Crewing guidance for domestic commercial vessels

Guidance on crewing of domestic commercial vessels as per Schedule 1 Clause 6—Resources and personnel of Marine Order 504 (Certificates of operation and operation requirements – national law). Schedule 1 applies to all vessels other than class 4 vessels.

Does it apply to existing vessels?

Existing vessels (as defined in marine order 504) may continue to operate under the crewing requirements that applied to the vessel on 30 June 2013.

Appropriate crewing

Appropriate crewing is the number of certified or uncertified personnel that are needed to safely operate a vessel.

Appropriate crewing must be determined by the owner as a part of their general safety duties under the National Law, and should be documented as a part of the vessels safety management system. To find out how, read more about safety management systems and general safety duties.

Appropriate crewing is determined by the owner based on a crewing evaluation that takes into account:

  • each kind of operation the vessel performs
  • the environment that the vessel operates in
  • all people on or near the vessel.

How is appropriate crewing determined?

The owner of the vessel must determine the level of appropriate crewing through a process referred to as 'crewing evaluation'. Appropriate crewing may change depending on the tasks and the kind of operation being carried out.

Marine order 504, Schedule 1 clause 6 (6) lists the factors that must be considered when carrying out a crewing evaluation—these questions may provide additional guidance:

  • What tasks will the vessel undertake and what will the crew be required to do?
  • How many persons will the vessel carry and how will they be monitored?
  • What equipment or aids to navigation are fitted on the vessel and how does that impact on the crew’s duties or tasks? What training to the crew require to be able to use such equipment or aids?
  • Where will the vessel operate? What are the expected traffic, weather, sea, and visibility conditions? How will conditions affect the performance or duties of the crew?
  • When will the vessel operate? How long will the vessel operate for? What arrangements are there for the crew to rest?
  • How will fatigue affect the crew? How will fatigue be managed? How will hours of work or rest be monitored? What additional duties or conditions could contribute to fatigue?
  • How will the vessel’s crew deal with an emergency? How will they evacuate the vessel if required? What training will be required?
  • What maintenance tasks need to be carried out by the crew? Are the crew trained to carry out maintenance safely?
  • How does the vessel’s operations affect the environment? Are people onboard or near the vessel impacted by the vessel’s operations?
  • What are the qualifications and experience levels of the crew? Are their qualifications and experience sufficient to carry out the required duties?
  • What support is available to the vessel if required? Are all crew aware of communications methods? Do they know how to seek help?

Minimum crewing

Minimum crewing is the minimum number of certified and uncertified crew, including the master, applicable to a vessel based on length.

Can a vessel be operated with minimum crewing?

Appropriate crewing may be the same as minimum crewing if the risk assessment carried out by the owner determines that minimum crewing is adequate to eliminate or minimise all risks.

The outcomes of this evaluation must be documented in the safety management system (SMS).

Can a vessel be operated with less than the minimum crewing?

There are a number of situations in which a vessel may be operated with less than the minimum crewing. Examples of these situations include:

  • approved by AMSA—depending on the circumstances, either a temporary crewing permit or a specific exemption may be granted
  • it is an existing vessel and crewing requirements that applied on 30 June 2013 allowed less than minimum crewing.

Can a vessel be operated with one crew member?

A vessel may be operated with only one crew member if:

  • the vessel is less than 12 metres in length, and
  • the owner has determined—through a documented crewing evaluation—that one person is sufficient to manage all on board procedures and risks associated with the operation.

Example 1

A 30 metre passenger vessel operating 3-hour cruises on Sydney Harbour is permitted to carry 100 passengers.

Based on the size of the vessel, the engine power, and a crewing evaluation, the owner determines that the appropriate crew when the vessel is operating at full capacity consists of the master, one engineer, and three deckhands.

When the vessel is carrying only 20 passengers, the owner determines that the appropriate crew consists of the master, engineer, and two deckhands.

The appropriate crewing, in this case, takes into consideration all factors affecting the operation of the vessel including the area of operation, the duration of the voyages, the duties of the crew, the supervision of passengers, and the emergency procedures of the vessel.

The minimum crewing for this vessel is two certified crew however the appropriate crewing determined is higher.

Example 2

The owner of a 9 metre fishing vessel operating on the Brisbane River for up to 10 hours at a time, has determined that the appropriate crewing for the vessel consists of one person.

This evaluation took into account all factors affecting the operation of the vessel, including the area of operation, duration of voyages, fatigue, duties required of the crew, the equipment carried by the vessel, the emergency procedures in place, and the support available to the vessel.

The minimum crewing for this vessel is one certified crew member—the master. In this case the appropriate crewing and the minimum crewing are the same.

Determine appropriate crewing

Last updated: 

Tuesday 9 May 2023