Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Consultation on Offshore Petroleum Activities

Environmental Submissions to NOPSEMA


This page contains information on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA) role in the consultation process required by the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (OPGGS (E) Regulations) for offshore petroleum activities. One of AMSA’s principal functions is to promote maritime safety and protection of the marine environment. Consultation with the offshore oil and gas industry will primarily focus on these areas. This page also outlines the provision of shipping traffic information, which is required by proponents to ensure safe operations and meet requirements under the regulations. Advice to proponents and shipmasters involved in offshore exploration activities is also offered.

AMSA’s Role

AMSA is a statutory authority established under the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Act 1990 (the AMSA Act). AMSA’s principal functions are:

  • promoting maritime safety and protection of the marine environment;
  • preventing and combating ship-sourced pollution in the marine environment;
  • providing infrastructure to support safe navigation in Australian waters; and
  • providing a national search and rescue service to the maritime and aviation sectors.

AMSA also implements and enforces legislation relevant to the area within Commonwealth waters which gives effect to Australia’s obligations under various international treaties and conventions.  This includes the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). Domestic legislation includes the Navigation Act 2012 and the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983. AMSA also engages actively in the work of the International Maritime Organization.

AMSA delivers a range of navigational services to fulfil Australia’s obligations to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and Navigation Act 2012. These navigational services are primarily aimed at the needs of the levy-paying commercial shipping industry. The services provide ships with the ability to navigate safely around Australia’s coastline and to and from its ports.


The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has responsibility for regulation of the environmental management aspects of the offshore petroleum industry’s activities in Commonwealth waters, consistent with the OPGGS (E) Regulations.

Following a strategic assessment of NOPSEMA’s environmental management authorisation process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in early 2014, NOPSEMA is the sole assessor for offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas activities in Commonwealth waters.

Under the OPGGS (E) Regulations, any titleholder is required to consult with relevant persons including:

  • each Department or agency of the Commonwealth to which the activities to be carried out under the environment plan, or the revision of the environment plan, may be relevant

NOPSEMA has issued an information paper Consultation requirements under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (Rev 2, December 2014) that provides guidance for stakeholder engagement with relevant persons in the preparation of environment plans. Consistent with this guidance, offshore petroleum titleholders must consult with AMSA as a relevant person, particularly in circumstances where it is expected that commercial shipping traffic may be encountered during any petroleum activity.

The OPGGS (E) Regulations require that consultation be undertaken to ensure that persons who may be affected by an activity are given the opportunity to inform the titleholder how they may be affected and to allow the titleholder to assess and address any objections or claims about an activity in the preparation of environment submissions. As an independent regulator, it is NOPSEMA’s role to assess, based on the information available to it, consultation with relevant persons has been appropriate.


AMSA as a Relevant Person

AMSA is considered a relevant person for engagement under the following circumstances:

  • When proposed offshore activities including, but not limited to, geotechnical exploration, geophysical exploration, drilling, coring, offshore laydowns and/or fixed or floating construction, may impact on the safe navigation of commercial shipping in Australian waters;
  • For the supply of historical commercial shipping tracks and other related spatial information;
  • Where there are changes to aids to navigation on fixed or floating structures, buoys, beacons or virtual or synthetic Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) and RACONs;
  • For any other aspect involved in marine spatial planning (MSP) and the management of common water space in Commonwealth waters; and
  • When titleholders have questions about the application of MARPOL in relation to vessels.

AMSA is committed to continuous improvement in the provision of its safety and marine environment protection services and maintaining constructive relations with our stakeholders in government, industry and the community.

Consultation with AMSA

Proponents intending to conduct offshore petroleum activities should note that significant commercial shipping may be encountered in some Offshore Petroleum Title Areas.  Measures to mitigate the risk of collision must be taken in all cases.  Actions required by proponents to ensure safe operations and meet the requirements of NOPSEMA, in order for it to accept a particular Environment Plan, must be clearly stated.

Before submitting  Environment Plans for acceptance, commencing any exploration, drilling or development operation, non-drilling exploration activity (including hydrographic surveys, 2D,  3D and 4D seismic surveys and/or bottom sampling), proponents are requested to liaise closely with AMSA’s Nautical and Regulation Section via with a view to obtaining nautical advice regarding adequate collision prevention measures for the intended activity.

Such collision prevention measures may include, but not be limited to, additional warning and/or navigational lights, Automatic Identification System (AIS) beacons and/or offshore guard vessel/s that are able to monitor traffic and ensure early action is taken in the event of a vessel approaching the area of operations and/or exploratory infrastructure.

For exploratory drilling, including drilling conducted by Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUs), proponents should take all practicable action to avoid any vertical stationary/dynamic positioning drilling activities within, or in the approaches to, any charted Shipping Fairway. This includes any drilling within a related exclusion zone.

Exploration, vertical drilling and/or development activities are not permitted within any charted International Maritime Organization adopted Traffic Separation Scheme(s). Proponents should take all practicable action to avoid any vertical stationary/dynamic positioning drilling activities in the approaches to any charted International Maritime Organization adopted Traffic Separation Scheme(s).  This includes any drilling within a related exclusion zone.

Directional drilling must be considered for areas of interest within or approaching any charted Traffic Separation Scheme. Special Conditions may be imposed on certain exploration permits by the Joint Authority (made up of relevant and responsible Ministers from State and Northern Territory) who makes the major decisions under the Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGSA).

Access to historical ship track data – Spatial@AMSA

AMSA has established a webpage to assist those involved in offshore activities obtain information regarding historical shipping traffic tracks and densities, safety of navigation and survey and certification.

AMSA holds historical ship track data that can be used to analyse shipping patterns. This information is collected directly from ships within Australian waters that utilise Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmitters.  When merged together, this historical data can provide an important shipping pattern assessment tool during the drafting phase of an Environment Plan.

To assist with streamlining the drafting of Environment Plans and to minimise the degree of consultation required, AMSA has provided historical ship track data information direct to proponents as a free downloadable service from the Spatial@AMSA webpage: under Digital Data.
Each month, a downloadable ZIP file containing AIS data at 15 minute intervals in ESRI proprietary shapefile format is produced for the entire Australian region and can be found at: This data will enable proponents to get up-to-date information of the location of the shipping traffic patterns. 

Additionally, for specific oil and gas resource areas off the north-west coast of Australia, Great Australian Bight and Bass Strait, a high fidelity dataset (at 5 minute intervals) is available from the same site representing “Vessel Traffic Data sub-areas”.

Please note these ZIP files contain ALL ship types.  For an image of mainly international and coastal trading commercial shipping traffic, it is suggested not to display the ship types of ‘tug’ nor ‘other’. 

It is suggested that the latest historical ship track data from AMSA’s Spatial@AMSA website be downloaded by proponent’s GIS teams for processing and assessment before commencing consultation with relevant persons for a particular environment plan.

Advice to proponents and shipmasters involved in exploration activities

Prior to commencement of any activity, Masters of survey and guard vessels need to be proactive and maintain clear and effective communication with all shipping approaching and within a proposed survey area.  This is particularly important in the vicinity of charted Shipping Fairways and Traffic Separation Schemes, and when vessels involved in survey activities are restricted in their ability to manoeuvre.

There may be a considerable speed difference between commercial shipping and the survey vessel whilst the latter is conducting operations, including maintaining runlines and/or manoeuvring.  It must also be considered that any avoiding or diversionary action that may be taken by a commercial vessel does not compound the safety of navigation and as such, the Master of the survey vessel and guard vessel should establish communications early with any approaching vessel that may be of concern. 

It is also recommended that survey runlines are planned to minimise the amount of time spent within a Shipping Fairway or high traffic areas, to minimise interaction with commercial shipping.  Extra caution must be exercised for any runline that may encroach to and/or cross any expected shipping track(s).

In the majority of cases, a large volume of commercial shipping traffic may be encountered within, and in the approaches to, any charted Shipping Fairway.  This usually includes large commercial shipping which may be restricted in their ability to manoeuvre or which may be constrained by their draught. If the survey vessel is restricted in her ability to manoeuvre, it must display appropriate day shapes, lights, streamers and reflective tail buoys, to indicate the vessel is towing and therefore may be restricted in her ability to manoeuvre.  A proper look out must be maintained by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions. This is in accordance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGS).

Jack-up drill rigs and other ‘fixed’ offshore infrastructure are encouraged to consider the installation and use of AIS Base Stations. These assist with positive identification and increased safety in vicinity of the installation.  The following link to AMSA’s Guideline for AIS on offshore structures provides further information:

Promulgation of Maritime Safety Information

Maritime Safety Information (MSI) includes navigational and meteorological warnings, and urgent safety related messages importance to ships at sea. Many warnings are of a temporary nature, but others may remain in force for several weeks and may be superseded by Notices to Mariners (NTM).

Activities that can potentially impact upon navigation safety should have appropriate MSI promulgated before operations commence. Examples of these types of activities include:

  • Any form of drilling;
  • Vessels conducting marine seismic surveys;
  • Installation of offshore installations;
  • Underwater surveys of offshore infrastructure;
  • Pipe laying, cable laying or maintenance activities including work associated with telecommunication cables; and
  • Other activities that could potentially impact upon the safety of navigation.

Routine activities undertaken by support vessels to deliver stores, cargo or personnel to existing offshore infrastructure or facilities do not warrant promulgation of MSI and / or a NTM. Similarly, activities occurring within NOPSEMA’s gazetted Petroleum Safety Zones do not require promulgation of MSI.

The duration of any activity may indicate if the activity warrants the promulgation of a radio-navigation warning and/or a NTM.

For the promulgation of AUSCOAST or NAVAREA X warnings, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) ( must be contacted 24-48 hours before operations commence.  The JRCC will require:

  • the vessel details (including callsign and Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI)),
  • satellite communications details (including INMARSAT-C and satellite telephone)
  • the area of operation, and
  • the proposed activity start and end dates.
  • the requested clearance from other vessels

For the promulgation of a NTM the Australian Hydrographic Service (AHS) must be contacted through no less than 4 working weeks before operations commence for the promulgation of related Notices to Mariners (NTM).

In cases where a proposed activity is near shipping lanes, or may impact upon commercial shipping of a particular port, it is recommended that the survey or drilling company contact the local Harbour Master well in advance.

If clarification is required on whether a planned activity requires the promulgation of MSI and/or NTM, AMSA can be contacted via

Useful links

Queries relating to other information on offshore petroleum matters should be directed to the relevant Commonwealth agency:


1. Div. 2.2.A, s.11A(1)(a), Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009
2. NOPSEMA website
3. Offshore activities (AMSA website)
4. AMSA Guidelines for the use of AIS on offshore structures and facilities (AMSA website)


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