Advice to the Australian domestic commercial vessel industry during COVID-19

We understand that due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, owners, operators, masters and crews of domestic commercial vessels have a lot of questions and are facing challenges in meeting various regulatory requirements.

Here is some information that might help: 

Domestic commercial vessel operations 

We have not issued any direction that would prevent a domestic commercial vessels (DCV) from operating.  

However there are federal and state government requirements that the maritime industry must comply with to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

On 30 March National Cabinet reiterated that aviation and maritime workers continue to provide essential services in ensuring that Australians can return home, and that the essential movements of critical goods and supplies will continue.   

Operating charter businesses

We have been contacted by a number of charter operators around the country asking whether or not their business can operate.

Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this question.

We have not issued any direction that would prevent a domestic commercial vessels (DCV) from operating in Australia but you must abide by the rules set by your state or territory government.

Rules around social distancing including which businesses may operate differ from place to place and we have no control over how these public health orders are made or when they are relaxed.

If you are unsure whether you can operate you should contact your local authority to discuss your individual circumstances. 

These rules are subject to change so we encourage you to keep in regular contact with your local maritime and health authorities.

The following links to state and territory information may help:

Social distancing for passenger and non-passenger vessels 

The Department of Health announced social distancing requirements to slow the spread of COVID-19. These requirements are being enforced by state and territory authorities.  

The Department of Health has also published information about routine environmental cleaning and disinfection in the community that covers cleaning requirements for frequently touched surfaces and minimally touched surfaces. This advice is directly applicable to the maritime environment. Read also the Department of Health's information for employers to find out how you can safeguard your workplace.

Our advice to the DCV industry is to take a risk assessment approach, implementing control measures suitable for your operation while taking into consideration state and federal government health advice. 

If you think you are able to comply with government health requirements and continue to operate, you should include a risk assessment in your safety management system which identifies how and what you will do to comply with these requirements.  

As always, marine incidents should continue to be reported including those related to COVID-19 that may impact on the safety of the vessel. Please also take into consideration any other reporting requirements in relation to COVID-19 in your State.  

More information about social distancing

You can keep up to date with latest Australian government information about COVID-19.

Find links to state and territory information to find out how the restrictions are being enforced. 


While we may be reducing its presence in the field in order to protect the safety of our staff and those we interact with, we will still conduct inspections and surveillance activities as necessary, including following-up on incidents, and we will continue to fully investigate the most serious of incidents.  

We will continue to apply its compliance and enforcement policy in all cases, and where the risk is such that action must be taken AMSA and its compliance partners will do so. However, we will continue to work with you to bring your operation back into compliance and back on the water as soon as possible.  

This is a shared problem, which comes with a shared obligations and responsibilities to ensure that you can operate safety, and with as little regulatory burden as possible.  


We have some measures and guidelines that vessel owners and operators are required to implement on their vessels during the COVID-19 pandemic when AMSA Marine Inspectors are attending the vessel.

Certificate exemptions  

For operators and seafarers that find themselves unable to comply with the National Law due to COVID-19, we have a wide range of National Law Act Exemptions that may be of assistance

Support services

Information about the Government's new measures to provide support to affected workers and businesses during the COVID-19 period.

Australian border closures

Maritime Industry Australia Limited (MIAL) have made available to industry the MIAL Australian Maritime COVID-19 Border Closures Table. You can find out more information about this on the MIAL website.  

Last updated: 

Friday 19 June 2020