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The new IPV Code - what it means for boat brokers

Published on: 16 August 2018


British Marine is informing and updating its members on the new draft IPV code (which is out for consultation until 26 September), which sets out new guidelines for pleasure vessels under temporary commercial use at sea.

This new code has been drafted by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA, the industry regulator), British Marine, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and the Yacht Designer & Surveyors Association (YDSA). The Code has been created to minimise the burden on industry and ensure that industry can operate legally.

The need for the code was identified because pleasure vessels occasionally have to operate outside of the legal definition of a ‘pleasure vessel’, which therefore means they are in commercial operation. Any time a pleasure vessel is used outside its legal definition, i.e. ‘not for the sport or leisure of the owner or his immediate family and friends’, the vessel, in law, is in in commercial use.

Under the current legal framework this leaves the industry with only two choices:

  1. Code the vessel under the relevant commercial vessel legislation or equivalent code such as MGN 280 or the coloured codes
  2. Gain an exemption from the MCA

Both of the above options are costly, impractical for temporary operations and will probably require altering certain aspects of the vessel. The MCA acknowledged that this was creating a serious burden on industry and was not practical for industry to comply with. So, to resolve the situation they worked with the industry and boater representative bodies, to create the draft IPV Code and the associated MGN’s (marine guidance notes) which are currently out for industry consultation – all consultation documents are available from GOV.UK.

How does this affect boat brokers?

As a broker, it is highly likely that you and your business will operate a client’s vessel at sea. This means that the vessel, under current legislation, is being operated outside of the legal definition of a pleasure vessel. Such activities include (NB. This is not an exhaustive list):

  • Demonstrating the vessel to a potential client
  • Moving the vessel from one site to another by water
  • Sea trials after remedial work to the vessel, before or after a sale
  • Sea trials with a surveyor on board, for a pre-sale survey
  • Taking the vessel to or from a boat show

Any time a broker operates the vessel for any of the above reasons (and any other activity that is not with the owner on board, for the sport or leisure of the owner, or his immediate family or friends) and is operating it outside of MCA categorised waters (i.e. to sea) then the new IPV code will apply.

British Marine worked closely with the MCA to ensure that the burden of following the IPV code is minimal, while allowing brokers to operate on the correct side of the law and retain an acceptable level of safety. For most brokers this will simply involve having a safety management system in place which they can self-audit and self-certify, as well as carrying certain safety equipment on board during operations.

Importantly, this is dependent on less than 100 journeys being carried out per year and certain restrictions on the area of operation, all of which can be found in the draft code, with further guidance, from the British Marine website.

If a broker is carrying or likely to carry out more than the 100 journeys per year or intends to operate outside of the initial limits (e.g. further than 60 miles from a safe-haven), then they will need a more detailed safety management system, which must be audited and signed off by the MCA.

British Marine members can contact the British Marine technical team with any questions and for further guidance by emailing The British Marine technical team, alongside the MCA, will also be providing advice and guidance on site at the Southampton Boat Show.