AMSA Aboard

August 2016

Focus on electrical safety

Portable powerboard with in-built RCD

Increasing electrical safety awareness on boats is a high priority for us. Incidents involving electrical safety on boats can have extreme consequences.

One such incident was in 2013 when Ryan Donoghue was using an angle grinder plugged into a power outlet while working on a prawn trawler in the Gulf of Carpentaria. While he was using the grinder, a wave washed over the boat, electrocuting Ryan and he tragically died as a result.

The outlet Ryan was using was not protected by a residual current device (RCD). An RCD is a circuit breaker designed to cut power to prevent electrocution. The Coroner found that an RCD may have saved Ryan’s life. It is highly recommended you have a RCD protecting every power outlet on board your vessel.

Watch AMSA Marine Surveyor Adam Gohl explaining how residual current devices (RCDs) on your vessel can save lives

Further information

For further information on electrical safety on board vessels, please read our fact sheet.

You can also subscribe to our Working Boats newsletter and Domestic Vessels e-news for the latest news on electrical safety and many other initiatives.

Consultation: cost recovery under the National System

Consultation on cost recovery for services under the National System is now open

We invite you to take part in consultation on the proposed levy models and fees to recover the costs associated with delivering services to the domestic commercial vessel (DCV) industry under the National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety (National System).

Consultation is now open and will continue until 10 October 2016.

The proposed implementation date for the levy and fees is 1 July 2017, to coincide with us commencing service delivery under the National System.

We are wholly funded by industry for our regulatory, aids to navigation, and pollution prevention and response functions. This funding is currently provided through three levies largely paid by the international shipping industry in accordance with the Australian Government Cost Recovery Guidelines.

Consistent with Australian Government policy and the Cost Recovery Guidelines, state, Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments agreed to make AMSA the National Regulator for domestic commercial vessels (DCVs), and that regulatory and service delivery functions are to be funded by the domestic industry.

During consultation, we are proposing two different models for the introduction of a levy, as well as the proposed fees for services, and encourage you to consider the impact of both models and the fees and to provide your feedback.

We value industry involvement during the process of planning and implementing change. Your response through this consultation process will provide valuable information that will help to implement the most appropriate cost-recovery system.

Go to the AMSA consultation page to:

  • find out all you need to know about the proposed levy options and the fees for services (read the information booklet and the Cost Recovery Implementation Statement)
  • submit your feedback (you can do this online via the consultation page, download and print off a feedback form and post it to us, or call AMSA Connect and ask for a form to be mailed to you along with a reply-paid envelope).

If you have a question about the proposed fees and the models for the levy:

  • Call AMSA Connect 02 6279 5000
  • Send an email with your questions to
  • Attend a question session at your nearest location. These are listed here. You must register your interest in attending via our website or by calling AMSA Connect. These sessions will be held subject to a minimum number of advance registrations.

Developments in e-navigation

E-navigation is an International Maritime Organization-led global initiative that aims to enhance the safety and efficiency of marine navigation. Stated simply, it aims to provide tailored information, in electronic formats, to a ship’s bridge. Ashore, e-navigation aims to radically alter the way maritime authorities gather and exchange information. It will integrate new and existing bridge technologies and equipment, and enable the provision of globally-harmonised maritime services to enhance the safety and efficiency of shipping.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) led other organisations, notably the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) and the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) to develop an e-navigation strategy in 2008. A plan to implement the strategy was completed in 2014.

Australia’s contribution

From the outset, Australia, led by AMSA, has been an active participant in international e-navigation efforts. Regular and meaningful contributions at IMO and IALA committee meetings, significant contributions to IMO Correspondence Groups and leading work on human centred design, have been the hallmark of our engagement. In particular, our contribution on human factors and design of navigational equipment has been well received in international circles and at IMO.

In 2006, we hosted an e-navigation workshop and invited key Australian maritime stakeholder groups to participate. Since the workshop, we have focused on improving the usability of navigational systems. Together with the Republic of Korea and Japan, we led the development of an IMO guideline on Software Quality Assurance and Human-Centred Design For E-Navigation, a first-ever IMO guideline on the design of navigational systems. The guideline is a non-regulatory approach to support the principles of SOLAS V/15 (which deals with the principles of bridge design), and is primarily intended for developers and testers of e-navigation systems. 

We have also produced an information video (below) that introduces the guideline.


Some of our other initiatives are outlined below.

Developing a Standardised (or S) mode of operation for navigational equipment

S-Mode involves the standardisation of design for displays, interfaces and functionalities. It aims to improve the ease of use of an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) and other navigation systems. We are informally coordinating the work of a coalition of international experts and aim to develop a draft IMO guideline on the S-mode of operation for navigation equipment such as ECDIS by 2018. The draft IMO guideline will be based on ISO standards and user needs developed for e-navigation.

Positioning, Navigation and Timing

The shipping industry relies heavily on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (or GNSS, the most well-known of which is the US-operated Global Positioning System or GPS). GNSS, a core element of e-navigation, has become the primary means by which ships determine their position and exchange this information with other ships, vessel traffic services, and search and rescue authorities. Additionally, accurate timing provided by GNSS is at the heart of shipboard devices like the Automatic Identification System (AIS).

Although GNSS signals are universal, they are vulnerable to intentional and unintentional interference. The international maritime community is addressing the issue of independent (of GNSS) and dissimilar systems to provide resilient Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT). We have been actively engaged in various national strategy and working groups, aiming to promote a common multi-model approach to the provision of resilient PNT.

We have favoured the inclusion of information available on board a vessel that can be ‘sensed’, particularly when navigating in coastal areas. Sensed information on board includes: visual bearings, radar ranges and bearings to radar conspicuous features, water depth, radio direction finding and ranging signals, and potentially even automated sextant angles to celestial bodies. We are of the view that as e-navigation evolves, the effective use of ‘vessel-sensed-information’ should be accommodated to enhance system resilience, robustness and mariners’ confidence in navigating their vessels.  

Under keel clearance management

Since 2011, our under keel clearance management (UKCM) system has provided an e-navigation service for large ships transiting Torres Strait in Australia’s north. It is a current-generation system for enhancing the safety of ships whose keel may be close to the seabed when transiting the region. Such ships face many additional challenges in navigating Torres Strait, due to the numerous reefs, complex tides and strong tidal streams that characterise the region. The UKCM system uses known ship stability information together with hydrodynamic modelling, to predict the dynamic motion of the ship. When coupled with the latest bathymetry and observed environmental data from tide, tidal stream and wave sensors, the system is able to compute an accurate estimate of the ship’s under keel clearance (UKC) in real time. 

Future concepts

There is a vast amount work to be done to translate the e-navigation concept to operational reality.  Several projects have made noteworthy inroads. The e-navigation portal provides detail on several testbeds and their results. Two concepts, that will radically alter the way information exchange takes place in the future, are outlined below.

The Maritime Cloud

The Maritime Cloud is an emerging concept for a proposed communication framework for efficient, secure and reliable electronic information exchange between authorised stakeholders. Basically, it defines the standards, protocols, infrastructure and governance for information exchange. It is not a storage cloud, nor is it cloud computing. The development of the Maritime Cloud was influenced by the System Wide Information Management concept (United States’ Federal Aviation Administration initiative for better sharing of Air Traffic Management system information). 

Maritime Cloud

The Maritime Cloud concept (Image courtesy: EfficienSea Project)

VHF Data Exchange System 

Since its advent in the late 1990s, AIS has been a stand-out success. Originally meant for use in a ship-to-ship mode for collision avoidance, and as a means for shore authorities to obtain information about a ship and its cargo, its use has grown immensely. However, the success of AIS is also the cause of its ‘problem’. Its use by a wide variety of craft has created significant loading on the VHF Data Link in busy areas. Also, authorities use AIS for search and rescue, vessel tracking, environment protection activities and aids to navigation planning – to name a few. Therefore, existing AIS frequencies will not cope with future requirements and e-navigation will need more capacity for data exchange. 

We have played a leading role in seeking International Telecommunication Union (ITU) approval to establish the VHF Data Exchange System (VDES). The VDES concept addresses the need for additional capacity for digital data exchange in an e-navigation world. In 2015, Australia, along with commercial interests, conducted sea trials to prove the VDES concept. We are also modernising our AIS shore station network to use software-defined radios, and our AIS service manager is VDES-ready.

Maritime Cloud

A 'before' and 'after' e-navigation example

A goal of e-navigation is to provide harmonised information, in electronic formats, in a seamless and efficient manner, to better-designed onboard navigational systems. The two photographs above are typical of a ‘before’ and ‘after’ situation.

E-navigation is, among other things, the maritime world’s response to the increasingly rapid digitalisation of human activity. With a vision of safe and clean seas and saving lives, and a mission to ensure safe vessel operations, combat marine pollution and rescue people in distress, we will continue to contribute to the development of e-navigation in the areas where Australia has expertise and can make a meaningful difference.

National Plan update

Exercise Nautical Twilight

The National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies (National Plan) is exercised on an annual basis. The exercise is a key component of National Plan capability and is useful in allowing National Plan partners the opportunity to train, practise, and reinforce their skills, training and application of procedures in a safe environment.

The exercise is hosted in turn by each jurisdiction with the 2016 National Plan exercise being hosted by New South Wales. The exercise was held in two phases. Phase one, conducted on 7 June, dealt with a chemical incident occurring on board a container vessel at sea and a subsequent request from the vessel’s master for a place of refuge in the Port of Newcastle. 

The aim of phase one was to practise the deployment of the newly-developed Hazardous and Noxious Substance (HNS) response capability and the application of National Maritime Places of Refuge Risk Assessment Guidance. This phase was held in the Port of Newcastle with AMSA, Port of Newcastle, Transport for New South Wales and Fire & Rescue New South Wales personnel forming a Maritime Casualty Control Unit to manage the potential maritime casualty and to assess an appropriate place of refuge.

The at-sea deployment of the AMSA/Fire & Rescue New South Wales HNS team, scheduled to be conducted off-shore of Port Macquarie as part of phase one, was postponed due to the low pressure system that impacted much of the Australian East Coast between 5 and 6 June. The HNS team was simulated by exercise managers in Newcastle allowing the strategic component of the exercise to be conducted as scheduled. The operational component has been re-scheduled for early September.

The second phase of the exercise was held 10 August and considered the community impacts and cost recovery implications of a chemical incident in the Port of Newcastle. 

An exercise report covering the entirety of the exercise will be published on our website after the completion of the operational component in September.


National Plan exercise participants, Newcastle, August 2016

Fixed wing aerial dispersant capability

As part of the National Plan, we maintain a fixed wing aerial dispersant capability around Australia that can be called on in the event of an oil spill. The use of dispersants is just one of the tools available to first responders to minimise the environmental damage of oil spills. In July we held a routine training exercise in South Australia (see below video) to ensure pilots and support staff are trained in spraying dispersant over the ocean. You can learn more about all the tools available to protect the marine environment from pollution on our website.


Examples of marine debris

What's new?

What's new?

Media releases


Marine notices

  • 2016/16 New IMO-adopted Traffic Separation Schemes off the south-west coast of Australia
  • 2016/15 Minimising the risk of ships colliding with cetaceans
  • 2016/14 Revalidation of Certificates of Competency and Certificates of Proficiency
  • 2016/13 Receipt of Maritime Safety Information (MSI)
  • 2016/12 Asbestos on ships

All marine notices are available to view on our website.


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