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Shipping registration

Under the Shipping Registration Act 1981 (the Act), all Australian owned or operated ships, 24 metres and over in tonnage length, and capable of navigating the high seas, must be registered. Any ship sailing to a foreign port must also be registered, regardless of size. All other craft, including Government ships, fishing and pleasure craft need not be registered, but may be if the owners desire.

Registered ships receive legally recognisable Australian nationality, which provides advantages both at home and abroad. An Australian registered vessel is granted Australian protection on the high seas and in foreign ports. The proof of ownership that registration provides is recognised internationally, while at home it can facilitate the arrangement of mortgages and other forms of finance, and the sale of the vessel.

When registering a vessel, please refer to the Shipping Registration Act 1981 and Shipping Registration Regulations 2019.

Additional Information is available on the AMSA shipping registration website.

A ship operating in Australian waters may also be required to be registered under state or territory law. Details of the requirements can be obtained from the relevant government authority.

Note: The information in this document is provided as guidance only. This document has been developed to help ship owners better understand their responsibilities under the Shipping Registration Act 1981. This document should be read in conjunction with the legislation and supporting regulations. This document does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for independent professional advice.

Copyright Commonwealth of Australia 2020

This work is copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission.

This is an AMSA policy document.
Cover image: ©2006 Colin & Linda McKie

Use of the Coat of Arms: The terms under which the Coat of Arms can be used are detailed at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website.

Contact us

Enquiries regarding this document or use of this document are welcome at Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Ship Inspection and Registration

PO Box 255
Coffs Harbour NSW 2450

Document Name: Guide to registering your ship on the Australian General Shipping Register Document No:    P200810
Drafted by: Ship Inspection and Registration Unit, AMSA
Approved by: Head of Registration and Certification

VersionDateAuthorNature of changesApproved byNext review date
1.0September 2020Ship Inspection and Registration unit New layout, address
details updated
Head of Registration and CertificationAugust 2021