the vessel or carrying any person, other than as a contribution to the direct expenses of the operation of the vessel incurred during the voyage or excursion;

or

(b) any vessel wholly owned by or on behalf of a members’ club formed for the purpose of sport or pleasure which, at the time it is being used, is used only for the sport or pleasure of members of that club or their immediate family, and for the use of which any charges levied are paid into club funds and applied for the general use of the club; and

(d) in the case of any vessel referred to in paragraphs (a) or (b) above no other payments are made by or on behalf of users of the vessel, other than by the owner.

It should be noted that Marine Guidance Notes are issued by the MCA to provide advice and guidance relating to the improvement of the safety of shipping and of life at sea and to prevent or minimise pollution from shipping. Whilst Marine Guidance Notes provide guidance on the applicable laws they should not be regarded as definitive as the way that the law might apply to a particular case can vary according to circumstance and consideration should also be given to any local legal or safety obligations relevant to the area of vessel operation.

For further information or guidance please do not hesitate to contact us.

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