Australian Maritime Safety Authority

National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety

The regulation of commercial vesel safety has changed in three ways:

  • the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessels) National Law Act 2012 now applies to operations of the domestic commercial vessel fleet in all states and territories, as well as the Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • the National Law means there is one National System for domestic vessels and seafarers
  • AMSA has become the National Regulator of the National System with the State and Territory Marine Safety Agencies acting as delegates.

AMSA is responsible for maintaining and developing a nationally consistent regulatory framework (the National System) that includes standards setting (National Standard for the Administration of Marine Safety, National Standard for Commercial Vessels, National Standard for General Safety Requirements for Vessels) and National System Regulations and Marine Orders. States and Territories have the delegated powers to enable day-to-day delivery of these national services such as considering applications for, and issuing certificates of operation; competency and survey; as well as carrying out compliance and enforcement activities.

What is the National System?

The National System is a component of the National Transport Reform Package. The package is intended to improve safety and reduce the regulatory burden and costs on the Australian rail, heavy vehicle and maritime industries.

The maritime component of this reform package is being implemented through three key legislative projects:

  1. National shipping reforms in the areas of regulation and training.
  2. The Navigation Act 2012 which will modernise the regulatory framework and provide much-needed confidence and certainty for industry.
  3. The Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 (National Law) which will regulate domestic commercial vessel safety and establish AMSA as the National Regulator for domestic commercial vessels in Australian waters.

Domestic commercial vessel safety national reform was first initiated in July 2009 when the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) decided to take a national approach to regulating the safety of all domestic commercial vessels in Australian waters by 2013. COAG’s decision reflected recommendations made by the Australian Transport Council (ATC). Subsequently an Inter-Governmental Agreement on Commercial Vessel Safety Reform (IGA) was signed on 19 August 2011. The IGA also determined that AMSA would become the National Regulator.

The National Law, Navigation Act 2012 and supplementary legislation was passed by the Australian Parliament on 23 August 2012.

What will the National System achieve?

The key objective of the National System is to provide for the consistent national regulation of the domestic commercial vessel industry across Australia.

This objective is achieved through a regulatory framework that:

  • promotes continuous improvement in marine safety;
  • promotes public confidence in the safety of marine operators;
  • ensures effective identification and management of safety risks; and
  • seeks to reduce regulatory burden without compromising safety.

Commercial vessels which operate internationally, foreign vessels and vessels which maintain certification under the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea will continue to be regulated by the Commonwealth under the Navigation Act 2012 and are outside the scope of the National System.

Defence vessels and recreational vessels are outside the application of the National System.

How will the National System be administered?

State and Territory Marine Safety Agencies are responsible for the effective day-to-day operation of the National System, acting under delegation from the National Regulator. The jurisdictions retain their responsibilities for the regulation of waterways, the management of ports and associated issues, such as classifying waters and setting speed limits.

For more information, please refer to the Guidance Notices and Frequently Asked Questions.

How was the National System developed?

The National System was developed jointly by the states and the Northern Territory to implement the 2011 decision of COAG to establish a single National Regulator for commercial vessel safety. The Commonwealth, states and the Northern Territory work through the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure, the Transport and Infrastructure Senior Officials Committee, and the Maritime Agencies Forum, to develop and discuss policy and standards related to the National System.

Public consultation has been a significant part of the development of the National System including consultation on the Regulatory Plan (summarised in the Regulatory Plan Consultation Report) and seafarer qualifications. This exercise took place from June 2011 to March 2012 involving more than 80 public meetings across the country. A detailed discussion paper was published in mid-December 2011 and provided an overview of the proposed National Law and the draft Bill itself (released in February 2012).

Comments and feedback from 19 formal public submissions were received on the draft Bill were considered and incorporated into the Bill as appropriate. A report detailing the responses to these submissions (including the changes made to the Bill as a result) was released in May 2012.

Government agencies were also consulted on the development of the National Law, including the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Attorney General’s Department, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, and SafeWork Australia.

Report on the development of the National System.

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