Keoghs Insight


Alex Penberthy

Intended Pleasure Vessel Code


There has been a lot of talk recently about the new Intended Pleasure Vessel (IPV) Code. It was certainly a hot topic of conversation at the recent Southampton Boat Show. The public consultation launched by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in connection with the IPV Code has now officially ended and is due to be published on 1 January 2019.

In this article, Partner Alex Penberthy takes a look at the IPV Code and examines the likely impact this will have on the yacht and boating industry.

Definition of a pleasure vessel

We should first define exactly what we mean by a pleasure vessel. The MCA describe this as follows:

(a) any vessel which at the time it is being used is:


(aa) in the case of a vessel wholly owned by an individual or individuals, used only for the sport or pleasure of the owner or the immediate family or friends of the owner; or

(bb) in the case of a vessel owned by a body corporate, used only for sport or pleasure and on which the persons on board are employees or officers of the body corporate, or their immediate family or friends; and

(ii) on a voyage or excursion which is one for which the owner does not receive money for or in connection with operating the vessel or carrying any person, other than as a contribution to the direct expenses of the operation of the vessel incurred during the voyage or excursion; or

(b) any vessel wholly owned by or on behalf of a members' club formed for the purpose of sport or pleasure which, at the time it is being used, is used only for the sport or pleasure of members of that club or their immediate family, and for the use of which any charges levied are paid into club funds and applied for the general use of the club;


(c) in the case of any vessel referred to in paragraphs (a) or (b) above no other payments are made by or on behalf of users of the vessel, other than by the owner.

The Code

The IPV Code has been designed to make it easier for pleasure vessels to be used for business purposes and race support duties. Existing guidance for boat owners wanting to use their vessels commercially can be confusing and it is difficult for yacht owners to know precisely what they need to do in order to comply with regulations.  At the moment they essentially have two options:

  1. Code the vessel for commercial use (for example under MGN 280) or the workboat code depending on how they want to use it;
  2. Apply for a load line exemption from the MCA for the vessel and the intended journey

Both options carry a cost element and sometimes require boat owners to make changes and adaptations to their vessels.

The IPV Code has been developed in conjunction with British Marine, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and the Yacht Brokers, Designers & Surveyors Association (YBDSA), primarily in order to simplify and streamline the process of officially using a pleasure vessel for business purposes. These stakeholders are of course well placed to provide feedback from the industry on the issues and problems that are experienced under current regulations.

The solutions proposed by the IPV Code broadly cover two common scenarios. Use at sea for business purposes (Part 1) and use at sea as a race support vessel (Part 2). There are different requirements for owners and operators. Under Part 1 operators can include manufacturers, brokers, repairers, surveyors and sometimes owners.  In Part 2 the operator is easier to identify as it will be the party using the race support vessel.

Under Part 1, boats that are normally just used privately as pleasure vessels can be operated for business purposes for a single trip. This would, for example, cover the situation where a vessel needs to undergo sea trials following a repair. It applies to pleasure vessels of all sizes and operating from UK ports within UK waters.

How the Code will apply in practice

If you want to use your boat for race support then you need to refer to Part 2 of the IPV Code. This relates to temporary commercial use as a race support boat. Again this is intended to be on a single trip basis for use as a support boat for yacht or powerboat racing. The Code applies to boats with a length of up to 8m and on the basis that they provide race support services up to 10 times during a calendar year.

The Code is mainly designed to capture RIB boats but can also capture some small fixed deck vessels. Part 2 of the IPV Code does not include any race support activities beyond three miles from the UK coastline and the race in question must be affiliated to the National Governing Body of Sport.

Involvement is limited to the following race support activities:

  • Transition to the Race Course Area(s) as defined by the Notice of Race, and
  • Movements as directed by the Race Committee as defined by the Notice of Race.

If your boat needs to go to sea for business purposes and is taken out by a surveyor or repairer for example, then these parties will become the operator for the purposes of the IPV Code. As long as this business use of the vessel is temporary then under the Code you will need to have a safety management system in place.

This safety management system will be self-audited and self-certified in that owners need to self-declare that the vessel meets the standard under the IPV Code. However, the IPV Code only allows owners up to 100 “business” journeys a year, with the vessel not being permitted to venture any further than three miles to sea. Beyond these limits the vessel will require a Domestic Safety Management audit from the MCA.

The IPV Code should provide the industry with much needed clarity and will, for example, facilitate the delivery of new yachts and the way in which sea trials are carried out. It does, however, put the onus on the boat owner and operator to ensure they have an appropriate safety management system in place. The fact that this is self-audited and self-certified does mean it could be open to abuse but hopefully the freedom and advantages permitted by the IPV Code will be enough of an incentive for owners to take their responsibilities seriously.

For more information please contact Alex Penberthy