Survey Matters - June 2022

In this edition we talk about audits and application assessments.

In this edition

Audits and application assessments

AMSA conducts audits of accredited marine surveyors to ensure the procedures and protocols set out in the National Law – Marine Surveyors Accreditation Guidance Manual (SAGM) and the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Regulation 2013 (the regulations) are followed correctly.

The cases below contain examples of major non-conformances.

A certificate of survey application for a new build 2B extended vessel was refused when several major non-conformances were identified. These included but were not limited to:

  • The vessel was fitted with non-compliant structural fire protection material
  • The fuel tank did not comply with NSCV C5A
  • The damage stability did not comply with NSCV C6B
  • The vessel was fitted with a stepped collision bulkhead not complying with NSCV C6B 7.3.6
  • The stability documentation was missing critical detail and did not comply with NSCV C6C.

The surveyors involved were counselled for contravention of conditions of accreditation.


Alterations were made to a Catamaran which saw the vessel’s measured length increase by more than six metres.

As part of an application for a new certificate of survey, the plan approval activity was recommended listing the original measured length prior to the alterations. No compelling justification for the initial measurement being maintained was provided by the plan approval surveyor following requests for information. The measured length of the vessel had not been calculated in accordance with NSCV Part B and this had substantial implications for the certification and operation of the vessel.

The Plan approval surveyor was issued a counselling notice for contravention of conditions of accreditation.

The surveyor who conducted the Commissioning, Initial Hull Structure, and Initial Fire Systems & Fitout surveys failed to notify AMSA of the incorrect measured length despite the extension being in the survey scope. The surveyor was sent a notice of assessment finding letter and educated with regards to their regulatory responsibilities.


A surveyor failed to conduct a periodic lightship verification during the renewal survey of a 12.65m class 1 vessel. Instead, the surveyor recommended the periodic lightship check with a declaration signed by the vessel owner.

The surveyor undertook a lightship check as a corrective action following an audit. However, AMSA noted the lightship report did not conform to the requirements of SAGM part 2 Chapter 4.9 for the following reasons:

  • Lightship details were marked as not applicable with the comment – No hydrostatic data
  • The percentage difference in change in displacement and LCG were not determined

Based on the failure to establish the variation in displacement and LCG, follow up action was required by the local AMSA office with the vessel owner to demonstrate that the vessel’s stability remains adequate for the intended operations.

The surveyor was issued a counselling letter for contravention of conditions of accreditation.

Monitoring conditions on accreditation

There are some accredited surveyors with monitoring conditions placed on their accreditation.

Surveyors should check their current notice of decision letter and follow the process below if there is a monitoring condition imposed.

I have a monitoring condition on my accreditation, what do I need to do?

  • advise the accreditation team by email to well in advance of undertaking a survey related to the monitoring condition
  • when advising the accreditation team, ensure you provide full details of the survey you intend to undertake (i.e., date, time, vessel name, UVI, hull material, length, vessel class and type, location, type of survey, survey codes and owner’s details)

What happens after I have notified the accreditation team of an upcoming vessel survey and details?

An AMSA representative will communicate with you and arrange to either:

  • meet you at the vessel location; or
  • may discuss the survey plan and later review and countersign the survey report.

What happens after the survey has been completed and monitored by an AMSA representative?

  • upon completion of the monitoring survey the AMSA representative will contact you and provide a signed report of the outcome.
  • once all monitoring conditions have been completed, AMSA will vary your accreditation to remove the conditions from your accreditation.
  • you will receive a new notice of decision letter and our records will be amended accordingly

Your accreditation is subject to the conditions in Division 3.3 of the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Regulation 2013. A failure to comply with these conditions of your accreditation, may lead to a variety of compliance measures in accordance with AMSA’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy.

It is in your best interests to notify AMSA of your intention to undertake a monitoring survey so we can assist you with having the conditions removed.

Recognised Organisation surveys and submissions – common findings

While acknowledging the high quality of surveys performed by most of the Recognised Organisations (ROs) on DCVs, AMSA has also noticed several inconsistencies and deficiencies related to some vessels surveyed and recommended by RO surveyors. AMSA has invested significant time assessing these applications. On numerous occasions, AMSA has identified gaps in submissions from requirements of the National Law and incomplete responses to requests for information. This has led to delays of several months in some instances.

Below is a list of common findings identified in the past few months. AMSA encourages all RO surveyors to consider these items prior to making a recommendation to avoid delays, refusals, and compliance action on vessels.

  1. Several vessels were recommended for B waters operations without being fitted with adequate communication equipment required by NSCV C7B. (e.g. a vessel was fitted with VHF only and not fitted with HF Radio or satellite phone, as required for B waters).
  2. Several vessels were noted to be recommended without assessment or approving documents for NSCV C1 requirements in relation to accommodation arrangements. (e.g. accommodation level assigned for vessels does not comply to NSCV C1 4.2).
  3. Several vessels were noted to be non-compliant with additional stability requirements of NSCV C6A. (e.g., Tugs not complying with the towing stability criteria as per NSCV or alternate criteria specified as per GES 2015/03).
  4. Several vessels were not assessed and recommended appropriately for the relevant Flooding Risk Category as per NSCV C6B. (e.g., confirmation not provided for compliance to Flooding Risk Category).
  5. Where vessels changed flag from a foreign flag to become a DCV, some vessels were recommended with Conditions of Class relating to serious deficiencies (both class and statutory items) without prior approval from AMSA. (e.g., Main/Emergency Air Receiver found pitted and holed at bottom was accepted with temporary repairs and a Condition of Class imposed without prior approval from AMSA).
  6. Several vessels were noted to have Conditions of Class related to serious statutory deficiencies, without raising them in AMSA 586 and obtaining prior approval (e.g., Conditions of Class on damaged fire main, magnetic compass, fire door etc.). As ROs do not have the authorisation to issue certification under the National Law, RO’s should not issue conditions related to statutory items for DCV’s.
  7. Several vessels have been recommended using the Initial Fire Systems and Fitout Materials Survey (IFIR) code in MARS with a Class Certificate. AMSA Form 575 or an equivalent checklist developed by the RO must be provided.  A Class Certificate is not evidence of fire safety compliance.
  8. Recent AMSA inspections of vessels within a week of RO surveys have identified several detainable deficiencies. (e.g., Fire detection and alarm system not operational, fixed fire extinguishing system in engine room not ready for use in an emergency, HF equipment defective).

Simplified stability criteria / stability proof tests on Class 1 vessels over 12 metres

Stability assessments may be conducted to simplified stability criteria in NSCV C6A Chapter 7 through the application of a stability proof test. This provides a simpler method of intact stability assessment, without the need to determine lightship particulars, loading conditions, KN data and hydrostatic data. Vessel hydrostatic data may still be required for verifying damage stability compliance.

SAGM Part 2 Chapter 4.9 requires vessels to periodically verify lightship particulars to confirm the vessel stability compliance remains valid. Class 1 vessels up to 12 metres in length and class 2 and 3 vessels can use the lightship declaration method. However, class 1 vessels over 12 meters cannot use a lightship declaration and must verify their lightship displacement at 5 yearly intervals.

Generally, this can be achieved through repeating the stability proof test or through confirming drafts or freeboards against a known load condition when the vessel stability compliance was first established (some stability assessments do use simplified stability criteria combined with hydrostatic data and a numerical analysis, these vessels can conduct a lightship assessment per NSCV C6C).

To allow comparison to a known loading condition at renewal survey it is recommended that freeboards are documented for a “near lightship condition” in the vessel stability compliance report (noting the NSCV C6A requirement, lightship with incline weights onboard to represent full tanks may be the easiest to reproduce periodically). The stability compliance report should also include the precise locations for taking freeboards, in the form of sketches or annotated photos to reduce sources of error.

As most vessels assessed to simplified stability criteria don’t have hydrostatic data to quantify changes in lightship displacement, AMSA has determined that an accredited surveyor must verify that there has been no significant change in the vessel freeboards or drafts from those recorded at its initial certification in a known load condition. AMSA acknowledge that no significant change is not quantified, however it is expected a surveyor will be able to justify their recommendation with respect to any observed variation and the NSCV criteria at audit.

Where significant change in freeboards or drafts are identified the surveyor should conduct a new stability proof test to ensure compliance with the selected stability criteria.

If stability compliance reports do not include a known load condition, that can be accurately reproduced to identify any change in lightship particulars, then AMSA will require the vessel to undergo a new stability proof test to demonstrate compliance with a deemed to satisfy solution.

Where a vessels stability has been assessed to comprehensive stability criteria, the surveyor must conduct a lightship check in accordance with NSCV C6C.

Vessels permanently connected to shore

AMSA has recently been asked for clarification of the requirements for a floating structure to be considered as permanently connected to shore.

AMSA as the National Regulator cannot provide legal advice on such matters and each case would need to be considered on its unique circumstances. AMSA suggests take the characteristics below should be considered when determining whether a floating structure is permanently connected to shore:

  • The floating structure has no propulsion or steering capacity
  • The structure has a permanent and secure attachment to shore
  • Permanent pedestrian access is provided to the structure
  • Power and sewerage connections are in place between the floating structure and shore as applicable
  • The floating structure remains in place permanently
  • Evidence of a lease or permit for the structure to be in place as appropriate

This is to be considered as general advice only. Operators and Surveyors should seek their own legal advice as and where necessary.

Engine changes

Recently AMSA has fielded enquiries regarding the notification requirements when a vessel undergoes an engine change.

As mentioned in the November 2019 edition of Survey Matters, an AMSA 1847 form with supporting documentation must be submitted for engine changes on EX40 and certificate of survey vessels.

Under Marine Order 503 Schedule 1 clause (6)(b) – an increase in propulsion power for an existing vessel, that invalidates the assumptions and calculations used for structural or stability assessment, triggers the transitional vessel requirements.

EIAPP certification, issued in accordance with MARPOL Annex VI is required for vessels fitted with a new diesel engine after 30 June 2018, that has a propulsion power >130 kw, unless covered by Exemption 44.

Under Marine Safety (Domestic commercial vessels-EIAPP certificate) Exemption 2021 (Exemption 44), DCV owners and operators are exempt from holding an EIAPP certificate provided they hold acceptable alternative documents stating or showing that each installed engine is likely to comply with the applicable emission limits or tiers that apply to it under regulation 13 of Annex VI. Acceptable alternative documents are:

  • a product manual from the engine manufacturer
  • correspondence from the engine manufacturer
  • emission certification issued by or for an International Maritime Organization member state
  • a statement of compliance issued by a recognised organisation

Alternate survey processes

There are many vessels, which for varied reasons cannot follow the phases of initial survey set out in SAGM Part 2 Chapter 3.8. A common example is a vessel which has triggered full initial survey and must undertake an initial hull survey. For any number of reasons this might not be possible or appropriate.

As a result, the alternate survey process exists to allow for approved deviations from the survey process prescribed by SAGM and Marine Order 503. SAGM Part 2 Chapter 3.8 (2) states:

2. All three phases mentioned in (1) must be conducted to complete the initial survey process, unless the National Regulator approves otherwise in writing.

Note: Initial survey requirements for Load Line Certificates are in Chapter 6.

The key being ‘…approved otherwise in writing.’ All deviations from the survey process require this written approval from AMSA.

The AMSA 1854 form shall be completed and emailed to along with supporting information. It is important that the application explains why the defined process cannot be followed and proposes an alternate process.

To take the example from above, think of an aluminium fishing vessel currently in survey with a geographic restriction to South Australia. Full initial survey is required to remove this restriction. In this example the hull hasn’t been altered, the vessel has a current certificate of survey and has been maintained in survey for the vessel’s life. To perform an initial hull survey would be challenging. It could be proposed on the AMSA 1854 form to perform a 10 yearly hull inspection in lieu of the initial hull survey.

There are any number of different cases in this instance, but it is critical that the approval is made in writing from the national regulator. This saves time and gives greater certainty when submitting survey recommendations for a vessel that is slightly out of the ordinary.

Last updated: 28 June 2022