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Unique vessel identifiers

Domestic commercial vessels must have and display a unique vessel identifier unless they are exempt. A unique vessel identifier—also sometimes called a UVI—is like a number plate for your vessel.

A unique identifier is a number that stays with the vessel for its entire life, even if the vessel changes ownership. Unique identifiers help to identify domestic commercial vessels. A vessel may need to be identified:

  • for search and rescue purposes
  • if it has been lost or stolen
  • if it is being operated dangerously or illegally
  • if it is being surveyed

Requirements for unique identifiers are laid out in Marine Order 502 (Vessel identifiers—national law). Some vessels are exempt from the requirement to have a unique identifier, or from displaying it or both under Exemption 1—Marine Safety (Vessel identifiers) 

Does my vessel need a unique identifier?

All domestic commercial vessels must have and display a unique identifier unless exempt.

From 1 September 2018, human powered vessels and sail vessels less than 7.5 metres long do not need to have or display a unique identifier, if the vessel is covered by a certificate of operation.

Vessel type

Required to have a unique identifier?

Required to display a unique identifier?

Conditions

A tender

No

No

The vessel must be marked with either:

  • the words ‘Tender to’ followed by the name or unique identifier of its parent vessel
  • the name of the owner of the vessel followed by the word ‘tender’ or
  • the unique identifier of its parent vessel followed by ‘– T’

A domestic commercial vessel registered under the Shipping Registration Act 1981

No

No

The vessel must be marked in accordance with the Shipping Registration Act 1981

A  human powered vessel* including canoes and kayaks

No

No

Option 1   The vessel must be covered by a certificate of operation.

Yes

No

Option 2   None

A sailing vessel^ that is less than 7.5m long

 

No

No

Option 1  The vessel must be covered by a certificate of operation

Yes

No

Option 2   None

A personal watercraft used in an aerial freestyle device operation

Yes

No

None

*a human powered vessel is a vessel that is:

  •  propelled only by human powered devices, or
  • a canoe or kayak that is propelled by human powered devices and is  fitted with:
    • an auxiliary motor of ≤3.5 kW propulsion power, or
    • an auxiliary electric propulsion motor of ≤24 volts and a total battery capacity of ≤20 kWh.

^a sailing vessel is a vessel that is designed for and capable of undertaking a voyage propelled by sail alone, and that has:

  • no auxiliary motor
  • an auxiliary motor  of ≤3.5 kW propulsion power or
  • an auxiliary electric propulsion motor of ≤24 volts and a total battery capacity of ≤20 kWh.

For more information see Marine Order 502 (Vessel identifiers — national law) and Exemption 1 Marine Safety (Vessel identifiers).

How do I get a unique identifier?

You will automatically be issued a unique identifier when you first:

  • apply for a certificate of survey
  • apply for a non-survey approval
  • apply for a C Restricted approval
  • apply for a specific exemption
  • notify us of your intent to build the vessel.

If you are exempt from all of the above or want to obtain the identifier sooner, you can apply for it as a standalone application.

How do I display my unique vessel identifier?

The identifier must be displayed clearly and prominently on the vessel within 21 days of being issued or, if the vessel is still being constructed, before the vessel is launched.

Generally this would mean the unique identifier is displayed above the waterline on both sides of the vessel in a colour that contrasts with the hull. It should be large enough to be read from at least 30 metres away and should not be obscured by nets, deck machinery, or other items.

For more information about displaying a unique identifier see guidance notice on Unique Identifiers.

Can I use my existing number?

If your vessel has a unique identifier issued by a state or territory marine safety agency, or by AMSA you can continue to display it.

You may receive a new unique identifier from us which will be given to you when you next interact with us. We have done this to make sure unique identifiers are truly unique across the country as some jurisdictions had overlapping sets of numbers.

It will be helpful if you can refer to your AMSA issued identifier when interacting with us including when applying for certificates or other permissions related to the vessel.  If you have an existing number, you do not need to display the AMSA issued identifier on your vessel when you receive it from us.

However, if the number currently displayed on your vessel is no longer displayed clearly, or if you carry out any maintenance on your vessel that affects the area where your current identifier is displayed, you may choose to display the AMSA issued number instead.

What if my vessel has multiple unique identifiers or other distinguishing numbers/marks?

For historical reasons your vessel may have several numbers associated with it. You can display whichever you prefer as long as it was issued by a state or territory marine safety agency or AMSA for the purpose of identifying a domestic commercial vessel. A fishing license number is generally not a unique identifier for this purpose. As noted above, when communicating with us it is helpful if you can refer to the AMSA issued unique identifier.

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Last updated: 

Wednesday 28 November 2018