Published on Australian Maritime Safety Authority (

Understanding AMSA’s regulatory responsibility

AMSA has statutory functions under the following Acts:

As a result, our regulated community covers a broad spectrum of operations – foreign and Australian flagged internationally trading vessels, domestic commercial vessels, recreational vessels, government vessels – and people - the seafarers and crew of these vessels, the owners and operators who manage and direct them, those who build, maintain and use them and those who assist in us carrying out our functions.

AMSA’s regulatory activities under the above Acts may include:

All of these activities are related to achieving AMSA’s mission – ensuring safe vessel operations, combatting marine pollution, and rescuing people in distress.  

AMSA’s regulatory approach

In performing its statutory functions, AMSA is committed to being a modern regulator that supports its regulated community to the fullest extent possible. Accordingly, AMSA’s staff will:

AMSA’s compliance function

Our regulatory activities include a compliance function, the aim of which is to encourage and assist our regulated community to comply with the law.

The compliance program will be data led and risk based. It will be informed by safety data and trends and will encourage voluntary compliance and continuous improvement. Our compliance activities and priorities for each year will be outlined in the Annual National Compliance Plan

Undertaking AMSA’s compliance function includes use of a range of flexible and targeted measures to ensure that domestic and international shipping operates in accordance with the requirements of the regulatory framework administered by AMSA.

Measures such as communication and education activities, timely provision of information and guidance, persuasion, cooperative assistance and collaboration are designed to encourage stakeholders to voluntarily comply.

Where non compliance is detected, AMSA will employ a range of tools that escalate in severity as the need arises. These tools include education and assistance, the issue of directions or notices, suspension or cancellation of certificates, fines, imposition of civil penalties, and criminal prosecutions.

AMSA will consider a compliance tool that is appropriate to the circumstances and in proportion with the risk presented or harm done. 

Decision making in relation to individual compliance measures will be informed by reference to our Compliance and Enforcement Policy. This policy guides our day-to-day approach to compliance and adopts and applies AMSA’s compliance principles of:

Part of the big picture

AMSA’s approach to compliance is consistent with the risk-based model outlined in the Australian National Audit Office better practice guide Administering Regulation: Achieving the Right Balance. It is an important pillar in our efforts to deliver good regulatory performance in accordance with the Commonwealth Government’s Regulatory Performance Guide 2021 and considers that AMSA and the regulated community want to achieve in terms of improvements in safety and protection of the marine environment through continuous improvement, collaboration and engagement with risk and evidence-based decision making. 

The Strategy also facilitates meeting the compliance related challenges and responses outlined in our suite of strategic documents (fig. 1 above) - Looking Ahead, Strategy 2030Corporate Plan and the National Compliance Plan

Given its relationship to the Corporate Plan, AMSA will develop an annually National Compliance Plan as part of its integrated planning process to ensure consistency with AMSA’s high-level strategic challenges, goals and responses.