The marine licensing system under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA) has been in force since 6 April 2011. This system consolidates and replaces some previous statutory controls, including:
- licences under Part 2 of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985
- consents under section 34 of the Coast Protection Act 1949
- consents under Paragraph 11 of Schedule 2 to the Telecommunications Act 1984
- licences under the Environmental Impact Assessment and Natural Habitats (Extraction of Minerals by Marine Dredging) Regulations 2007.
We are responsible for most marine licensing in English inshore and offshore waters and for Welsh and Northern Ireland offshore waters. The Secretary of State is the licensing authority for oil and gas-related activities and administers marine licences through the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
What a marine licence is for
A marine licence is required for many activities involving a deposit or removal of a substance or object below the mean high water springs mark or in any tidal river to the extent of the tidal influence. This may be the construction of a port or wind farm, the dredging of a channel or the use of munitions.
In some cases a marine licence will be required for activities outside UK waters, for example, where the activity takes place from a British vessel or where the vessel was loaded in UK waters.
One marine licence may cover a number of activities. Please see the list of licensable activities and exemptions for some further information on what may require a marine licence.
In considering an application for a marine licence, we will act in accordance with government policy statements and guidance and with the principles of sustainable development, namely:
- achieving a sustainable marine economy
- ensuring a strong, healthy and just society
- living within environmental limits
- promoting good governance
- using sound science responsibly.
We will also follow the principles of better regulation and aim to be transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted in our actions.
We are currently creating a system of marine plans which will provide a framework for marine licensing decisions. The first marine plans are being created for the English East Inshore and East Offshore areas. We expect to adopt these in 2013.
In addition to a marine licence, a project may require other consents either from us or from other bodies. For example, a harbour order or consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act.
Geophysical (including seismic) surveys
It is an offence to disturb or injure European protected species (EPS) under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. Seismic and other geophysical surveys could be associated with the disturbance or injury of marine EPS primarily though the emission of man-made sound. Read more about these surveys and the risk assessments to assess the likelihood of an offence being committed.
The MCAA contains transitional provisions that mean a relevant licence or consent in effect before 6 April 2011 now has effect as a marine licence. Similarly, an application made for a relevant licence or consent before 6 April 2011 now has effect as an application for a marine licence.
There is also a period of one year from 6 April 2011, during which a dredging operation may not require a marine licence provided it meets certain requirements. Please see dredging for further information.
Marine regulation and licensing has been devolved in Scottish inshore and offshore waters to the Scottish Executive, in Welsh inshore waters to Welsh ministers and in Northern Ireland’s waters to the Northern Ireland Executive.
Marine Licensing Team
Marine Management Organisation
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tel: 0300 123 1032
Fax: 0191 376 2681