Survey Matters—December 2020

In this edition we give guidance on managing some of the changes mentioned in Schedule 1 of MO503, explain electrical plan approval requirements, and more.

Application form updates

The online forms for certificate of survey and certificate of operation have been updated.

AMSA 576 form used to renew a certificate of survey, is redundant. The AMSA 521 form now allows users to apply for a new certificate of survey or renew a certificate.

AMSA 549 form, used to vary a certificate of operation, is redundant. Its contents have been combined into the AMSA 504 form.

Please ensure your clients are aware of these updates.

Initial survey applications

To manage workload effectively AMSA has updated the process for assessing initial survey applications (SAPP).

Previously, an assessor was assigned upon receipt of an application. Survey codes and the assessor contact details were provided by email to the applicant.

Now we assign the assessor to an application only when all survey assessment codes are ready for review. An email is still sent to the applicant providing survey codes and confirming receipt of application. Any request for a status update can be sent to

If you have a technical question relating to survey of the vessel, quote the SAPP number in your email to  The SAPP will be assigned to an assessor at this stage to answer the query.

This change will help us better manage applications, provide faster processing and better support for industry. 

Surveying vessels >35m 

Marine Order 503 (certificates of survey – national law) 2018 (MO503) requires a Recognised Organisation (RO) to survey vessels over 35m, unless:

  • it is an existing vessel that was not required to be surveyed by a RO before 1 July 2013, or; 
  • the vessel holds an exemption from the requirement to be surveyed by a RO.  

If unable to claim a survey on a vessel >35 meters length, please email and provide: 

  • vessel name and UVI
  • survey code(s) 
  • the reason a RO doesn’t need to survey the vessel 

 The accreditation team will provide information on how to claim and/or recommend the survey. 

Incomplete recommendations

Surveys must be conducted and documented in accordance with the requirements of the Marine Surveyors Accreditation Guidance Manual (SAGM) Part 2.

MO503 contains the applicable standards that survey recommendations and supporting documentation must cover. Despite these requirements, we have noticed survey recommendations often overlook the aspects below.

NSCV C1—Arrangements accommodation and personal safety

  • Requirements for nominated special purpose and special working decks.
  • Passengers accommodation, access, escape and evacuation requirements 

USL Code 5C & 5D—Watertight subdivisions

  • Height of hatch coamings and sills

NSCV F1—Fast craft requirements  

  • Navigation and Collision avoidance equipment requirements

Transitional vessels standards (Schedule 2 Table 1 MO503) 

  • NSCV C4 compliance for fixed fire system installation
  • NSCV C1, as applicable

NSCV Part B—General requirements

  • Measured length - for vessels previously certified as Regulated Australian Vessels

Ensure you cover these items as part of your recommendations. We will continue to use Survey Matters to highlight trends when they arise.

Transitional survey requirements and certification

The transitional vessel requirements under MO503 are now well known. This article provides guidance on managing some of the changes mentioned in Schedule 1 of MO503 citing some recent examples.

Addition of active fin stabilisers

MO503 Schedule 1 Clause 7 Change to vessel structure and watertight integrity

Vessels that undergo a Schedule 1 clause 7 change must complete an initial survey. This type of change requires application for a new certificate of survey which generates a full set of survey codes.

The intent of this requirement is for the vessel to undergo initial survey to the transitional vessel standards. However, you may apply for an alternate survey process if you believe the requirements specified in MO503 Schedule 2 can’t practically be applied. For example, if the changes to the watertight envelop or structure are minor and localised, you may be able to propose an alternate process to meet the requirements.

Recently, for the addition of active fin stabilisers, an initial survey to the extent of the change and renewal survey for the rest of the vessel was approved. This was due to the design basis of the vessel being well documented and no other changes taking place. 

Submit any alternate survey applications before making changes. This allows us to confirm the approved form of survey beforehand. It also ensures the correct surveys are undertaken before, during and when commissioning the change. 

Installation of hydraulic knuckle crane

MO503 Schedule 1 clause 6 (f) – Removing repositioning, installing, cranes, net reels, tanks etc

This clause requires vessels to complete an initial survey for the areas affected by the change and a renewal survey for the rest of the vessel. Again, these changes require an application for a new certificate of survey, to capture the vessel changes in the MARS certification system. 

This type of change doesn’t require an alternate survey approval. Assess the scope of the change to vessel structure and systems and undertake initial survey as required. On completion of surveys, submit the applicable documents with your recommendations. Forms may be annotated to indicate the extent of the change if required.

Ensure you provide justification for any surveys you mark as not required. A detailed justification allows the assessor to understand the rationale for the recommendation. Areas of the vessel not subject to initial survey must undergo renewal survey confirming compliance with the transitional vessel standards in Schedule 2.

Lightship changes

MO503 Schedule 1 Clause 6 (c) and/or (d) – Variation to displacement of at least 4% and/or LCG by at least 2%.

Unlike the examples mentioned above, lightship variations don’t necessarily need an application for a new certificate of survey. This is because Section 9 (d) of MO503 requires only renewal type surveys for this change. 

Follow the process below during renewal survey when a vessel becomes transitional due to lightship changes only.

Inform the owner that the vessels lightship particulars have changed, and the vessel is now considered transitional. The vessel must be surveyed to the transitional standards mentioned in Schedule 2 of MO503. Explain that the change requires the vessel to undergo further surveys. The vessel will need to undergo a new stability assessment to the transitional standards. This may result in a change to the number of persons permitted on board the vessel. 

Email to notify us of the change, including evidence you’ve been engaged to conduct the survey(s). If the owner has applied to renew the certificate of survey, we will add a stability assessment to the application in MARS and provide you with the code. Let us know if you need any further codes created.

Submit your survey reports and recommendations as normal when the additional survey activities are complete. You must also provide AMSA with a list of the applicable transitional standards the vessel has been surveyed against. Note: the AMSA 901 form contains a checklist for transitional vessel renewal surveys.

AMSA will assess the renewal application once we receive all the transitional survey reports. During assessment we will make any updates or changes to the person numbers from the new stability assessment. We will record the transitional standards that apply to the vessel in MARS. This will display on the certificate and future vessel reports.

General requirements and reminders

All activities must be marked either recommended, recommended with conditions, not recommended or not required for the application to progress to assessment. An application will not progress if survey activities remain as ready for assessment or assessment in progress. You must provide a reason for surveys marked not required. 

Chapter 2.9 of SAGM Part 2 also requires justification for any conditions proposed when recommending with conditions.  

You must notify the operator if their vessel becomes transitional and inform them of their obligation to notify AMSA. The vessel may require a temporary operations permission to continue operating. 

A lightship declaration is not an acceptable form of lightship survey for initial surveys. 


Over 400 vessels completed transitional vessel survey in the last financial year, in addition to newly constructed vessels entering service.  At this rate, it is estimated that 80% of the surveyed fleet will comply with either the transitional vessel standards or the NSCV standards in full, by 2029.

10 year projection

Electrical plan approval requirements

The requirements for plan approval are found in the Surveyor Manual SAGM Part 2. The manual states electrical plan approval is required for vessels with installations greater than 32V and vessels with complex extra low voltage electrical systems. 

Design and installation of electrical systems on DCVs must meet the requirements of:

  • National Standard of Commercial Vessels, Section C5B - Design and Construction - Electrical.
  • AS/NZS 3004.2014 Electrical Installations, Marinas and Boats, Part 2 – Boat installations.
  • AS/NZS 3000:2018 Electrical Installations, also known as the Wiring Rules. 
  • AS/NZS 3008:2017 Electrical Installations, Selection of Cables and Voltage Drop.

Accredited surveyors must be familiar with SAGM, however other bodies involved in DCV construction may not be so familiar. The following information aims to streamline the electrical plan approval process.

Note: this is a guide only and shouldn’t be considered a definitive checklist. Not all items listed will apply to all vessels.

SAGM doesn’t currently contain definitions for basic or complex electrical systems. However, as a guide, a basic electrical system could be considered to comprise:

  • One battery (no dual battery system, no trolling motor or anchor winch batteries).
  • Minimal navigation lights (Port, Starboard, Stern, Masthead, Anchor, Compass light).
  • Minimal electrical equipment (One sounder, one bilge pump, one high level alarm).
  • Only one engine with electric start.
  • An engine that provides basic charging of one start battery.
  • No solar, wind or shore power facility to charge battery.
  • No inverter or DC-DC converter/charger.

Anything more advanced than a basic system should be considered complex.

Electrical plans should include:

  • Whole of vessel single line and/or full line diagrams.
  • System used for earthing.
  • Charger/Inverter description or data sheet including any solar systems.
  • Load and voltage calculations.
  • Cable data sheet. 

Drawings must be clearly labelled with a version and date. They must be comprehensive and easy to read. There are no direct rules for how they must be drawn, but they should be:

  • In English, using standard electrical symbols and drawing conventions e.g. AS/NZS 3000 Appendix J.
  • Drawn on A4 paper at a minimum and clearly labelled. Particularly when systems are on multiple pages.
  • Clearly indexed to link with adjacent drawings.

Drawings for Low Voltage (LV) and complex Extra Low Voltage (ELV) systems shall include the items below, where applicable:

  • Voltage for each circuit.
  • Battery Ah or CCA capacity.
  • Type of battery- e.g. Lead acid, AGM, Li Ion.
  • Battery isolation provisions – e.g. double pole if the system is isolated from Earth.
  • Hull bonding details if applicable.
  • Switch/circuit breaker sizes.
  • Battery protection, i.e. fuses or circuit breakers and sizes.
  • Cable sizes.
  • Blocking diodes, if used.
  • Dedicated radio and emergency batteries.
  • Paralleling and change over switches.
  • Solar panels and their detailed connection into the system.
  • Any notes concerning the location of a battery and ventilation installed including chargers.

Components used in DC systems must be suitable and rated for use in those systems. In an AC electrical circuit, the voltage is zero twice in each cycle. This allows the arc formed whilst switching to extinguish. In a DC system the voltage is constant. Once an arc is formed it continues to grow as the gap widens and is only extinguished when the air ionisation and air currents formed reach their limit.

As well as the details listed above, LV drawings should also include the information below for each system.


  • Type and Data sheet.
  • Capacity – kVA or KW.
  • Voltage, phases and frequency.
  • Protection circuits, control and metering instrumentation.

Shore power arrangements:

  • Polarity test and interlocking facilities.
  • Detection of phase sequence and phase reversal facilities, if fitted.
  • The ship/shore supply change over switch operating in all live conductors including the neutral 

Distribution system:

  • Separation of LV and ELV.
  • Cable size.
  • Circuit protection.
  • RCDs, RCBOs.
  • AC - Main switchboard and sub-boards.
  • DC – Sub boards, radio and navigation light boards.
  • Emergency supply, if an emergency generator is installed

Other details to provide:

  • The earthing system, including the earth plate on vessels with a non-metal hull, equipotential bonding and the MEN point at the generators and inverters, as appropriate.
  • The lightning protection system on vessels with non-metal hull/superstructure – AS/NZS 1768.
  • Load details of motors and other equipment.
  • Cable data sheets with current capacity for all the cable sizes.
  • Control circuits, e.g. remote shut down of engine room fans and pumps.
  • Any other information pertinent to the electrical design of the vessel e.g. manufacturers data sheets.

Further information on ELV electrical systems is available in the instruction to surveyors DCV-ITS-015.

Season's greetings

The AMSA team would like to wish all our readers a very merry festive season.

The DCV Applications team remain on deck to process temporary operating approvals lodged between Christmas and the New Year.

Last updated: 10 March 2021