The MCA is seeking further views on how passengers on board domestic ships are counted and reported.
It is a legal requirement for operators to have details of all those on board such ships which can be used if there is an emergency to account for passengers.
That safety requirement is not changing but the new rules will require operators to report numbers via electronic means to a central portal known as the UK National Single Window (NSW). This would give emergency services one place to go to rather than individual operators.
Previously, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency had gone out to consultation on the amended Passenger Counting Regulations and a number of proposals had been made as a result.
Now there will be a four-week consultation on the proposed refinements which include a longer time to make the changeover from the current system to the new one in reflection of the cost to the operator and give them flexibility to fund it.
The very latest date by which all operators must comply is December 2025 although it’s thought that most will comply earlier than that.
The Government will also take the opportunity to remove a duplication which has arisen in Merchant Shipping legislation, where some of the persons counting obligations are contained in two places.
A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesperson said:
“Moving from the current system to electronic means will cut down the time needed to account for all on board in the event of an emergency. We’ve recognised this can have a cost implication for operators which for some might be a challenge and are going to give them more time to comply.
“In the meantime, passengers should be reassured that the same high standards of safety still apply and that in the unlikely event of an incident, the details of who is on board will still be made available to the emergency services.”
Some exemptions may be given in exceptional circumstances by the Secretary of State for Transport through the MCA if it can be proved that the operator really cannot comply and only if they can still provide the same robust level of reporting.
The new consultation document can be found on gov.uk https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-merchant-shipping-counting-and-registration-of-persons-on-boards-amendment-regulations-2023