Certificates of operation

If you own or operate a domestic commercial vessel in Australia, you are required to obtain a certificate of operation before you operate the vessel.

Apply early for your certificate renewal

In the next 6 months, many certificates of operation will be due for renewal. Make sure you apply early to ensure that there is time for your application to be processed before your current certificate expires. Although we will send reminder notices three months prior to the expiry date by post, we encourage operators to apply early.

All domestic commercial vessels are required to have a certificate of operation—unless they are exempt.

If you work on a domestic commercial vessel and need to renew your certificate of competency please go to our information about qualifications.


A certificate of operation sets out the conditions under which a domestic commercial vessel—or fleet of vessels—must operate, including:

  • the vessels used in the operation
  • how and where the vessels can operate
  • other conditions AMSA considers necessary due to the nature of either a vessel or an operation.

It is a condition of the certificate of operation that the vessel must have a safety management system that complies with the requirements in marine order 504.

We may check that you are meeting the conditions of your certificate of operation at any time. If we believe that you are not meeting the conditions of your certificate of operation we may suspend or revoke your certificate.

Apply, renew, vary, suspend or revoke a certificate of operation

To apply for a new certificate of operation, renew an existing certificate, or to vary a certificate of operation you will need to submit the application for a certificate of operation for a domestic commercial vessel form 504.

If you would like to renew your current certificate of operation, can provide a copy of the current certificate, and do not want to make any changes, you can submit an application to renew a certificate of operation form 553.

To suspend or revoke a certificate of operation you will need to submit the application to suspend or revoke a certificate or approval form 600.

Recent changes mean you may now be exempt from having a certificate of operation. Please check Exemption 03 Marine Safety (Certificates of operation) before applying to renew your certificate.

If you are unsure if you are eligible for this exemption, please contact AMSA Connect.

Changes to vessel owners

You must let us know within 14 days if you sell your domestic commercial vessel. Certificates of operation cannot be transferred between operators.

Please see the transferring ownership of a domestic commercial vessel for information on how to notify AMSA.

Changes to vessels

You must notify us within 14 days after your vessel is modified, sunk or scrapped.

If your vessel is being altered or modified, you will need to make an application to update the vessels permission (certificate of survey, load line certificate and/or exemption approval as applicable). Depending on the type of vessel and the modifications being made, your vessel may need to undertake surveys to support the application.

If these modifications or alterations also change your vessels operation, you will also need to apply for a new certificate of operation using AMSA form 504

If the vessel has been sunk or scrapped, you can notify us by completing and submitting AMSA form 600 to revoke your current certificate(s) or approval(s). 

Can I request a replacement certificate?

You can request a replacement copy online. There is a fee payable.


Vessels used for certain kinds of operations may be exempt from the requirement to have a certificate of operation, or from certain conditions on a certificate of operation.

Details about the types of operations that may be exempt are contained in:

Rules about certificates of operation

The rules about certificates of operation are contained in:

  • Schedule 1 of the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessels) National Law Act 2012
  • Marine Order 504 (Certificates of operation and operation requirements – national law)

Grandfathering—operational safety requirements

A grandfathered vessel :

  • an existing vessel—not a new vessel
  • not a foreign vessel
  • was entitled to operate the vessel for a commercial, governmental or research activity within the two years ending on 30 June 2013.

All existing vessels will still be required to obtain a certificate of operation, unless exempt.

Read Marine Order 504 (Certificates of operation and operation requirements – national law.

Crewing grandfathered vessels

An existing vessel may operate with the crewing requirements that applied to the vessel on 30 June 2013, but must otherwise comply with the current operational requirements in Marine Order 504.

Modifying grandfathered vessels

We may decide that an existing vessel is new if:

  • you have altered or modified the vessel
  • its operation or area of operation have changed so that there is an increased level of risk.

We may also determine a vessel is a new vessel upon application by the owner of an existing vessel.

If the vessel is considered to be a new vessel it will need to meet all the current national law requirements.

Last updated: 

Friday 15 October 2021