The continuing work on the new 'Hovercraft Code of Practice' was presented to the MCA last week at a very constructive meeting chaired by Simon Milne, manager of the MCA's Vessel Standards Branch. The meeting was attended by John Gifford and Russ Pullen from the Hovercraft Manufacturers Association (HMA,) and representatives from Lloyds, Hovercraft Club of Great Britain, The Hovercraft Trust and commercial hovercraft operators, Intertidal and Ecospan.

The draft code was warmly received by the MCA, with just a few relatively minor changes and clarifications being required. These changes will be submitted in the new year and it looks very much like the code will be usable from as early as April 2014 - though the actual legislation may take some while. What is clear is that the basic structure of the proposed code will be adopted - currently the categories that concern us here at Flying Fish are the Ultra-Light and Light hovercraft.

In short, 'Ultra-Light' hovercraft will be henceforth excluded from any MCA legislation when used for commercial (non-passenger) operations. Operating parameters will be tightly set - this is not an open door to operate in a 'cavalier' manner without any rules, but more of an acceptance that a small hovercraft operating on the shoreline is more akin to a piece of equipment than a marine vessel. Health & Safety legislation obviously dictates safe operations, and the code makes extensive recommendations as to construction/training etc, plus operators will still need a permit for most work. But this is a huge step forward and we're expecting UK sales of Coastal-Pro's to boom in 2014 as it's now a much clearer and more straightforward procedure to use a small hovercraft for commercial purposes.

The Code even extends to clarification of recreational, leisure and racing hovercraft with recommended technical standards for manufacturers and builders to consider. Obviously, we will ensure all Flying Fish hovercraft are compliant.

'Light Hovercraft' is the category that the BBV500 will fit into, safety, construction and operating parameters are wider reaching but it means there is a clear route for commercial operators to use a small hovercraft for passenger rides, taxi's etc.

Categories

Ultra Light : Up to 500kgs, maximum 4 Persons, no passengers.

Light : Up to 1000kgs, maximum 8 Persons including passengers.

Small : Over 1000kgs, less than 24m and up to 12 passengers.

Large : Adheres to the High Speed Code.

Below is a link to the draft code as presented. If it's of interest, do please take a look, but as stated above, it is subject to revision and cannot be considered as more than 'work in progress' at the present time.

Hovercraft Code of Practice Draft Revision 7 (08.11.13).pdf (1.88 mb)

If you'd like to know more, please don't hesitate to contact us. Email russ@flyingfishhovercraft.co.uk or call on 01304 619820.