UK Coastguard Agency asks the question: 'Why regulate?'

Sailing to freedom - do we have too many regulations?
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A breath of fresh air has floated in, bringing with it an opinion of a bureaucrat that there just might be too many rules about what leisure sailors can and can't do. The amazing, but very welcome announcement, began with the almost subversive-sounding 'Why regulate? Can't we just have fun?'

The opinion came from the UK's Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) during a lecture to a UK university, and began acknowledging that the maritime environment is a risky place and that, last year, 112 people died in maritime accidents within the UK search and rescue region.

Sir Alan Massey, Chief Executive of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), has apparently been discussing the role of the Agency in ensuring effective rules, regulations and behaviours are in place to keep lives, ships and the maritime environment as safe as possible.

In a speech to the RNLI’s Annual Lecture at the University of Southampton last night, Sir Alan said: 'We know there has to be a balance between being governed by strict rules on the one hand and being steered by good practice, rational standards and common sense on the other. The trick is to get that balance right.'

The MCA is required to address many types of risk, including those associated with commercial shipping, the well-being of the marine environment, and leisure activities on the water or along the coast.

Sir Alan said: 'The sporting, recreational and leisure sector is largely unregulated or - perhaps better - self-regulating[ in the UK ]. It seems there is very little appetite for insisting that every pleasure craft be registered or every skipper be trained and certified.

'Instead, the MCA - working alongside its key partners like the RNLI and the Royal Yachting Association - puts a lot of effort into education and encouraging formal training. We also operate a voluntary, free of charge registration service with the Coastguard's CG66 system.'

He went on to say, amazingly, 'Work is now underway to remove some existing maritime regulations, and improve others. The government wants to cut down on unnecessary and over-complex rules, to help boost economic growth and increase individual freedoms.

Sir Alan added: 'Through effective regulation, and also by being increasingly pro-active in other ways, we’re always seeking to improve the way people think and behave when they’re out at sea.'

About the UK Search and Rescue region'
The UK Search and Rescue region covers some 1.25 million square nautical miles of sea, more than 10,500 thousand nautical miles of coastline, along with some of our rivers and lakes.

For those sailing in UK waters, HM Coastguard’s Voluntary Safety Identification Scheme – CG66 – is free to register and is a useful safeguard. In an emergency, the Coastguard will have vital information on you and your boat. More information can be found on their website: http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/mcga07-home/emergencyresponse/mcga-searchandrescue/cg66.htm