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MCA Category (0) Cirtification for our Explorer Yacht

When we commissioned Vanguard, one request was that she be built and surveyed to UK MCA Category (0). So, what was driving this request, and how did it unfold in reality?

MGN 280

The driver was simply concerned that:

  • We are commissioning a build 7000 miles from "home" with limited oversight.

  • Buying into a design at the time was unproven as the first model was still in the yard.

  • Safety for our family, given the places we wanted to explore

  • Born of a knowledge of how fundamentally easy it is to be certified to CE Category (A) no matter what the design failures!  

Now, I'll wager most of our readers are not particularly shy retiring types, but we all know that hollow feeling in our stomachs. Whereas we can't avoid fear, we can diminish it, and MCA Category (0) was one way we achieved this end by building to the standard of a well founded, seawoirthy, workboat.

This set of standards originated in the UK. They are commercial standards from vessels not otherwise covered by Class. The under 24m, red-headed stepchildren of the big boat industry. Fishing boats, ferries, work boats, and anything with a commercial application that carries paid crew or passengers. It protects those third parties from danger by overseeing the design and outfitting to a good minimum standard. So when the owner of FPB-78, Iron Lady, wanted to operate paid adventure cruises in Antarctica and elsewhere, she became the one FPB to be certified to this standard.

UK MCA Category (0), MGN 280

Vanguard is designed within the Marine Guidance Note UK MGN 280 guidelines. It underscores a comprehensive list, from stability to the use of plastic fittings in engine rooms, from communications to safety equipment to first aid kits. The build is then surveyed, including tests, sea trials, and certification. This rigorous process is then repeated annually, ensuring standards are maintained.

So, what do we want to achieve?

We wanted to build to a good standard, but as we will not use Vanguard for commercial purposes, we do not necessarily want to feel the costs of keeping to that standard where it need not apply. So "built to" or "easily brought to" is our goal. Let me give you an example. One item specified in some detail is the First Aid equipment. The appropriate kit rolls in at some GBP12.000 plus upkeep. Drugs, Defibrillators, Oxygen Generators, stretchers ..... We have a good first aid kit already on board, US Coast Guard approved. So, there is no point in changing that; we will accept not gaining certification with a caveat that we will be certified if we replace our kits with one meeting MGN 280. Another example would be SOLAS-approved life rafts requiring yearly inspection and weighing a ton (80kg!) instead of Wheel Marked 6-man life rafts of a lesser but still excellent standard, much lighter and with a longer inspection period. We are going for a pragmatic approach to achieving our safe, reliable, and stable build, but not trying to be perfect.

So what's the reality of this?

Our first survey was for stability. A UK MCA-appointed surveyor witnessed an inclining test. Those results are in for assessment, verbally, I'm told we are good to go. The second was a two-day preliminary survey conducted by the same UK MCA Surveyor. The checklist was detailed, though some items needed to be relevant (rigging, for example, sailboat stuff). That generated an exception list split into:

  1. must do,

  2. should do

  3. I want to think about!

The result was a much shorter interim report with a detailed list of what needs fixing. In our example, there was nothing major but a long list of items to trip us up if they needed to be fixed. That independent oversight is so informative. The surveyor is not our enemy, but neither is he to be messed with. I quite like that world.

So what was the result?

  • We had some 57 non-compliance items reported (see survey exception report above).

  • Of those, 52 were easily fixed within four weeks.

  • Five remain and will be accepted as non-compliant.

As a result, Vanguard will not gain the full MCA Category (0) certification. However, she was surveyed and built to this standard and has a very clear and identified number of non-compliant items. These none compliances are easily rectified for commercial operation. This places Vanguard in a select group of sub-24 M yachts that have achieved such a standard, aligning with our initial goal. We accomplished what we set out to do without incurring the additional expense and complications of full compliance.

How might this train of thought affect a new build?

Turkish builders are very good at some tasks but must improve at others. Believe me on this point. That does not mean going elsewhere, but it does mean that a prospective owner should take steps to mitigate the downside.

  • MCA Cat (0)

  • Using a class society that inspects during the build, such as RINA

  • Drafting the Contract to link stage payments to inspection, QC and Project management with director-level signoff.

The upshot is a good new build for less than the resale cost of a much older but very similar hull. One of the many commendable features of those FPB designs is that they maintain their value like no other.

Follow this link: FPB 70 for sale. It is an excellent and proven hull with specifications almost identical to XPM-78.

XPM 78, FPB 70 for sale.
FPB 70 for sale in California

Chris Leigh-Jones

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