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Transparency and marine licensing

If you have applied for a marine licence before, the following scenario might sound familiar:

You've put in considerable effort writing your environmental assessments. You’ve worked through the online application and finally clicked that 'submit' button. Then you wait… and then wait some more. It can feel like an eternity.

After applying it's natural to have questions: What is happening?  How much will it cost? Will it take 13 weeks for me to get my licence? Have I forgotten to do something important? Come to think of it, has anyone at the MMO actually started working on my application?

It can feel frustrating and like the application has gone into a black hole. You are not alone. It’s what applicants have told us when we mapped the user journey.

Marine licensing user journey

This way of applying may have been tolerable 20 years ago, when applications travelled by post or emails, but not in 2019 when we apply for everything online and need to be able to track progress.  That's why from Thursday 22 August 2019, we are launching an update to the marine licensing online application service.

What’s changing?

In the past the only way we could keep you informed was correspondence by phone or email. Since we have to charge for any time spent on casework, it acts like a paywall, meaning applicants are hesitant to contact us for updates.

It is vital that the MMO is transparent about how much marine licences cost and are clear about service standards, which is what applicants said in response to Defra’s “Consultation on a revision to marine licensing application fees” in 2018.

So, since last autumn, we've worked with a small group of stakeholders, staff and applicants to improve online communication. We’ve developed different prototypes, improved our online guidance, and updated our internal processes.

5 individuals discuss improvements at a workshop

So now when a new marine licence application or variation is submitted and the fee is accepted, applicants will be able to access the new information, which will show:

  • Prominent icons indicating when applicants need to take action or if the case is on hold.
  • The current and past stages of the application.
  • Descriptions of what we are doing and what comes next.
  • The current costs alongside the budget, and any previous budgets agreed (the cost information updates every two minutes to provide near real-time information).

There are no extra charges to access this information.

Screenshot of online marine licensing system
Online system displaying application progress and spend against budget.

Unfortunately we are unable to introduce this change for applications that are mid-flight but we’ve overhauled our online guidance so anyone can see what we do when making marine licensing decisions.

This change will give applicants much better insight about what we are doing and how their application is progressing. If an applicant does need to get in touch, they will be well-informed about the progress, which will streamline the discussion and keep the costs down.

We hope you like the improvements, so do give us feedback.

We'll continue to work on further improvements this year and next so if you’d like to get involved please make sure your communication preferences are up to date.

You can do this by logging into the online system, accessing the ‘My details’ page in your account and choosing your communication preference.

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