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International Survey Operations

Survey and certification of internationally trading vessels

Vessels Flagging to the UK Ship Register

A shipowner or manager wishing to register a vessel with the UK Ship Register should initially contact the Key Account Managers to discuss registration and survey requirements.

Prior to accepting a vessel for registration, you will be asked to complete the Information required for UK merchant ship registration (MSF 5547) form, which provides us with the necessary information to check if the vessel and the owner are eligible for UK registration. An assessment is made to ensure the vessel meets the UK’s required standards of quality and suitability. The UK uses indicators to determine the eligibility of vessels which wish to register, these include but are not limited to, previous flag State history, Port State Control history, vessel age, Class Society, performance of the proposed ship manager and area of operation. The assessment will provide an indication whether a vessel is eligible for registration and if any pre-registration conditions may be required, such as a pre-flag inspection.

Any ship, whether new-build or transferring from another flag, must be surveyed before it can be registered with the UK Ship Register. A change of flag survey can be carried out by Maritime and Coastguard (MCA) surveyors, or in certain cases by a UK Recognised Organisation and it will be arranged to suit the trading pattern of the ship to avoid any lost time.

Survey schemes

The MCA operate two survey schemes that a customer can chose from, to suit their operational requirements:

  1. The Enhanced Authorisation Scheme (EAS), specific guidance can be found in MGN 561 (M) Surveys - Enhanced Authorisation Scheme

This scheme is available to eligible non-passenger ships, which trade internationally and to which the principal maritime conventions apply.  EAS provides for full authorisation to UK Recognised Organisations (ROs) to carry out ISM SMC and ISPS audits, MLC inspections and safety equipment surveys, in addition to those statutory functions already authorised to the RO.

Entry onto the scheme is subject to a successful initial Flag State Inspection and if accepted, the vessel is subject to Flag State Inspections (FSI). The frequency of such inspections is based on the ship risk profile, for example; for a Low Risk profile the FSI will be once in five years; for those with a Standard Risk profile, it will be twice in five years. These inspections will be carried out by MCA surveyors and will be similar in scope to that of an Expanded Inspection under Port State Control. We would aim to conduct the FSI at a convenient time arranged with the customer, taking into account operational needs.

  1. The Alternative Compliance Scheme (ACS), specific guidance can be found in MGN 568 Surveys - Alternative Compliance Scheme

This scheme is also available to eligible non-passenger ships and delegates all statutory survey work to the RO, with the exception of ISM, ISPS audits and MLC inspections, which remain the responsibility of the MCA. This allows the MCA to maintain an oversight of the structure of the ship and its management systems through: ACS inspections; ISM audits, ISPS audits and MLC inspections.  These remain the responsibility of the MCA and will be carried out by MCA surveyors. All other statutory certificates are issued by the RO. Entry into the scheme is conditional on Port State Control and eligibility criteria being met. To apply to be considered for the Alternative Compliance Scheme, please complete the form Request to take part in alternative compliance scheme (MSF 4753).

Surveys by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency

If your vessels are not on either scheme, your vessel surveys will be carried out by MCA Surveyors.

This allows the UK Recognised Organisation to perform all statutory surveys required under SOLAS, MARPOL and Load Line Conventions, with the exception of ISM, MLC and ISPS audits and the Cargo Ship Safety Equipment Survey. These remain the responsibility of the MCA and allows the MCA to maintain oversight of the structure of the ship, its management systems and equipment.

If your vessel's survey is carried out by the MCA, your survey application should be made using form Application for survey and inspection of ships and fishing vessels (MSF 5100).

If the surveyor is satisfied that your ship meets the relevant international standards and UK regulations, short-term certification can be issued immediately. Full-term certification will follow in due course.

ISM Document of Compliance (DoC)

ISM Document of Compliance (DoC) audits are conducted by MCA surveyors unless delegated to a UK Recognised Organisation (RO).

In multi-flag fleets, if the majority of your company's fleet is not UK registered, the MCA could authorise the Flag State (White or Grey listed on Paris MOU List) or its RO approved by the UK, to carry out the audit and issue or endorse the DoC on behalf of the UK.

You can apply for your DoC audit using form Application for survey and inspection of ships and fishing vessels (MSF 5100).