As agreed during our meeting with the MCA back in May, earlier this week, we held a meeting for representatives from the industry and the hovercraft club to start on the production of a code for hovercraft for the 'Ultralight, Light and Small Craft.' The meeting, kindly hosted and held at Griffon Hoverworks in Southampton, has produced a framework with several areas that need further work which will be looked at over the next 3 to 4 weeks. Thereafter, the working documentation will be circulated to all 'interested' parties and the draft submitted to the MCA in preparation for the meeting scheduled for September.

This work will result in a safe and defined set of relevant regulations pertaining to the operation of small hovercraft. And that is probably the most significant and exiting step forward for the hovercraft industry in 40 years.

Why?

Our current Marlin and Coastal-Pro hovercraft fit into the 'Ultralight' category and the aim here is to basically remove them from the requirements of the High-Speed-Code (HSC.) This means that commercial (non-passenger) operations in coastal/categorised waters using small hovercraft will be achievable - whereas currently, it is almost impossible to achieve a 'coding' allowing this. So, survey work, weed spraying, bird counts, sampling and geo-technical work, UXO exploration, TV and filming work etc all become possible.

The craft will still need to conform to a set of regulations and be equipped to a safe level - but the MCA have wisely ruled that small hovercraft working on mudflats, estuaries etc bear more relevance to work equipment than a 'vessel.' Crew will need relevant experience and the skipper basic maritime qualifications. The final specifications and  ruling is still to be decided but this is the 'bones' of it.

Moving to larger craft such as our BBV500, the small craft category will allow craft to be prepared and used for commercial reward (ie beach rides/tours/public transfer etc) but craft will need to be equipped to a higher - but now realistic - level.

As I said above, this is a huge step forward and a very exciting development which will really open the door to hovercraft operations in a commercial environment. Whilst there's a long way to go yet (legislation won't be a 5 minute job!) we're now well on track!