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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.

Appropriate crewing

Appropriate crewing is the number of crew that are needed to safely operate a vessel.

For domestic commercial vessels less than 80 m long, and less than 3000 GT, and less than 3000 kW total propulsion, appropriate crewing must be determined by the owner.

This should be documented as a part of the vessels safety management system.

Read more about safety management systems and general safety duties.

If your vessel is ≥80 m or ≥3000 GT or ≥3000 kW you need to apply for approval for your appropriate crewing determination.

Read about how to apply below.

The owner is still required to carry out an appropriate crewing determination prior to applying to AMSA.

How to determine appropriate crewing

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 (4) lists the factors that must be considered when carrying out a crewing evaluation:

  • Tasks and activities performed in addition to the safe navigation of the vessel, and the demands they impose on the master and crew
  • Risk of fatigue of the master and crew
  • Number of people to be carried on the vessel and the effectiveness and timeliness of arrangements for passenger monitoring, taking into account that the master of the vessel must be able to find out the number of passengers on board the vessel at any time
  • Design characteristics of the vessel, including its general arrangements, machinery and equipment
  • Qualifications and competencies of the master and crew, including circumstances where only the master holds mandated engineering qualifications
  • Competency needed to use technological aids to safety and navigation fitted, in addition to the mandatory requirements (e.g. fire safety systems, remote engineering monitoring and diagnostics, electronic communication and navigation equipment, closed circuit TV)
  • Area of operation of the vessel and expected conditions, for example weather, climate and water temperatures
  • Duration of the voyage
  • Requirements for the vessel’s emergency preparedness, including the vessel’s emergency plan and evacuation arrangements
  • Maintenance requirements of the vessel, and its machinery and equipment
  • External support available to the vessel

Learn about minimum crewing below.

Determine appropriate crewing

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Do a crewing evaluation

The owner carries out a crewing evaluation to determine the number of crew required to safely carry out the vessel’s operations including the management of fatigue.

Refer to minimum crewing table

The owner consults the minimum crewing table to ensure that appropriate crewing is equal to or higher than the minimum crewing.

Learn about minimum crewing below.

VesselTotal minimum figure for master and crew (including engineer)MasterEngineer
≥55 m and <80 m#411
≥35 m and <55 m#311
≥12 m and <35 m#2*11
<12 m1**1

#Provided the vessel is <3000 GT and <3000 kW.

*In the case of a vessel ≤750 kW propulsion power, the master and engineer roles may be combined in the one person if the master holds a certificate which permits the holder to operate the engines of the vessel. In that case, there must still be another crew member on board to make up the total of 2. In the case of a vessel >750 kW propulsion power, the master and engineer roles cannot be combined in the one person.

**If the master of the vessel does not hold a certificate which permits the holder to operate the engines of the vessel, there must be an additional crew member on board who holds an engineering certificate.

Apply for an appropriate crewing determination if your vessel is ≥80 m or ≥3000 GT or ≥3000 kW

If you own a domestic commercial vessel >80 m or >3000 GT or >3000 kW you must apply to AMSA for an appropriate crewing determination every 5 years. Make this application at the same time as your certificate of operation (new or renewal).

As the owner you then need to make sure the vessel operates in line with the crewing determination.

Read below to find out what information we need from you for the crewing determination. We can issue a determination quicker and easier if you provide a lot of detail in your application.


To determine the appropriate crewing for a large DCV, we look to the requirements for a similar regulated Australian vessel (RAV).

This means that the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) qualifications are most appropriate for these vessels. Any proposal for the vessel’s crew to hold domestic certificates issued under Marine Order 505 (Certificates of competency)needs substantial reasoning and justification through an appropriate risk assessment.

Domestic qualifications may be appropriate for less complex operations (when compared to an equivalent RAV). For example, domestic engineering certification where the vessel will not undertake extensive voyages. We may consider other domestic qualifications if they are demonstrated to be equivalent to the corresponding STCW qualification.

Information AMSA requires in your application

Your application also needs to include detailed information on the vessel and its operations, along with your assessment of the appropriate crewing.

For further information on what is required, please contact RAVCrewing@amsa.gov.au.

Where relevant, include the following documents with your application:

  • Shipboard Working Arrangement
  • Certificate of Survey 
  • Copy of Safety Management System– or International Safety Management Certificate if operating under the ISM Code (with crewing related extract).
  • Class notation of Uncrewed Machinery Space (UMS)
  • Previously issued Certificate of Operation showing conditions relating to crewing

Where relevant to the vessel’s operations, also include operational details of:

  • The proposed watchkeeping schedule
  • Maintenance of a safe radio watch, including details of radio/communication equipment
  • Fatigue management plan including hours of work and rest
  • Accommodation and cooking duties
  • Provision of medical care on board
  • Operating and maintaining in safe condition the main propulsion and auxiliary machinery to enable the vessel to overcome the foreseeable peril of the operations, and maintain the safety arrangements and cleanliness of machinery spaces to minimise risk of fire
  • Safety functions
  • Procedures for mustering passengers onto lifeboats
  • Watertight closing arrangements, fire equipment and lifesaving appliances, including mounting an effective damage control party
  • Safe and effective mooring and unmooring
  • Safety in all operations in port
  • Vessel security
  • Any other equipment to be operated
  • Protection of the marine environment
Document the crewing evaluation and appropriate crewing outcome in the safety management system

The owner records the crewing assessment (use the template for guidance) and appropriate crewing outcomes in the vessel’s safety management system. The owner must make 

Note: there may be more than one appropriate crewing solution depending on the variety of operations, circumstances, or conditions under which the vessel operates.

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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?

The minimum crewing table is based on the length of the vessel only, it does not consider for example the kinds of operations, operational area and emergency preparedness.

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.

This must include the master and each crew member having at least 10 hours rest in every 24 hour period. The 10 hours do not need to be continuous, however you must ensure that the person has sufficient periods of rest to allow them to recharge before recommencing work.

For the purposes of minimum crewing ‘rest’ means a period of time when a person is free from all duties and functions. This period can only be interrupted in the case of an emergency. Guidance is available at Managing crew fatigue.

If you can't provide the master and each crew member with at least 10 hours of rest in every 24-hour period, this means you cannot safely operate the vessel under minimum crewing.

The outcomes of this evaluation must be documented in the safety management system (SMS) and be readily available to the master and crew.

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.

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Example crewing determinations

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Example 1 – 30m passenger vessel

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 – 9m fishing vessel

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, and the requirement for at least 10 hours rest in each 24 hour period, 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.


Example 3 – 9.4m line boat

9.4m line boat (Class 2D) with 261kW propulsion power.

This vessel operates within harbour limits (sheltered waters) and is responsible for taking mooring lines from ships to the wharf.

As the port operates 24 hours a day, the vessel and crew can be called upon at any time during their shift.

Crews operate on 12-hour shifts and the owner has a system in place to ensure they have sufficient crews available to undertake the duties required without breaking the company’s 12-hour shift policy.

Given the nature of the work and requirements for more than one person to operate the vessel, the owner has determined that the vessel cannot operate under minimum manning.

The owner has undertaken an appropriate crewing determination.


Example 4 – 23.8m prawn trawler

23.8m prawn trawler (Class 3B) with 336kW propulsion power

This vessel operates at sea for weeks at a time during the prawning season, only returning to port to offload catch and for re-supply as required.

Because of the distances the vessel needs to travel to and from the fishing grounds, the requirements for sufficient crew to undertake fishing operations and working at night, the owner has determined that they cannot safely operate under the minimum crewing arrangements.

The owner therefore undertakes an appropriate crewing determination.


Interpreting the crewing tables on certificates of survey

The table on a vessel’s certificate of survey does not reflect minimum or appropriate crewing. Owners must determine appropriate crewing for each type of vessel operation.

The table on a vessel’s certificate of survey indicates the maximum number of persons the vessel is authorised to carry in each category.

You can decrease the number of passengers to increase crew or special personnel if: 

  • you do not exceed the maximum number of people; and
  • the vessel does not need berths to operate, or there are enough existing berths for the increase in crew/special personnel

You cannot decrease crew numbers to increase passenger numbers.

If you want to increase the maximum number of persons in any category outside of the principles above, please contact an AMSA accredited surveyor, or AMSA Connect.

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.

*A revised Marine Order 504 (Certificates of operation and operation requirements – national law) 2023 (MO504) will come into effect on 1 August 2023.

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Last updated: 15 May 2024