Domestic commercial vessels

Risk area 1: DCV inspection targeting

AMSA employs a targeting prioritisation model that is risk-based. The analysis of more comprehensive inspection data has allowed further refinement of risk profiles for targeting purpose. 

Priority GroupRisk ScoreMin Inspection Frequency
Priority 1>=24Eligible every 12 months
Priority 221-24Eligible every 24 months
Priority 317-20Eligible every 48 months
Priority 40-16Eligible every 60 months

Focus (C)

AMSA will conduct at least 2,300 inspections of domestic commercial vessels based on vessel priority.5  

GroupActivityTimeframe Target
Higher risk domestic commercial vessels (Priority 1 and 2)InspectionOngoing 60% 
Lower risk domestic commercial (Priority 3 and 4)InspectionOngoing40%

Risk area 2: Marine Order 504 (Certificates of operation and operation requirements – national law)

Following changes to Marine Order 505 (Certificates of competency) 2022 which commenced on 1 January 2023, Marine Order 504 was reviewed to ensure that both marine orders remain aligned. The review has been split up into two phases.  

  • Phase 1. Commencing 1 August 2023, will introduce changes to provide consistency with Marine Order 505 along with clarifying and strengthening key aspects related to operational safety. 
  • Phase 2. Commencing in late 2024, will focus on changes to safety management system provisions, including simplified safety management for smaller vessels.

Focus (C)

AMSA will conduct a separate safety campaign during 2023-24 to provide guidance to assist owners, masters and crew to comply with the changes to Phase 1 of the revised Marine Order 504.6  A focused inspection campaign will be conducted focusing on lifejacket wear requirements. 

Phase 1 education campaign on Marine Order 504 changes Education Quarter 1 and 2NA
Focused inspection campaign on lifejacket wear requirementsInspectionsQuarter  2200

Risk area 3: Safe navigation

Contact, collisions and groundings accounted for 62 per cent of all incident vessel consequences in 2022. Forty-six point three per cent of these vessel consequences were mainly associated with shortfalls in the control and navigation of a vessel.  

Safe navigation forms the basis of appropriate crewing assessment in Marine Order 504 with voyage planning being one element of the controls to minimise the risk of navigational accidents.

This focus area will be aligned with other activities related to changes to Marine Order 504.

Focus (D)

As part of the Marine Order 504 implementation, AMSA will highlight the importance of voyage planning including maintaining a lookout and consideration of safe navigation when determining appropriate crewing for domestic commercial vessels. 

Steps ActivityTimeframeTarget
Education focusing on safe navigation considerations in the safety management systemEducationQuarter 2NA

Risk area 4: Electrical (including battery) safety

Since 2021 electrical installations and test records were in the top 3 deficiencies identified during domestic commercial vessel inspections. Frequently identified issues included battery terminal housing, wiring and fittings.  

Several serious incidents have highlighted the risks posed by batteries used for vessel power and propulsion and carried for recreational use in personal devices or transported as cargo.

Focus (C)

AMSA will conduct an education campaign focusing on electrical safety in particular highlight the risks associated with batteries onboard vessels. 

Education campaign on electrical (including battery) safetyEducationQuarter 3NA

Risk area 5: Reporting culture

Analysis of incident reporting data reveals that certain vessels classes continue to under report marine incidents. 

Since 2019 only 5 per cent of Class 3 (Fishing) and Class 4 (Hire and Drive) vessels have reported a marine incident to AMSA. This, compared to 25 per cent of Class 1 (Passenger) vessels that have reported an incident suggests that Class 3 and Class 4 vessels are possibly not attuned to the importance of safety learnings associated with reporting marine incidents.

Focus (C)

AMSA will continue to educate domestic commercial vessel owners, masters and crew on the importance of reporting marine incidents with a focus on Class 3 (Fishing) and Class 4 (Hire and Drive) vessels.

Develop and distribute material on reporting marine incidents targeting Class 3 and Class 4 vessels.EducationOngoingNA

Regional focus areas

Risk area 6: Regional safety focus (NSW): Risk of hazardous gases 

Incidents involving hazardous gases on vessels are a concern including gases produced as waste or a by-product of operations such as sewage systems (hydrogen sulphide) or combustion of fuels (carbon monoxide). A passenger fatality in 2019 on a Class 1 passenger vessel was likely the result of exposure to hazardous gases on board.7 

Hazardous gases are a potential risk that should be considered when carrying out the risk assessment of the operation of the vessel.

Focus (C)

AMSA will conduct and education campaign in NSW focusing on Class 1 and Class 4 vessels to ensure the risks posed by hazardous gases are adequately considered when conducting risk assessments.

This will be followed up by a focused inspection campaign in NSW.

Education campaign on risk of hazardous gases on Class 1 and Class 4 vessels in NSWEducationQuarter 4NA
Focused Inspection Campaign in NSW InspectionsQuarter 450

Risk area 7: Regional safety focus (NT, QLD and WA): Vessel adventure rides and experiences

AMSA received frequent reports of unsafe operations and investigated very serious and serious incidents involving vessels operating “adventure” rides in recent years. 

Analysis of these reports identified operation, design and certification requirements and considerations that are unique to the safe operation of vessels operating adventurous, often high-speed experiences for passengers.

Focus (DC)

AMSA will conduct a safety campaign targeting owners, masters and others involved in the operation of vessel adventure rides and experiences. The safety campaign will comprise industry nights and education activities, and a focused inspection campaign on the fleet of vessels in NT, QLD and WA identified as offering adventurous vessel rides and experiences.

Education from data and industry insights for owners/masters and others operating vessel adventure rides and experiences.EducationQuarter 2 and 3NA
Focused inspection campaignInspectionsQuarter 2 and 350

Risk area 8: Regional safety focus (Torres Strait and Top End): Safe vessel operations

There is an increasing trend in the number of Indigenous owned and operated domestic commercial vessels and qualified crew, particularly across the “top end” of Australia. 
AMSA will continue to support through ongoing engagement with the Aboriginal and Torres strait communities. As relationships are developed between AMSA and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, safety management system workshops will be offered to indigenous stakeholder groups and vessel owner/operators

Focus (D)

AMSA will conduct safety management safety education with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander domestic commercial vessel owners and operators including providing guidance on changes to operational safety requirements following the review of Marine Order 504. 

Conduct safety management system and safety education workshopsEducationQuarter 2 and 3NA

Risk area 9: Survey instructions

Following analyses of survey findings of Accredited Marine Surveyors (AMS), AMSA identified the following key areas that require more robust guidance and education: 

  • Ultrasonic Thickness Measurements (UTM) (10 Yearly Surveys) 
  • 10 Yearly Foam Buoyancy Inspections 

Focus (D) 

AMSA will conduct an education campaign to support AMS which will include the development of Instructions to Surveyors and associated guidance in consultation with stakeholders.

Steps Activity TimeframeTarget 
Education campaign on Ultrasonic Thickness MeasurementsEducationQuarter 1 to Quarter 3NA
Education campaign to AMS on 10-yearly foam buoyancy inspections.Education Quarter 1 to Quarter 3NA

Risk area 10: NSCV C4 Fire safety and plan approval compliance 

Fire is a serious issue that can lead to catastrophic results. Significant fires resulting in the total loss of the vessel have occurred in the last 5 years. In 2016 the 1770 was declared a total loss following an engine room fire8. The investigation concluded that incorrect fitment of structural fire protection allowed the fire to spread through the vessel into adjacent spaces. AMSA data analysis indicates that 16% of Certificate of Survey (CoS) application refusals relate to incorrect structural fire protection, making this the second largest cause for AMSA refusal of certificates of survey on newly constructed vessels. 

Plan approval letters play a pivotal role in maintaining safety, compliance, and transparency throughout the certification process. Despite their significance, AMSA frequently receives plan approval recommendations that either lack the necessary plan approval letters or contain insufficient information to discern the applied standards or survey processes

Focus (D)

AMSA will implement a risk-based fire safety assessment. Vessels in the high-risk category will be flagged for a focused “high risk” fire safety assessment. AMSA will increase the quality of plan approval letters by reviewing them at initial survey and providing focused education through available channels.

Fire safety assessment of vessel plans and survey documents for vessels assessed as “high risk”  Desktop assessment  OngoingHigh risk vessels
Education for AMS to increase standard of plan approval letters. Education Ongoing NA


5. AMSA continues to refine the domestic commercial vessel inspection targeting algorithm. Targets are guidance based on data from the time of publication and may change.

6. AMSA, Changes to operational safety requirements from 1 August 2023, AMSA website, n.d.

7. Office of Transport Safety Investigations (OTSI), Ferry Safety Investigation – Passenger fatality – MV Lady Rose Sydney Harbour – 02 February 2019, OTSI, New South Wales Government, accessed 6 June 2023.

8. AMSA, Spirit of 1770 company fined for reckless operation, AMSA website, 2020, accessed 6 June 2023