Is it a domestic commercial vessel?

In Australia, domestic commercial vessels are regulated under the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 (national law act). The National Law Act underpins the National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety (national system).

If you have a vessel that is for use in connection with any commercial, governmental or research activity, you will need to make sure that the vessel meets the safety standards and requirements as set out under national law regulatory framework. These requirements will depend on the length of your vessel, the type of operation your vessel is used for, and the vessel’s area of operation.

1. Is it a vessel?

Under the national law, a vessel

Examples of vessels:

  • a boat, canoe or kayak
  • a dragon boat, tinnie or dinghy
  • a jet ski or sailing boat
  • a floating pontoon or barge
  • a hovercraft or underwater submersible
  • a fishing trawler, charter boat or houseboat
  • a car or passenger ferry.

Things that are not vessels under the national system:

  • an aquaculture pen or aquaplane
  • a boogie board, surfboard, surf ski, or waterski
  • an unpowered inflatable raft or  inner tube
  • a kiteboard, sailboard, or paddleboard
  • a pontoon connected to the mainland or floating structure permanently connected to shore

If your craft is not a vessel, then the national system requirements do not apply to your vessel.

2. What do you use your vessel for?

Do you use or intend to use your vessel for recreational purposes, or do you use it for commercial, research or governmental activity, or a combination of both?

  • If you only use your vessel for recreational activities, then it will not be a domestic commercial vessel. Check with your local marine safety agency about what you need to do to meet the recreational safety requirements for your state or territory.

Tip:  If you plan to use your recreational vessel outside of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), you must record it on the Australian general shipping register.

  • If you use or intend to use your vessel for commercial, governmental or research activity within the EEZ, then it is a domestic commercial vessel.
  • If you use or intend to use your vessel for both commercial, governmental or research activities and recreational activities within the EEZ, then it is a domestic commercial vessel.
  • If you use or intend to use your vessel on inland waters or on a waterway (such as a pond or dam) on private property within Australia for commercial, governmental, or research activities, then it will generally be a domestic commercial vessel.

What is excluded from the national system:

  • a foreign vessel
  • a defence vessel
  • a regulated Australian vessel
  • a vessel owned and operated by a 'prescribed community group' and not hired to or used as a charter for a person who is not a member of the community group
  • a vessel owned by a primary or secondary school and not hired or used as a charter for a person who is not a student at the school
  • a vessel owned by the Australian Institute of Sport, or a State or Territory government sports institute
  • a vessel that is under the control or management of a boat dealer in that person’s business as a dealer
  • an otherwise recreational vessel that would only be a domestic commercial vessel because:
    • it is sponsored during a sporting event
    • it is being used for a promotional activity, including an activity to produce an advertisement or as part of a film set
    • a person is paid to operate the vessel or be a member of the crew of the vessel
    • a person is paid to train the owner of the vessel to use the vessel.
Last updated: 13 April 2023