Our approach to compliance for the national law

Our approach to comply with the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law 2012 from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019.

AMSA is the National Regulator for the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 (National Law) which has as some of its objects, the following:

  • To facilitate the development of a safety culture that will prevent, or mitigate the effects of, marine incidents.
  • To provide a framework for the development and application of consistent national standards relating to the operation, design, construction and equipping of domestic commercial vessels.
  • To provide an effective enforcement framework.

From 1 July 2018 we will assume full regulatory responsibility for this law. This includes developing standards and regulatory instruments and undertaking compliance functions.

Our Compliance and Enforcement Policy for domestic commercial vessels supports the objects of the national law. The policy supports encouraging compliance through the application of a cooperative ‘trust and verify’ regulatory approach. 

To support this, our national law compliance function includes use of a range of flexible and targeted measures to ensure that domestic commercial vessels operate in accordance with the requirements of the regulatory framework.

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

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

We will consider the circumstances of a failure to comply and choose an enforcement tool that is appropriate to the circumstances and in proportion with the risk presented or harm done.

In 2018-2019 most of our resources will be devoted to voluntary compliance measures, with specialist resources assigned to investigate the most serious breaches.

This is consistent with out identified challenges and our planned response as outlined in our Corporate Plan 2017–2021.

Our compliance plan

For 2018-2019 one of our key challenges is to manage risks to safety and the environment.

Traditional approaches to compliance have been primarily based on reactions to audits, surveillance, survey results and the conduct of on-water enforcement, and have relied upon the imposition of penalties. Our contemporary approach centres on a strong understanding of safety risks, together with a proactive and collaborative approach to addressing those risks.

Accordingly, our focus is on ensuring that domestic commercial vessels are operated safely. In particular, we will focus on ensuring standards are understood across the domestic commercial vessel fleet and on promoting safety through risk management approaches in that sector.

While we will be working with all domestic commercial vessel sectors, we have identified the following compliance function prioritisation based on the available incident and infringement data:


Vessel Type

Addition priority descriptor

(priority within each category)

Priority 1

Passenger vessels (Class 1) carrying more than 36 passengers
  1. Passenger vessels operating in high traffic areas
  2. Class 1A Passenger vessels
  3. Class 1B Passenger vessels
  4. Class 1C Passenger vessels
  5. All other Passenger vessels carrying more than 36 passengers


Fishing Vessels (Class 3A, 3B and 3C)
  1. Class 3A, 3B or 3C operating dories offshore
  2. Other Class 3A fishing vessels
  3. Other Class 3B fishing vessels
  4. Other Class 3C fishing vessels
 Class 2 vessels engaged in high risk operations
  1. Class 2 vessels used to carry bulk petroleum or gas products
  2. Class 2 vessels equipped with a crane or davit exceeding 3 tonne capacity
  3. Class 2 vessels used to operate a pile frame
  4. Barges equipped with dredging machinery having a total brake power of 500 kilowatts or more
  5. Dredges having a total brake power of 500 kilowatts or more or over 24 metres
 Any vessel subject to an alert requiring inspection 

Priority 2

Passenger vessels (Class 1) carrying up to and including 36 passengers
  1. Class 1A Passenger vessels
  2. Class 1B Passenger vessels
  3. Class 1C Passenger vessels
  4. All other Passenger vessels carrying 36 passengers or less


Class 2 vessels engaged in medium risk operations
  1. Support vessels in the offshore oil industry
  2. Any vessel (propelled or otherwise) used to carry dangerous goods.
  3. Landing barges
  4. Tugs/vessels used primarily for towage

Priority 3

Class 2B and 2C vessels more than 7.5m in length 


Fishing vessels of Class 3D and 3E more than 7.5 metres in length 


Class 4C Hire and drive vessels 

Priority 4

All other vessels not covered by P1 to P3



Monitoring activities

Our monitoring activities will be aimed at aiding compliance and will involve face to face interaction with about 10 per cent of the domestic commercial vessel fleet. We will carry out monitoring activities in three ways—inspections, business audits, and compliance checks.

We will inspect:

  • vessels on an ‘opportunity basis’ based on targeting and/or intelligence
  • Class 1B and 1C vessels certified to carry more than 36 passengers (scheduled with the operator where practical)   
  • seasonal fishing vessels of greater than 7.5 metres on a scheduled basis (in consultation with operators) prior to season commencement
  • other fishing vessels greater than 7.5 metres, scheduled with operators
  • vessels involved in a marine incident.

We will conduct business audits of:

  •  hire and drive operators
  • aquaculture companies
  • resort vessels
  • water taxi operators (or similar operators).

Such audits will look at safety assessment and response processes as reflected in the safety management system and a sample of the vessels operated by the business.

We will conduct compliance checks combined with education programs for vessels of 7.5 metres or less.

These activities will be delivered by our staff and those of marine safety, fisheries and police agencies with whom we have compliance partner arrangements in place.

Education activities

Differences in perception of risk, lack of procedures for operations, a poor approach to safety by businesses and communication issues are often factors in incidents.

In 2018–19 we intend to focus our education efforts on safety management on domestic commercial vessels, with an emphasis on operational issues as a starting point.

We will utilise a systems approach to these educational initiatives because incidents often involve multiple unanticipated failures of various system components—be they human, organisational or technical.

We will run targeted safety management system workshops based on operation, sector, size and complexity. This will provide operators a context based approach with the aim of facilitating and maturing their understanding of safety management systems.

We will use the safety management workshops as an opportunity to address other safety matters that may be relevant to the target group. For example, subjects that are under consideration include:

  • monitoring the safety of passengers
  • safe fishing from dories
  • stability
  • fatigue and workload management.

We will deliver these activities through a combination of:

  • visits from our network of liaison officers
  • regional workshops, forums and face to face interactions with industry
  • engagement with targeted industry groups
  • industry wide awareness and compliance campaigns
  • development and dissemination of our safety publications
  • consultation with operators by our compliance staff.

We intend to collaborate with state-based work, health and safety authorities in the delivery of these education initiatives.

We recognise that its ‘trust and verify’ approach to compliance cannot be implemented overnight and our compliance tools will be used accordingly.

This plan is part of a transitional process that aims to ensure that operators are equipped to voluntarily take responsibility for operational safety outcomes through the development and implementation of effective safety management systems. Our compliance strategy will develop and be focused in response to changes in the marine industry over time.

Related information

Last updated: 27 October 2020