I have received a strongly worded letter from the Maritime...

Ihave received a strongly worded letter from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) taking us to task for suggesting last month that its communication skills were perhaps not quite up to par. I refer to the Merchant Shipping Act rules, which stipulate the amount and type of safety gear that Class XII vessels (45ft-plus) are legally obliged to carry in the UK. No one seemed to know about them: not us, not the boatbuilders nor the British Marine Federation (BMF), and none of the owners who phoned us in the immediate aftermath of the MCA prosecution that first brought these rules to light.

The MCA asks if its “investment in communicating with the yachting fraternity” is being spent in vain, and I have to say that I think it probably is. Because even though we had a direct line to the very helpful enforcement officer who brought the Mandator case, we had enormous difficulties trying to extract from the MCA the few facts we needed. Even the chandlery wholesaler we recruited to help us with our story, a highly respected specialist safety equipment company, knew nothing of this law – and it took them the best part of a week to obtain the information they needed from the MCA.

The RYA, of course, had acknowledged the existence of the legislation in its publications, but only in passing – bizarrely, it seems that the RYA had been tipped off by the MCA that this law wouldn’t be enforced.

I think that if the MCA had been genuinely concerned to tell owners of 45-footers what safety kit the law requires them to carry, it would have probably published a booklet by now, entitled Safety Kit You’re Legally Obliged to Have on Your 45-footer. Still, I understand now that the MCA has acknowledged the difficulty that the Mandator case has caused, and is working with the BMF to sort out the mess and publish some helpful information. I hope this is true. With any luck it will be ready for the Southampton Boat Show. Even so, it will be long overdue.