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The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Response to growth in the UK Merchant Fleet

"The Maritime and Coastguard Agency coped with the recent sharp increase in the size of the UK-flagged merchant fleet by using its staff more efficiently and by delegating more of its survey work. But with fewer surveyors, the Agency is now struggling to inspect the increased fleet, which could put at risk the quality advantage of the UK flag. Better recruitment and succession planning will be needed, along with more strategic delegation to the classification societies."

Tim Burr, head of the NAO

Notes for Editors


  1. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is an executive agency of the Department for Transport. It is responsible throughout the UK for implementing the UK government’s maritime safety and environmental protection policy. One of the Agency’s main roles is to maintain the safety, security and environmental standards of commercial vessels flying the UK flag (the “flag state” function), and of foreign vessels visiting UK ports and waters (the “port state” function), and the safety of seafarers serving on those vessels.
  2. Surveys. Under international maritime law all vessels are required to hold relevant, up to date safety certificates. Surveys are periodic and mandatory and are undertaken either by the Agency’s surveyors or a recognised Classification Society prior to issuing or renewing certificates. They cover specific items such as construction, equipment or operations on board a ship.
  3. Inspections. Inspections are selective and cover the whole vessel rather than specific areas. They are carried out to check that the conditions under which a vessel’s certificates were issued still hold. The Agency’s marine surveyors carry out general inspections and they are not delegated to classification societies.
  4. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  5. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Tim Burr, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 850 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.


PN: 09/09