Digital Transformation at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency


James Findlay


2 days ago
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The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Transport. It works to prevent the loss of life on the coast and at sea by providing a 24-hour maritime search and rescue service through HM Coastguard. It produces legislation and guidance on maritime matters and operates the UK Ship Register and ensures the safety of seafarers and vessels through its Marine Surveyors and Inspectors.

In late 2018 as part of a business strategy review encompassing every aspect of the MCA’s organisation, it was recognised that there was a need to embark on a digital transformation supporting all aspects of their frontline operations from search and rescue to becoming the best performing and fastest growing international shipping flag. So, in early 2019 Stance was engaged to lead on the delivery of their digital transformation.

Our Approach

To support the MCA’s commitment to digital transformation we considered the drive for change across three areas; customer and user experience, operational processes and the digital services operating model. The process of digital transformation requires coordination across the entire organisation, side by side with culture changes and our approach included a move to an Organised Service Operating Model (OSOM) for Digital Services. Key to the delivery of a digital transformation is leadership, as the influence of the leader needs to match the scope of the change strategy, and in this case sponsorship and leadership came from the CEO.

Our methodology encompases analysis and documentation of each system/service or component/group to understand the size of the digital, data and technology estate as well as the risk profile of each system/service, we then utilize a combination of value chain mapping using the “Wardley Mapping” technique which supports the identification of the value proposition to users and customers, high level user needs, “Wardley Doctrine” to help identify the maturity of both the digital and wider business teams to support the digital transformation. Then using OSOM for each system/service we supported high level designs, the boundaries and interfaces between them, including the supply type options, before looking at the required integration and support capabilities, including the operating model followed by the organizational structure, and then implement/transition services and systems individually or in logical groupings, but not “big bang”.

The Impact

The most visible impact of the digital transformation was the Digital UK Ship Register (UKSR) and Maritime Digital Platform project which was delivered jointly with the MCA’s software engineering partner Catapult - This partnership enabled the UKSR to launch the Part III “Small Ships Register” online within just 9 weeks of inception and then start to roll out the solution across the wider Registry. The system was tested remotely at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown successfully passing the Government Digital Service Standard Public Beta Assessment. This has seen digital uptake from citizens and businesses from 28% to 60% and initial registration of a vessel from 90 to 20 minutes.

A new Digital Services team including an operating model and organisational structure aligned to services through use of the Stance OSOM approach,

An improved management of technical risk, which has seen a systematic approach to mitigating the risks around each system/service, particularly in the light of increased cyber security risk, as well as a sharp focus on public sector financial expenditure where value for money is paramount,

Leaner processes allowing for faster deployment and change, both in terms of digital and data services, allowing the MCA to have improved response to its safety mission across both Search and Rescue and Shipping Safety domains,

The digital transformation has seen improved public and business customer satisfaction as well as improved staff engagement, which is vital for business striving to be relevant in an increasingly challenging and fast paced world.


“The effective digitisation of the UK Ship Register is a central element to the creation of a new operating model for the service; fit for the 21st Century. The solution that has been developed is elegant in its design, thorough in its understanding of the customer and simple in its execution – leading users seamlessly through the process. It means that the registration services of the UK flag have the ability to be world leading, supporting the maritime sector and the wider UK economy.

The project team has collaborated effectively and engaged the teams across the MCA at the appropriate times. The delivery has been tested during the lockdown period at the start of the Covid19 pandemic, with all contact having to be conducted remotely. Both the system and teams stood up to the scrutiny and have delivered an exemplary platform that will be built upon and used by the MCA for many years.”

Dan Vivian - Commercial Director, MCA