Sometimes rules and Health & Safety regulations may seem unnecessary. They require a lot of paperwork and forward planning, especially when you try and get your truck on board a boat. One of the authorities we’re sure you come across regularly is the MCA, the Marine and Coastguard Agency.
Whilst the first thing that may come to mind are stories of Coastguard rescues, you’re only scratching the surface of their responsibilities.
Formed in 2002, the MCA is still quite a new authority. But with the slogan ‘Safer Lives, Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas’ its age has no bearing on its importance.
An extension of the Department of Transport, The MCA is responsible for implementing not only British, but also international maritime law and safety policies on all vessels coming in and out of the UK. They also execute policies which reduce the risk of loss of life on maritime ships. As of 2015, it is also responsible for land based search and rescue helicopter operations.
In layman’s terms, the MCA is responsible for keeping people safe at sea and making sure that you get home in one piece. That can’t really be argued with, can it?
Here’s a break down of all the MCA’s legal responsibilities:
From making it necessary that the fire alarms and lights are all in good working order, to ensuring there are no holes in the bottom of the ships and all things in-between – that’s the MCA.
Whilst it’s easy to take for granted the clean and warm HGV drivers’ lounges and helpful staff who strap in your cargo, it's important to remember that the MCA will not let any ferry sail if it does not conform to all laws. If it did not, would you really want to get on board?
They will also not let a vessel and its crew sail without all their relevant paperwork, nor will they let you or any other haulier or courier on board. It’s not to be an inconvenience; it’s to make sure everyone on board is safe. Otherwise, you don’t know who is getting on the ship or what they are trying to bring on board.
"Testing and Issuing Merchant Navy Certificates of Competency Licences for Officers and Crew per the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) Requirements."
This is a regulation that makes it mandatory for all crew on board the vessels to be trained to an internationally recognised level. Each country has its own advisory body to officiate that this training is carried out – The MCA is responsible for the UK.
Prior to the law change in 1984, all seamen were trained and accredited by their own governments. The level and quality of training differed from country to country.
Because of the MCA, all officers and crew are now trained to the same level. They are all equally qualified to load, usher, pilot etc. In fact for all positions, staff are trained to the highest standard to ensure everyone is as safe as possible.
Staff must also regularly undergo refresher courses. Any incidents which breach the STCW requirements are investigated by the MCA, which may result in the individual having his accreditation revoked. A crew member with no accreditation can no longer crew a ship.
As already mentioned, the MCA is responsible for overseeing all training. The Merchant Navy Training Board issues the international regulations, which must be taught to all sailing staff to be recognised as seaworthy. The MCA must ensure that this training is provided to all workers on board.
The MCA is responsible for official large scale deposits of oil in the sea in order to reduce the risk of a major spill. They also work with conservation agencies to ensure that waste has been disposed of in a safe manner.
Since the development of the MCA’s National Contingency Plan for distribution of waste at sea, the level of pollution in seas around Britain have been brought under control. All distributions have to follow strict guidelines or face very hefty fines.
Without the input of the MCA, the British waters would likely pose a risk to the health of those who use the seas.
Since 2015, the MCA has been responsible for all search and rescue missions undertaken by Her Majesty’s Coastguard (HMCG). If there is ever an accident on board a ferry or you find yourself in danger, it is the MCA who will be coming to your rescue.
Additional safety precautions, which may appear excessive and inconvenient are only there to keep you safe. Whilst their function may be overlooked on a day to day basis, the impact if they weren’t around would be far more noticeable.
Next time your van or truck is held up by safety checks on board a ferry, remember why the MCA are there. They ensure the waters around Britain are some of the safest seas in the world.