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General exemption in relation to Life Saving Appliances on Class XII vessels

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The Merchant Shipping (Life-Saving Appliances For Ships Other Than Ships Of Class III To VI (A)) Regulations 1999 apply to Class XII vessels (Pleasure Vessels of 13.7 metres in length and over) and require Class XII vessel to carry certain equipment.

The equipment required is often not the most suitable available for small craft. A General Exemption to the regulations offers owners of Class XII vessels a set of equivalent standards. If the vessel’s equipment complies with the set of equivalent standards then it does not need to be equipped in compliance with the Merchant Shipping Life-Saving Appliances For Ships Other Than Ships Of Class III To VI (A)) Regulations 1999.

The General Exemption in relation to Life Saving Appliances (LSA) on Class XII vessels is published by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in Marine Guidance Note - MGN 599. Unless cancelled the general exemption expires on 1 January 2024.

The following information outlines the equipment required to comply with the General Exemption in relation to Life Saving Appliances on Class XII vessels which many owners will find more practical than complying with the Merchant Shipping Life-Saving Appliances For Ships Other Than Ships Of Class III To VI (A)) Regulations 1999 because the exemption specifies LSA which is readily available and commonly used by private boat owners. This information should be read in conjunction with MGN 599

All Class XII Vessels (regardless of area of operation):

  • Life-Saving Appliances on vessels that proceed to sea must be fitted with retro-reflective material.
  • Life-Saving Appliances are to be serviced according to manufacturer’s instructions. For SOLAS inflatable Life-saving products this must at least be annually.
  • Servicing by the manufacturer’s approved agent, at the manufacturer's recommended intervals is required for every inflatable liferaft, compressed gas inflatable lifejacket and hydrostatic release unit. Valise liferafts should be serviced at least annually.
  • Manufacturer’s instructions for the use and maintenance of the life-saving appliances shall be available on board the vessel.

Equipment:

Ladder

A ladder to afford access from the side deck to the waterline.

Note: This is not required if construction of the vessel affords access to the waterline (such as a Rigid Inflatable Boat). The ladder may be temporarily attached and may be replaced by an approved device which affords access to survival craft when waterborne.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)

  • fitted with a lifejacket light complying with an MCA recognised standard unless the vessel’s intended use is daylight hours or good visibility only.
  • stowed in positions readily accessible from the helm and deck. 
  • provided in appropriate sizes for the person(s) on-board.
Area of operation Requirement
Category A & B waters Optional
Category C & D waters and less than 3 miles to sea from the coast A suitable PFD (buoyancy aid or lifejacket) for every person on-board fitted with a lifejacket light unless the vessel’s intended operation is daylight hours or good visibility only.
3 or more miles to sea from the coast  A lifejacket providing 150N of buoyancy, fitted with a self-activating light complying with an MCA recognised standard.

 

Lifejackets required on Class XII Pleasure Vessels must not depend solely on oral inflation for their buoyancy and must be in compliance with either:

a) ISO 12402-2 (275 Newton);
b) ISO 12402-3 (150 Newton) or equivalent including European standard BS EN 399
or
BS EN 396 respectively, which the ISO standards replace;
c) CEN 150 standard;
d) DOT (UK), SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974);
or
e) Marine Equipment Directive (MED) approved;

 

Lifebuoy 

  • Light weight lifebuoys such as horse shoe buoys are permitted. Where they are used, they shall be fitted with a drogue to prevent them moving quickly across the water’s surface.
Area of operation  Requirement
Category A & B waters Lifebuoy fitted with an 18 metre buoyant line; or 18 metre rescue line and quoit 
Category C & D waters Lifebuoy fitted with an 18 metre buoyant line; and a lifebuoy fitted with a self-igniting light. The self-igniting light need not be fitted if the vessels intended hours of operation are daylight only and / or in good visibility by daylight.
To sea from the coast 

Lifebuoy fitted with an 18 metre buoyant line; and a lifebuoy fitted with a self-igniting light.

Vessels of 24m in length and over but less than 500GT operating 150 miles or more to sea from the coast require two of each.  

 

Distress Signalling

Area of operation  Requirement 
Category A & B waters Optional
Category C & D waters and less than 3 miles to sea from the coast

Three means of distress alerting in accordance with Annex 4 of the COLREGs, one of which must be a maritime radio capable of transmitting and receiving calls and messages appropriate for the area of operation and one of which must be distress flares.

Other means of distress alerting may include an EPIRB or a Personal Location Beacon. It is most strongly recommended that the maritime radio provided has a digital selective calling (DSC) function. The flares required shall include 4 red hand and 2 orange smoke flares. One of the signals included shall not be the raising and lowering of arms. “Appropriate for area of operation” means to be continuously able to make contact with someone who can take action when you need help.

Note: This is intended to be a replacement by Exemption provision to the need to carry parachute flares. With this in mind, it does not set a mandatory carriage requirement for radio communications to directly contact rescue services, though the ability to do so from the vessel is obviously desirable. The term “appropriate for the area of operation” above means, as a minimum, the capability of contacting other vessels in the immediate vicinity but where the proximity to rescue cannot be relied upon due to the length of passage or area of operation, consideration should also be given to the carriage of GMDSS equipment to contact the Coastguard.

 

Life-Saving Signals

Area of operation Requirement
Category A & B waters  Optional 
Category C & D waters and less than 3 miles to sea from the coast  A copy of the life-saving signals or leaflet 

 

A Throw line or rescue sling and Line throwing appliance

Area of operation  Requirement 
Category A - D waters and less than 150 miles to sea from the coast  Optional
150 miles or more to sea from the coast  A throw line or rescue sling
Category A-D waters and to any distance to sea from the coast
For vessels of 24m in length and over but less than 500GT: a Line throwing appliance 

 

Embarkation ladder

VESSELS OF 24 METRES LENGTH OR OVER AND LESS THAN 500GT additionally require:

An Embarkation Ladder at each embarkation station (see the General Exemption in MGN 599 for the detailed specification).

 

Rescue boat or inflatable boat

VESSELS OF 25.9 METRES IN LENGTH OR OVER AND UNDER 500GT additionally require:

A Rescue boat or inflatable boat unless the intended voyage is less than 60 miles from a safe haven and in less than Beaufort wind force 4 or less and the vessel has sufficient manoeuvrability in a seaway to enable persons to be retrieved from the water. (see the General Exemption in MGN 599 for the detailed specification).

 

Liferaft

Every liferaft shall be carried either:

(a) in approved FRP containers stowed on the weather deck or in an open space and fitted with float free arrangements so that the liferafts float free and inflate automatically; or

(b) for ships of 13.7 metres in length or over but less than 24 metres in length, in FRP containers or in a valise stowed in a readily accessible and dedicated weathertight locker opening directly to the weather deck. 

A liferaft is optional for vessels operating on Category A, B, C & D waters and less than 3 miles to sea from the coast.

Vessels engaged on a voyage in the course of which it is 3 or more miles to sea from the coast must be equipped with a liferaft. Acceptable liferaft standards are as follows: 

   Miles to sea from the coast

3 or more but less than 20 20 or more but less than 150 150 miles or more
A CE marked Category C rigid or inflated inflatable dinghy ready for immediate use of equivalent capacity; or x

liferaft built to the ISO 9650-2:2005 – Small Craft Liferafts Part 2 Type 2 provided the vessel is not operating in waters where the air temperature is less than 0° Centigrade; or x

built to the ISO 9650-1:2005 – Small Craft Inflatable Liferafts Part 1 Type 1 Group A standard; or  x x x
built to the ISO 9650-1:2005 – Small Craft Inflatable Liferafts Part 1 Type 1 Group B standard provided the vessel is not operating in waters where the air temperature is less than 0° Centigrade; or  x x x
constructed to SOLAS standards or MED approved.  x x x
Unless phased-out (see note at * below), vessels already fitted with the following liferaft types on the date of issue of the general exemption may continue to use them until replacement is due because they have come to the end of their serviceable life. The MCA is phasing out the use of ORC liferafts on Class XII vessels.
built to the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), Offshore Special Regulations (OSR) Appendix A Part 2 requirements; or    see * below  see * below  
built to the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), Offshore Special Regulations (OSR) Appendix A Part 1 requirements and manufactured prior to 1st July 2003; or  see * below  see * below  
DfT Approved  x  x  x

 

* Note: From 01 January 2019, no ORC liferafts may be newly fitted to Class XII vessels and from 01 January 2024 no ORC liferafts of any age or type will be permitted on Class XII vessels (inclusive of existing liferafts and existing vessels). In place of ORC liferafts, Class XII vessels will be required to fit either a SOLAS/MED liferaft or a liferaft built to the ISO 9650-1– Small Craft Inflatable Liferafts Part 1 Type 1 Group A standard.

 

All liferafts shall be equipped with a suitable pack.

 

 Miles to sea from the coast
3 or more but less than 20  20 or more but less than 150  150 miles or more 
ISO (<24 hour) PACK, an ISO (>24 hour) PACK, a SOLAS ‘B’ PACK, or a SOLAS ‘A’ PACK. (The contents of the pack integral to the liferaft may be supplemented by a “grab bag”) ISO (>24 hour) PACK, a SOLAS ‘B’ PACK, or a SOLAS ‘A’ PACK. (The contents of the pack integral to the liferaft may be supplemented by a “grab bag”) SOLAS ‘A’ PACK. (On vessels less than 24m length this may be supplemented with a “grab bag” if the liferaft contents do not make up a SOLAS ‘A’ Pack)  

 

Vessels of 24 metres in length or over and under 500 GT, operating more than 3 miles to sea additionally require:

Additional liferaft(s) to ensure that in the event of any one raft being lost or rendered unserviceable, there is sufficient capacity remaining for all on board, except where the ship does not operate more than 60 miles from a safe haven and operates in Beaufort wind force 4 or less then only one liferaft with sufficient capacity for all persons on-board is acceptable.

It is no longer permitted to fit an Offshore Racing Council (ORC) liferaft to a Class XII vessel and from 1 January 2024 ORC liferafts will not be permitted on any Class XII vessels.

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