Overview of the international and domestic regulations and standards that apply in Australia.

Australia's maritime safety and environment protection regulatory system is based on international and national standards, and Australian government policies. Our regulations are developed in consultation with peak bodies, and industry stakeholders.

Domestic standards

The Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 (the National Law) replaces eight federal, state and territory laws with a single regulatory framework for the certification, construction, equipment, design and operation of domestic commercial vessels inside Australia's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Please read our Statement of Regulatory Approach as the national regulator for domestic commercial vessels.


The Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Regulation 2013 (the Regulations) sets out:

  • the definition of domestic commercial vessel
  • the definition of vessel
  • details and requirements of the accredited marine surveyor scheme
  • fees that may be charged under the National Law.

Marine orders

Marine orders made under the National Law set out the specific requirements in relation to certification, vessel identification and administrative requirements.

Marine orders also applies vessel safety standards for vessel construction, equipment, design, operations and seafarer qualifications.

The marine orders establish a system of grandfathering and distinguish between new vessels and existing vessels in the application of vessel standards. Generally, the marine orders apply:


Exemptions from parts of the National Law are provided where:

  • it is unreasonable to require full compliance
  • where transitional arrangements are required.

General exemptions are provided to a class of people or vessels, such as heritage vessels or traditional operators. Some general exemptions require an application to be made before the exemption can be accessed, while others are available as of right.

Specific exemptions may be available where required for a specific person or vessel, and an application will generally be required in these instances.

For further information read our policy on granting exemptions.

International standards

We work collaboratively to ensure that international maritime safety and environment protection standards are reflected in our domestic legislation. These  standards relate to ship design and construction , ship survey and safety, crewing, seafarer qualifications and welfare, occupational health and safety, carriage and handling of cargoes, passengers and marine pollution prevention. The Navigation Act 2012, Protection of the Sea Acts and marine orders implement the following international convention requirements applicable to Australia.
  • International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)
  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)
  • International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships
  • Maritime Labour Convention (MLC)
  • International Convention for Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW)
  • International Convention on Load Lines (Load Lines)
  • Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS)
  • International Convention on Safe Containers (CSC)
  • International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships
  • Convention on the Limitation of Liability of Maritime Claims

Amendments to conventions and international standards are discussed at meetings convened by the international organisation responsible for the convention or standard. We attend meetings, to present Australia's views, convened by the following organisations:

Want to get involved?

It is our job to ensure our regulations and standards reflect our safety standards and meet industry's needs.

For international standards, Australia maintains a strong international presence through bilateral contact with maritime safety agencies, cooperation and engagement and multi-lateral agreements. We engage with our domestic stakeholders via advisory and working groups and direct email to assist us to develop Australia's position prior to each of these meetings.  

For our domestic standards, we convene a number of committees and technical advisory panels to inform us when making changes to marine orders and standards.

More information on our engagement forums and how you can get involved is available on our consultation page.

Want to know when a marine order or standard has changed?

We have a number of ways to tell you when a change to a marine order or standard has been made.

Last updated: 22 December 2017
Last reviewed: 22 December 2017