AMSA has statutory functions under the following Acts:

  • Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012
  • Navigation Act 2012
  • Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 
  • Protection of the Sea (Civil Liability) Act 1981
  • Protection of the Sea (Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage) Act 2008
  • Protection of Sea (Harmful Antifouling Systems) Act 2006
  • Protection of the Sea (Oil Pollution Compensation Funds) Act 1993
  • Protection of the Sea (Powers of Intervention) Act 1981
  • Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983
  • Shipping Registration Act 1981

As a result, our regulated community covers a broad spectrum of operations – foreign and Australian flagged internationally trading vessels, domestic commercial vessels, recreational vessels, government vessels – and people - the seafarers and crew of these vessels, the owners and operators who manage and direct them, those who build, maintain and use them and those who assist in us carrying out our functions.

AMSA’s regulatory activities under the above Acts may include:

  • making decisions about the most appropriate way to respond to a risk or international obligation
  • making standards, mandatory rules or recommending legislative amendment
  • assessing a wide range of permissioning arrangements including the issue, suspension or revocation of certificates, exemptions, approvals, determinations, directions and permits
  • providing information, guidance and education to our regulated community 
  • monitoring compliance, including through survey, observation, record checks, audits and inspections 
  • undertaking investigations
  • taking enforcement action through fines, prosecutions and court action

All of these activities are related to achieving AMSA’s mission – ensuring safe vessel operations, combatting marine pollution, and rescuing people in distress.  

AMSA’s regulatory approach

In performing its statutory functions, AMSA is committed to being a modern regulator that supports its regulated community to the fullest extent possible. Accordingly, AMSA’s staff will:

  • always be mindful that safety and protection of the marine environment are AMSA’s primary aims
  • seek to earn the trust and respect of the regulated community by being consultative and collaborative
  • strive to deliver simple legislation and administrative processes that do not unnecessarily restrict or burden the regulated community, or overlap with other regulators
  • take a risk based and proportionate approach in determining where to focus legislative and compliance responses so that those who demonstrate a safety culture, and are compliant, are rewarded by reduced regulatory intervention 
  • be non-prescriptive where possible, leaving choice to those who bear the responsibility for the outcome
  • communicate with the regulated community in such a way that it is clear what needs to be done to comply with legislation
  • balance the need for flexibility with the need to be consistent and maintain standards
  • be transparent and accountable in decision making
  • apply a continuous improvement model that means that the regulated community can benefit from positive changes in risk management and safety culture
  • respect and comply with Australia’s international obligations
  • reflect AMSA’s organisational values of being professional, collaborative, dedicated and accountable in all dealings with the regulated community.  
  • ensure a consistent, intelligence led, and risk-based approach that underpins, AMSA’s compliance activities and allows for better collaboration with maritime communities.

AMSA’s compliance function

Our regulatory activities include a compliance function, the aim of which is to encourage and assist our regulated community to comply with the law.

The compliance program will be data led and risk based. It will be informed by safety data and trends and will encourage voluntary compliance and continuous improvement. Our compliance activities and priorities for each year will be outlined in the Annual National Compliance Plan

Undertaking AMSA’s compliance function includes use of a range of flexible and targeted measures to ensure that domestic and international shipping operates in accordance with the requirements of the regulatory framework administered by AMSA.

Measures such as communication and education activities, timely provision of information and guidance, persuasion, cooperative assistance and collaboration are designed to encourage stakeholders to voluntarily comply.

Where non compliance is detected, AMSA will employ a range of tools that escalate in severity as the need arises. These tools include education and assistance, the issue of directions or notices, suspension or cancellation of certificates, fines, imposition of civil penalties, and criminal prosecutions.

AMSA will consider a compliance tool that is appropriate to the circumstances and in proportion with the risk presented or harm done. 

Decision making in relation to individual compliance measures will be informed by reference to our Compliance and Enforcement Policy. This policy guides our day-to-day approach to compliance and adopts and applies AMSA’s compliance principles of:

  • accountability
  • consistency
  • transparency
  • impartiality
  • proportionality
  • fairness
  • co-operation

Part of the big picture

AMSA’s approach to compliance is consistent with the risk-based model outlined in the Australian National Audit Office better practice guide Administering Regulation: Achieving the Right Balance. It is an important pillar in our efforts to deliver good regulatory performance in accordance with the Commonwealth Government’s Regulatory Performance Guide 2021 and considers that AMSA and the regulated community want to achieve in terms of improvements in safety and protection of the marine environment through continuous improvement, collaboration and engagement with risk and evidence-based decision making. 

The Strategy also facilitates meeting the compliance related challenges and responses outlined in our suite of strategic documents (fig. 1 above) - Looking Ahead, Strategy 2030Corporate Plan and the National Compliance Plan

Given its relationship to the Corporate Plan, AMSA will develop an annually National Compliance Plan as part of its integrated planning process to ensure consistency with AMSA’s high-level strategic challenges, goals and responses.