The National System

We are Australia’s national maritime safety regulator for domestic commercial vessels that operate within Australian waters.

The National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel (DCV) Safety (the National System) provides a consistent approach to the regulation of safety for owners, operators, masters, crew and builders of DCVs working in Australia.

History of the National System 

On 1 July 2013, the National System commenced. A 5-year transitional period began, whereby the marine safety agencies of each state and territory acted as delegates for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) under the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 (NL Act). The National System replaced 8 sets of rules with one regulatory scheme and is based on nationally agreed standards for DCVs. 

On 1 July 2018, AMSA took on the service delivery of the National System.  

Engagement with industry  

We developed a national safety committee and regional safety committees to enable a two-way communication channel between different industry groups on our regulations and safety standards related to the National System. 

Committees and advisory groups play a critical part in how we operate as a modern regulator, by collaborating with industry and consulting widely on proposed changes or new requirements.  

When we became the sole regulator of the National System, accredited surveyor workshops were held nationally to complement the new survey schemes under Marine Order 503, survey reporting requirements of the surveyor manual and newly introduced operating system, MARS.  

We also undertook safety management system (SMS) workshops to support industry in operational safety compliance. These workshops challenged the way SMS had been historically considered, by presenting a system for managing business safely, not just complying with maritime safety regulations. We have delivered over 300 formal SMS workshops. 

Implementing change

In 2018, we faced new challenges when we inherited a geographically diverse fleet of DCVs. To ensure the compliance, certification and inspections of this considerable fleet, we developed frameworks, technical systems, and communication processes to further improve our interactions with industry.  

Our Seafarer Certification team commenced the assessments required for Certificates of Competency to be issued to domestic operators. Considerable effort was taken to manage the data transfer from the state agencies. 

With a consistent ‘one voice’ approach, we implemented various tools, systems and procedures to increase operational efficiency and consistency, and aid the effective allocation of resources.   

This has since incorporated many regulatory changes and initiatives, including the introduction and amendments of several marine orders, adoption of the Marine Surveyors Accreditation Guidance Manual 2014 and development of our annual National Compliance Plans.  

Ongoing focus on safety improvements 

Through our service delivery of the National System, we continue to consult with stakeholders and industry groups to ensure we support emerging technology and have appropriate regulations in place.  
We have altered compliance expectations and safety standards and taken significant steps to introduce and amend legislation to reduce the number of fatalities associated with DCV operations.  

Key initiatives, achievements and statistics

AMSA’s first 5-years of service delivery (20182023)

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Last updated: 

Tuesday 4 July 2023