Published on Australian Maritime Safety Authority (

Regulatory requirements for construction barges

Under the National Law all domestic commercial vessels (DCVs) must meet certain requirements to ensure their safe operation, design, construction and equipping. 

Vessel design, construction, and equipment 

All construction barges need a certificate of survey or a vessel permission issued under a general exemption. This certification is evidence that the barge meets design and construction requirements and determines the type and quantity of safety, navigation, anchoring, communication, and fire equipment carried on board. 

Unpowered barges  

Because of the characteristics of unpowered barges, AMSA has exempted these types of vessels from a number of requirements where it may not be practical to comply. See Marine Safety (Unpowered barges) Exemption 2020 (Exemption 41) for further information.  

An unpowered barge is a vessel that is pushed or towed by another powered vessel.  It does not have its own mechanical propulsion, except that which keeps it in a relatively fixed position at a work location or assists it to be towed to and from a work location. 

Existing and transitional vessels  

The certification and survey standards that apply to a construction barge may depend on when it entered service.  

Construction barges that were legally entitled to operate by a state or territory prior to the commencement of the National Law in July 2013 may be ‘existing vessels’ and may continue to meet many of the survey requirements that applied at that time.  

Some existing vessels may be recognised as non-survey vessels and can continue to operate in the same manner as long as they are not modified. 

If you make certain changes to a barge, add certain installed equipment—such as a crane—or move your barge to a new area of operation, you may need to apply for a new certificate of survey as a ‘transitional vessel’. This barge will then need to be re-surveyed to meet current safety standards. Please talk to your accredited marine surveyor if you are unsure.  

Barges less than 12 metres operating in sheltered waters that do not carry dangerous goods may apply to be approved as non-survey vessels, however the vessel will still need a stability assessment by an accredited marine surveyor if a crane or other lifting device is installed. 

Unique vessel identifier 

All barges need to display a unique vessel identifier (UVI) clearly and prominently. Every DCV has a six-digit AMSA issued UVI. Existing vessels may instead display a state or territory issued UVI.  

Learn more about UVIs and how to display them

Certificate of operation  

 Commercial barges need to have a certificate of operation unless exempt. The certificate of operation identifies the types of operations and operational area and requires all vessels to have a safety management system (SMS) that meets the Marine Order 504 requirements. Other operational conditions may be placed on the certificate. 

Some small (<7.5m) construction barges may be exempt from a certificate of operation under this general exemption but will still need an SMS.    

Find out more about certificates of operation and how to apply for one here

General safety duties 

The general safety duties apply to all commercial vessel operations—including those that are existing or operating under an exemption.  

General safety duties include, but are not limited to: 

  • providing and maintaining the vessel so that it is safe   
  • ensuring the safety of the vessel, people, marine safety equipment, and the operation of the vessel   
  • implementing and maintaining a safety management system (SMS) that ensures that the vessel and its operations are safe  
  • not operating the vessel if it is unsafe. 

Read more about your general safety duties.