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A Quick Guide to Meeting Marine Regulations

Posted on 17th November 2016

There are various regulations to be mindful of when working in the shipping industry – and keeping in adherence to those regulations can be tricky. However, knowledge is power, so the saying goes – and, indeed, the more thoroughly that you educate yourself about these regulations and how they can differ, the better prepared you will be in the event that any of them are modified.

Where do maritime regulations come from?

Regulations affecting the UK’s shipping industry originate from various sources. These include numerous United Nations agencies, most notably the International Maritime Organisation, which is tasked with developing and maintaining the framework of regulations for ensuring maritime safety around the world. Other maritime regulations come from EU legislation and UK legislation.

The UK government’s maritime safety policy is implemented by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, a Department for Transport executive agency. The MCA works closely with national and international partners in pursuit of safe construction of ships.

How maritime regulations can be enacted

Sources of maritime regulations differ in how they deliver new regulations. With UK legislation, regulations arise through Acts of Parliament, which often enable government ministers to devise thorough regulations known as Statutory Instruments, or SIs. The supporting documentation of many maritime SIs can include Marine notices, otherwise known as M-notices, and codes of practice.

You should also look out for maritime regulations as they are passed in the European Union and published in the European Union – as, at this point, they become enforceable in UK law. The EU can also deliver maritime directives and decisions – but these must first be transferred into UK law before they are also enforceable in this country.

The International Maritime Organisation, or IMO, creates regulations through a process that involves, firstly, successive meetings attended by UN member states. These meetings lead to significant documentation, including resolutions and circulars, which IMO member states – the UK included – can accept and put into place. Knowing how various maritime regulations can be enacted could help you to keep up with changes in law relating to the shipping industry.

More information about M-notices

Most UK maritime SIs are accompanied by M-notices, which add further technical detail about the legislation that they support and can be mandatory or non-mandatory. The three types of M-notices include Merchant Shipping Notices, which include mandatory guidance and, when enforced by an SI, the industry must comply with; and Marine Guidance Notes, which guide about how the law should be interpreted, recommend good practices and provide other safety advice.

There are also Marine Information Notes. These are aimed at a very particular audience, such as equipment makers like Martek Marine, or provide time-limited information. They also expire following a particular date, typically no later than 12 months after they published.

Your own shipping company can obtain M-notices as a set of bound volumes, individual documents, or an annual subscription. The most recent M-notices can be bought through the Stationary Office website. It’s also possible to obtain annual subscriptions and copies of individual notices by turning to the EC Group.