On the 11 July 2017, the Marine Management Organisation ('MMO') launched its 'self-service' marine licensing process. It applies to low risk licensable activities that meet certain pre-set criteria. The self-service process, replaces the MMO's previous 'fast-track' process, which required MMO case officer consideration.

A self-service marine licence costs £50 and results in the instant grant of a marine licence (if criteria are met).

An 'assistance' tool is available through the MMO's online Marine Case Management System (MCMS). This tool helps to determine whether the proposed licensable activity is suitable for 'self-service'.

In principle the following activities may be suitable:

  1. Deposits (including burials at sea, markers (posts and buoys)).
  2. Removals (including litter, discreet minor objects (including from heritage destinations and those of archaeological and historic interest), boreholes, trial pits, grab samples, single pile).
  3. Construction (including scaffolding or access towers for maintenance, repainting of existing structures or assets, sand or grit blasting, resurfacing / repointing etc. existing structures and slipways, removal of marine growth, removal and replacement of single pile, installation of ladders, minor maintenance (within existing boundaries)).
  4. Non-navigational clearance dredging (including within a heritage designation or wreck site and for operational purposes).
  5. Beach maintenance activities (including beach re-profiling, beach recycling, replacing windblown sand, other beach maintenance).

In all cases the proposed activity must take place within 12 months of issue of the licence (3 months in the case of burials at sea), not form part of a larger project requiring an EIA and not cover a location exceeding 10 square miles (multiple locations must be within 10 miles of each other and the total combined area must not exceed 10 square miles).

The more onerous additional requirements and restrictions apply to licensable activities which are proposed to take place within or near:

  1. Marine Protected Areas
  2. Heritage Designations
  3. Military or Defence Areas
  4. IMO Routing Measures

Prior agreement of Method Statements may be required from Natural England, English Heritage, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Trinity House and Local Harbour Authorities.

As such, although a self-service marine licence is granted instantly, it may take a number of weeks, pre-application for the applicant to obtain the necessary agreements. In addition, if the activity is not suitable for self-service it will no longer be able to progress through the MMO's fast track process and will instead fall into the regular marine licensing process, which requires a consultation period of 28 days (for non-EIA projects) and has a target determination period of 13 weeks. Therefore it is important establish early whether the activity is suitable for self-service and who may need to be consulted pre-application. The MMO has provided pro-forma letters to assist with such consultation

In addition applicants need to be careful to ensure that the information they are providing is accurate. Otherwise they could face enforcement action from the MMO for providing false or misleading information, failing to disclose relevant information or a breach of the self-service licence and its conditions.

The new MMO guidance can be accessed in full here.