Crewing guidance for domestic commercial vessels

Guidance on crewing of domestic commercial vessels as per Schedule 1 Clause 6—Resources and personnel of Marine Order 504 (Certificates of operation and operation requirements – national law). Schedule 1 applies to all vessels other than class 4 vessels.

Does it apply to existing vessels?

Existing vessels (as defined in marine order 504) may continue to operate under the crewing requirements that applied to the vessel on 30 June 2013.

Appropriate crewing

Appropriate crewing is the number of crew that are needed to safely operate a vessel.

For domestic commercial vessels less than 80 m long, and less than 3000 GT, and less than 3000 kW total propulsion, appropriate crewing must be determined by the owner. This should be documented as a part of the vessels safety management system. Read more about safety management systems and general safety duties.

If your vessel is ≥80 m or ≥3000 GT or ≥3000 kW you need to apply for approval for your appropriate crewing determination. Read about how to apply below. The owner is still required to carry out an appropriate crewing determination prior to applying to AMSA.

How to determine appropriate crewing

The owner of the vessel must determine the level of appropriate crewing through a process referred to as 'crewing evaluation'. Appropriate crewing may change depending on the tasks and the kind of operation being carried out.

Marine order 504, Schedule 1 clause 6 (4) lists the factors that must be considered when carrying out a crewing evaluation:

  • Tasks and activities performed in addition to the safe navigation of the vessel, and the demands they impose on the master and crew
  • Risk of fatigue of the master and crew
  • Number of people to be carried on the vessel and the effectiveness and timeliness of arrangements for passenger monitoring, taking into account that the master of the vessel must be able to find out the number of passengers on board the vessel at any time
  • Design characteristics of the vessel, including its general arrangements, machinery and equipment
  • Qualifications and competencies of the master and crew, including circumstances where only the master holds mandated engineering qualifications
  • Competency needed to use technological aids to safety and navigation fitted, in addition to the mandatory requirements (e.g. fire safety systems, remote engineering monitoring and diagnostics, electronic communication and navigation equipment, closed circuit TV)
  • Area of operation of the vessel and expected conditions, for example weather, climate and water temperatures
  • Duration of the voyage
  • Requirements for the vessel’s emergency preparedness, including the vessel’s emergency plan and evacuation arrangements
  • Maintenance requirements of the vessel, and its machinery and equipment
  • External support available to the vessel

Minimum crewing

Minimum crewing is the minimum number of certified and uncertified crew, including the master, applicable to a vessel based on length.

Can a vessel be operated with minimum crewing?

Appropriate crewing may be the same as minimum crewing if the risk assessment carried out by the owner determines that minimum crewing is adequate to eliminate or minimise all risks. This must include the master  and each crew member having at least 10 hours rest in every 24 hour period.

The outcomes of this evaluation must be documented in the safety management system (SMS) and be readily available to the master and crew.

Can a vessel be operated with less than the minimum crewing?

There are a number of situations in which a vessel may be operated with less than the minimum crewing. Examples of these situations include:

  • approved by AMSA—depending on the circumstances, either a temporary crewing permit or a specific exemption may be granted
  • it is an existing vessel and crewing requirements that applied on 30 June 2013 allowed less than minimum crewing.

Can a vessel be operated with one crew member?

A vessel may be operated with only one crew member if:

  • the vessel is less than 12 metres in length, and
  • the owner has determined—through a documented crewing evaluation—that one person is sufficient to manage all on board procedures and risks associated with the operation.

Example 1

A 30 metre passenger vessel operating 3-hour cruises on Sydney Harbour is permitted to carry 100 passengers.

Based on the size of the vessel, the engine power, and a crewing evaluation, the owner determines that the appropriate crew when the vessel is operating at full capacity consists of the master, one engineer, and three deckhands.

When the vessel is carrying only 20 passengers, the owner determines that the appropriate crew consists of the master, engineer, and two deckhands.

The appropriate crewing, in this case, takes into consideration all factors affecting the operation of the vessel including the:area of operation, the duration of the voyages, the duties of the crew, the supervision of passengers, and the emergency procedures of the vessel.

The minimum crewing for this vessel is two certified crew however the appropriate crewing determined is higher.

Example 2

The owner of a 9 metre fishing vessel operating on the Brisbane River for up to 10 hours at a time, has determined that the appropriate crewing for the vessel consists of one person.

This evaluation took into account all factors affecting the operation of the vessel, including the area of operation, duration of voyages, fatigue, and the requirement for at least 10 hours rest in each 24 hour period, duties required of the crew, the equipment carried by the vessel, the emergency procedures in place, and the support available to the vessel.

The minimum crewing for this vessel is one certified crew member—the master. In this case the appropriate crewing and the minimum crewing are the same.

Determine appropriate crewing

Interpreting the crewing tables on certificates of survey

The table on a vessel’s certificate of survey does not reflect minimum or appropriate crewing. Owners must determine appropriate crewing for each type of vessel operation.

The table on a vessel’s certificate of survey indicates the maximum number of persons the vessel is authorised to carry in each category.   

You can decrease the number of passengers to increase crew or special personnel if: 

  • you do not exceed the maximum number of people; and
  • the vessel does not need berths to operate, or there are enough existing berths for the increase in crew/special personnel

You cannot decrease crew numbers to increase passenger numbers.

If you want to increase the maximum number of persons in any category outside of the principles above, please contact an AMSA accredited surveyor, or AMSA Connect.


Last updated: 

Wednesday 1 November 2023