Revised Marine Order 504

Designated persons

A new version of Marine Order 504 is now in effect. 
What is the role of the designated person? 

It is the job of the designated person to support implementation of the vessel’s safety management system.  

The designated person’s responsibilities are to ensure safe operation of the vessel, monitor and support safety and pollution-prevention aspects of vessel operations, and for larger organisations, provide a link between those onboard and shore-based management of the organisation.  

The designated person should also be contactable (as is appropriate for the operations underway but not on a 24/7 basis) by crew at all levels working on the vessel and should be able to act upon legitimate concerns. 

To do this effectively, the designated person needs to have direct access to the highest levels of  shore based management and should have the ability to ensure adequate resources and shore-based support can be provided to the vessel. 

Who can be the designated person? 

There is no set rule about who can hold the position of designated person and it will depend on the size of an operator, and what tasks it carries out. 

For a small owner/operator set up, the owner may also be the master and designated person. 

For a larger company with a fleet of vessels, the designated person should generally be a shore-based person who can oversee the implementation of the safety management system on all the vessels in the fleet. This could be someone like an Operations Manager or similar. 

For companies with very large fleets, there could be more than one person performing the functions of the designated person. If this is the case, companies should ensure the designated person functions are aligned so the safety management system is implemented consistently across the fleet. 

The role of designated person should not be delegated to people who do not have a continuous overview of vessel operations – for example, casual masters should not be expected to fulfil designated person functions. 

How does the designated person carry out their duties? 

The designated person needs to be able to make sure the safety management system is effective on the vessel.

They need to have a good understanding of the content and purpose of the safety management system. They need to be able to provide advice and guidance on the safety management system policies and procedures to other people in the organisation, including masters and vessel crews. They need to be able to maintain oversight of how the safety management system is working on the vessel and ensure that it is kept up to date.

In larger organisations, the designated person needs to be able to access the highest levels of management to raise safety issues onboard the vessel.

What is not the role of the designated person? 

A common misconception is that the designated person is simply an emergency contact. Often the person who performs the role of designated person may also be the emergency contact point within a company – this is common as the two functions complement each other, but it is important to remember that they are different roles.  

The designated person is not there to address every concern on a vessel. There should be processes in place to ensure safety issues can be raised and addressed onboard a vessel, which may be then reported to the designated person. However, the designated person must be able to take action on safety issues when other processes have not been effective.  

The designated person does not overrule the master on the vessel. The master retains the responsibility and authority to ensure the vessel operates safely, while the designated person can provide support to help the master do this.

Who’s your Designated Person?

Nominating a person/s to monitor vessel safety is mandatory for your Safety Management System.

The designated person is responsible for:

  • ensuring safe operation of the vessel
  • monitoring and supporting safety
  • pollution prevention aspects of the vessel operation
  • providing a link between those onboard and management of the organisation (for larger operations).
MO 504 designated person inforgraphic

Additional information


Guidance on the qualifications, training and experience necessary for undertaking the role of the designated person under the provisions of the International Safety Management (ISM) code

This is an IMO document and is intended for designated persons involved with the operation of larger international commercial vessels, however, the principles can be applied to DCV operations. 


Several organisations in Australia offer training courses for designated persons. These courses can be a good way for the designated person to understand their role and responsibilities.