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Yacht Categories: What Category to Build Your Explorer Yacht?

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

There are some fundamental differences between the marine regulatory systems employed in Europe and the USA. One could probably write a book or two on the differences between them. From my perspective, it boils down to one system regulates and prescribes (Europe), and the other provides “often none binding” guidelines and allows lawyers to argue the point (USA).

Vanguard yacht is being built in Turkey for cruising worldwide and will, in all probability, become flagged in the USA.  The Yard rightly needed a standard to make her to. She is too small for Classification Society rules to hold sway, so we chose European Union CE Category A, allowing for free cruising but, as notably, commercial sale within the European Union.   We also specified the more restrictive UK MCA Category 0 – Unrestricted Service Worldwide. A good summary of these standards is given by the RYA in the UK – HERE.

Now “unrestricted” does not need unlimited; common sense must prevail here, and she is not an icebreaker. However, it does give a degree of reassurance over the design and the systems used. It will allow us to use the vessel for commercial purposes within UK waters. We are building Vanguard 6000 miles from home; at some point, we need to set a standard and have her assessed to that standard. MCA Category 0 is the one we choose.

6 Yacht Categories (MCA Classification)

So just what does it mean in reality?  There are 6 Classes within the MCA classification depending upon the vessel and where we will use it.  Category 0 is for unrestricted, worldwide operation.  Category 6 is, I believe, operation within 3 miles of a designated port and never more than 3 miles from land in daylight and fair weather.   Category 1 through 5 will be all points in between.  For a full definition, look over Marine Guidance Note, MGN 280, available from the MCA.

Achieving this standard will involve a survey appointed by the Certifying Authority who undertakes oversight of the code on behalf of the MCA. That survey will be repeated at periodic intervals, both in and out of the water to maintain the categorization. The vessel will also have to meet pre-defined stability criteria. Vanguard has no angle of vanishing stability, similar to a Coast Guard Cutter. She will always roll back upright, so we should be good to go. They will also survey her machinery and electrical equipment, life-saving gear, and fire safety systems—all understandable criteria for an Explorer Yacht designed to operate far from help.

To qualify this particular blog.  What we know about MCA Classification has been written from the vantage point of reading the regulations and speaking with the Certifying Authority in Turkey.  We are not experts here but feel we now know enough to be slightly dangerous.  We have identified a good and stringent category to satisfy fundamental safety concerns.  We will also now have oversight from a team of experts to regulate our operation and keep us in the class over the years.  That helps me sleep at night, and I think the additional expense will be a worthwhile insurance policy ongoing. 

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