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Tender, dory and auxiliary vessels

Find out about the special arrangements for vessels which meet the definition of ‘tender’ under the national law.

Tenders are small vessels used to transport people or goods between a vessel and the shore, or for a purpose associated with a parent vessel. They are also sometimes known as auxiliaries or dories.

The national law applies to vessels used for a commercial purpose, including tenders. There are special arrangements for vessels which meet the definition of ‘tender’ under the national law.  

Is it a tender?

To determine if the vessel is a tender under the national law, the vessel must:

  1. Be used to transport goods or up to 12 people, or for a purpose associated with the parent vessel’s operation.
  2. Operate in line of sight of its parent vessel, or another distance approved in writing by AMSA, or in a marina or mooring area.
  3. Measure less than 7.5 metres or another length approved in writing by AMSA.
  4. Measure less than its parent vessel.
  5. Not be powered by an inboard petrol engine.

Sometimes a vessel is called a tender by its owner, but if it doesn’t meet the above criteria it cannot access these special arrangements. However, other exemptions may apply.

How do I apply for my tender to operate outside line of sight or be greater than 7.5m long?

Complete and submit AMSA form 547 with the following information:

  • tender vessel name and unique identifier
  • parent vessel(s) vessel name(s) and unique identifier(s)
  • details of the proposed operation and geographical area(s)

For applications to operate outside line of sight, please also provide:

  • details of how you will mitigate the risks of operating outside line of sight of the parent vessel
  • how communication will be maintained with the parent vessel

For applications to operate a tender greater than 7.5 m long, please also provide:

  • reasons for using wanting to use a tender greater than 7.5m long
  • confirmation that the tender will not be longer than the proposed parent vessel

Special arrangements for tenders

Different arrangements apply depending on whether the tender entered the national system before or after 1 July 2013.

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New tenders—after 1 July 2013

New tenders generally entered commercial service from 1 July 2013.


  • A newly built tender.
  • A previously recreational vessel that commences work as a commercial tender.
  • An old tender that was not being used in the two years prior to 30 June 2013.

New tenders need to comply with three key requirements:

1. Design, construction, equipment and inspection requirements

Owners of new tenders must:

  1. Obtain approval for a non-survey vessel under Exemption 02 (unless the tender is human powered).
  2. Comply with the design, construction and equipment requirements in National Standard for Commercial Vessels (NSCV) Part G, and any other conditions applied to your approval. 
  3. If the tender has a parent vessel with a certificate of survey–ensure that it is inspected whenever the parent vessel is surveyed

Alternatively, a tender owner can elect to obtain a certificate of survey and comply with NSCV Part C.

Read more about non-survey vessels.

2. Certificates of operation and operational requirements

All domestic commercial vessels need a certificate of operation unless exempt.

Tenders can be listed on their parent vessel’s certificate of operation or safety management system. For a tender without a parent vessel it may not need a certificate of operation. 

A tender must be either covered by its parent vessel’s safety management system or have its own safety management system.  Either way, a new tender must operate with appropriate crewing.

Read more:

3: Displaying a unique vessel identifier (UVI)

There are four options for displaying a UVI on a tender:

  1. Display the words ‘Tender to’ followed by the name or UVI of the parent vessel.
  2. Display the UVI of the parent vessel followed by ‘- T’.
  3. Display the name of the owner of the vessel followed by the word ‘Tender’.
  4. Obtain and display a UVI for the tender.

Read more about UVIs and how to display one.

Existing tenders—before 30 June 2013

Existing tenders are tenders that were in service in the two years prior to 30 June 2013, which continue to operate in the same manner and which are not modified.  

Existing tenders may continue to: 

  • Comply with the design, construction, survey, and crewing requirements that applied to the vessel on 30 June 2013.
  • Display the UVI that was issued to the vessel before 1 July 2013—provided it is displayed on the outside of the vessel. This excludes fishing vessel identifiers which would not remain with the tender if the fishing licence no longer applied. 

Also, existing tenders:

  • Do not need approval to operate without a certificate of survey.
  • Must comply with current safety equipment requirements in NSCV Part G.
  • Must comply with the operational area restrictions that applied to the vessel on 30 June 2013.
  • May continue to be crewed as required on 30 June 2013.

Marina tenders

Tenders operating in a marina or mooring area that are not connected to a parent vessel (sometimes known as an ‘auxiliaries’), are mostly subject to the same requirements as other tenders. However, these tenders must be covered by a certificate of operation unless they are otherwise eligible for a certificate of operation exemption under another part of Exemption 3.  

For example they may be exempt if they are:

  • class 2 and 3 vessels less than 7.5 metres in length, operate only in sheltered waters and do not carry passengers, or
  • human powered.

As these tenders are not connected to a parent vessel, they must have their own safety management system.

Crewing and certificate of competency—low complexity duties

Tenders need to be crewed by persons who are eligible for a Coxswain Grade 3 certificate of competency. 

A Coxswain grade 3 certificate of competency will let you operate within a marina or mooring area, or as a tender within a certain distance of the parent vessel. 

If you are eligible for Coxswain grade 3 certificate of competency you do not need to apply for the certificate, but you will need to have all of the required documents with you while operating a tender.

Read more about the Coxswain grade 3 certificate.

Last updated: 2 February 2023