Duties of a flag State to its vessels in Australia

Advice to flag states conducting Flag State Inspections (FSI) in Australia.

Responsibility for the safety of a ship and compliance to relevant international instruments rests with the flag State, as provided under Article 94 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Article 94 excerpt

3. Every State shall take such measures for ships flying its flag as are necessary to ensure safety at sea with regard, inter alia, to:

(a) the construction, equipment and seaworthiness of ships;

(b) the manning of ships, labour conditions and the training of crews, taking into account the applicable international instruments;

(c) the use of signals, the maintenance of communications and the prevention of collisions

4. Such measures shall include those necessary to ensure:

(a) that each ship, before registration and thereafter at appropriate intervals, is surveyed by a qualified surveyor of ships, and has on board such charts, nautical publications and navigational equipment and instruments as are appropriate for the safe navigation of the ship;

(b) that each ship is in the charge of a master and officers who possess appropriate qualifications, in particular in seamanship, navigation, communications and marine engineering, and that the crew is appropriate in qualification and numbers for the type, size, machinery and equipment of the ship;

(c) that the master, officers and, to the extent appropriate, the crew are fully conversant with and required to observe the applicable international regulations concerning the safety of life at sea, the prevention of collisions, the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution, and the maintenance of communications by radio

AMSA is supportive of the flag State taking responsibility for vessels operating under its flag. Should a flag State wish to do either of the following:

  • Inspect a vessel in Australia as part of a programmed inspection under flag State control.
  • Attend a vessel in Australia in response to an incident or event.

Then AMSA will assist the flag in this process and may refrain from the exercise of port state control. AMSA may still attend in support of the flag State inspector, and to monitor the activity, where this is deemed appropriate or the circumstances warrant attendance.   

To implement this process AMSA will follow this process:   

  1. The flag State must advise AMSA in writing (either by letter or email to psc@amsa.gov.au ) that the flag state will be attending the vessel and the purpose of such attendance.
  2. The flag State will inspect the vessel to verify compliance. This inspection must be sufficient in scope and depth to verify compliance.
  3. If issues are found, the flag State inspector is to keep AMSA advised of the situation. The flag State will take appropriate and effective action to resolve any issue prior departure from an Australian port.
  4. If the flag State intends to issue any dispensations or exemptions in respect to issues identified then AMSA expect to be consulted beforehand in order that AMSA may exercise its discretion.

Where the flag State inspector attends at the same time as an AMSA Marine Surveyor the flag State inspector is to take the lead in actively assessing the vessel for compliance with relevant requirements. The flag State inspector should not expect the AMSA surveyor to run the inspection but the AMSA surveyor will advise the flag State inspector of any issues they may note.

Last updated: 21 April 2020