UK Revises Workboat Regulations to Spur Innovation


Published Oct 6, 2022 10:47 PM by The Maritime Executive

Rules governing workboats, pilot boats and remotely operated vessels have been revised and remade to support innovation in industry. 

The revised Merchant Shipping (Workboats, Pilot Boats and Remotely Operated Unmanned Vessels) Regulations 2022 and accompanying Code is now going out for consultation across the industry. 

It is felt the new version of the Code will help clarify the survey and inspection requirements and also addresses the growing autonomous vessel industry. Existing rules did not reflect those and other developments which is why the regulations and Code have been revised. 

Rob Taylor, Code Vessel Lead for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “We don’t compromise on safety. It’s as simple as that, so the safety underpinning these regulations will not change. 

“However, we needed to reflect the fact that there is innovation happening right across the industry and we want to support that with appropriate regulations and guidelines. That’s led to this work to provide a clear framework so that vessel owners and operators can continue to operate in confident that they are fulfilling their legal obligations.” 

The consultation is due to last 12 weeks and the link can be found here.


This is a consultation on revoking and remaking the Merchant Shipping (Small Workboats and Pilot Boats) Regulations 1998 (S.I. 1998/1609) (“the 1998 Regulations”) with amendments and modifications that will then provide a coherent legal framework for operators of workboats and pilot boats. 

It will clarify the survey and certification requirements and responsibilities and updating the Code of Practice to reflect the current international standards that apply to these vessels and the equipment carried on board. This instrument also introduces new provisions for remotely operated unmanned vessels which now operate in this sector. 

The original Code of Practice for the Safety of Small Workboats and Pilot Boats was one of four Codes of Practice published for small commercial vessels operating in UK waters under a common set of standards. The Code set a national standard and was generally accepted by industry because it could be easily referenced and understood, and it created a level playing field within the sector. The Code was also recognised internationally and is used by other national maritime administrations as a basis for standards of their own vessels. As a result, UK flagged workboats were able to win contracts and operate widely across the UK and the rest of Europe.

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