Polluter pays—security for costs

Australia’s policy is that those who pollute our marine environment should be responsible for cleaning up and repairing the damage they have caused. If AMSA has to do this because they do not, then they should pay AMSA.


Under the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983, there are arrangements in place to make sure that suspected polluters have provided financial security for the potential costs that might arise.

Under these arrangements AMSA can detain ships that have caused pollution, and before they are released, a letter of undertaking must be provided. This letter is an agreement by the shipper (through their insurer) to give security for clean-up costs and fines and to engage in any court proceedings that might be commenced.

AMSA works out how much the security should be by considering:

Potential expenses for pollution marine incidents

Costs relating to location

AMSA estimates the costs and expenses that may be incurred in responding to a pollution incident on a case by case basis. The following may be included:

  • Aerial assets—surveillance craft, helicopters, jet aircraft operation costs.
  • Search, rescue and surveillance activities.
  • Maritime assets—tugs, work boats, patrols, oil and hazardous waste and noxious substances recovery vessels.

Costs relating to marking

  • Satellite images.
  • Documentation—maps, charts, pictures videos.
  • Trajectory spill monitoring.
  • Environmental assessment.
  • Recovery.
  • Remedial measures.


  • Contract personnel.
  • Staff personnel and associated costs
  • Subcontracted companies.
  • Trained personnel maintained on a standby basis by the oil industry through AMOSC (oil industry resources are made available to AMSA and the National Plan regardless of the source of the marine oil spill).
  • Food, salaries, travel, accommodation etc.

Contents disposal

  • Handling and disposal of waste / waste management.
  • Reimbursement to States and NT (including under the National Plan).
  • Reimbursement to state / territory maritime agencies under the Claims Management Guidelines.

Clean up costs (if AMSA required to do clean up)

  • Initial assessment of the clean-up costs.
  • Information needed to plan or execute response or clean up strategies.
  • Equipment—booms, skimmers, anchors, containers, power packs.
  • Vehicles—cars, trucks, heavy equipment.
  • Asset purchases.
  • Labour costs including construction, the cost of consumable items.
  • Substance sampling.
  • Oil spill response equipment.
  • Environmental damage.
  • Property replacement, cleaning, repairs.
  • External expert advice (technical, legal, claims management, media, public relations, etc).
  • On site office set up, including mail and telecommunications.
  • Miscellaneous.

Legal costs

  • Legal costs of recovery claims.
  • Claims for compensation arising from loss of income from the fisheries and/or tourism sectors.
  • Compensation of valid claims arising from incident towards a court-administered limitation fund.
  • Payments for worker’s compensation.


  • Wildlife rehabilitation and rescue costs, including capture and cleaning.
  • Labour costs including construction, the cost of consumable items.

Scientific costs

  • Short term environmental damage assessments.
  • Longer term damage assessments (including recovery).
  • Purely scientific studies—lab analysis, sample collection equipment.
  • Post response monitoring activities.
  • Special weather reports

Last updated: 

Thursday 11 March 2021