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Introduction

This electronic application sets out the categorisations that apply to waters in the United Kingdom. It is intended as an accessible method of viewing the information outlined in the Merchant Shipping Notice MSN 1776 (M) entitled “Categorisation of Waters”, which has recently superseded MSN 1758 (M). The categorisations of the waters are given statutory force by way of Regulation 2 of the Merchant Shipping (Categorisation of Waters) Regulations 1992.

The categorisations determine the waters not regarded as “sea” for the purposes of Merchant Shipping legislation (excepting marine pollution). The construction requirements and level of safety equipment to be carried depend upon the waters in which a vessel operates, ie whether operations are confined to the defined categorised waters or if it goes to “sea”.

The four categories of waters are as follows:

    • Category A: Narrow rivers and canals where the depth of water is generally less than 1.5 metres.
    • Category B: Wider rivers and canals where the depth of water is generally 1.5 metres or more and where the significant wave height could not be expected to exceed 0.6 metres at any time.
    • Category C: Tidal rivers and estuaries and large, deep lakes and lochs where the significant wave height could not be expected to exceed 1.2 metres at any time.
    • Category D: Tidal rivers and estuaries where the significant wave height could not be expected to exceed 2.0 metres at any time.

These categorisations apply specifically to the operation of Class IV, V and VI Passenger Ships and also determine which waters are not regarded as “sea” for the purposes of regulations made, or treated as made, under Section 85 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

Under the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Oil Pollution) Regulations 1996 it should be noted that “sea” includes any estuaries or arms of the sea.

These categorisations should not be confused with classifications for Passenger Ships as designated in the Merchant Shipping (Passenger Ships on Domestic Voyages) Regulations 2000 which implement the EC Directive on Safety Rules and Standards for Domestic Passenger Ships.

The categorisations shown apply at all times of the year unless otherwise indicated. “Summer” means the months of April to October, inclusive, and “winter” means the months of November to March, inclusive.

For information on how to apply for a stretch of water to be categorised of for an existing category to be changed, click here.

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