Refusal of access to Australian ports

Ships that are not operated and managed to meet applicable standards and relevant Australian laws pose an increased risk to seafarers, ships and the environment. These ships may be refused access, or granted conditional entry to Australian ports.

Australia is a signatory to various International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions which aim to ensure ships are safe.

The Navigation Act 2012 provides additional powers so that in some circumstances, we may direct that:

  • A ship must not enter or use any port, or a specified port/s, in Australia or the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Australia.
  • A ship must comply with specified requirements while it:
    • is approaching, entering, or using any port, or a specified port or specified ports, in Australia or the EEZ of Australia
    • is in or is leaving any port, or a specified port or specified ports, in Australia or the EEZ of Australia.

Our power to give these directions is in section 246 of the Navigation Act 2012. This section does not specify a minimum or maximum duration for refusal of access or how long conditions need to be complied with. We will make those decisions based on the facts and circumstances of each case.

In support of that decision making process we intend to take the following general approach to the exercise of this power.

Directions that a ship not enter or use port/s 

We may consider issuing a direction refusing access to Australian ports where a ship has a poor port State control (PSC) record or there are concerns about the performance of the related vessel operator. Read the refusal of access list.

With PSC performance for individual ships the general principles that will be applied in the making of a decision to issue a direction not to enter or use an Australian port, or ports, are as follows:

  • Refusal of access for 3 months—may be issued:
    • Where a ship has been detained then released with conditions to carry out corrective action, but returns to Australia without the corrective action having been taken.
    • Where a ship has incurred three detentions in a two year period and has not been previously issued a direction.
  • Refusal of access for 12 months—where a ship has previously been issued a direction and is detained within two years of the expiry of the refusal period under that direction (while under the same operator). The nature of previous detentions that resulted in the initial direction may also be taken into consideration.
  • Refusal of access for 24 months—where a ship has previously been issued two directions and is detained within two years of the expiry of the refusal period under the second direction (while under the same operator). The nature of previous detentions that resulted in the initial direction may also be taken into consideration.

When considering ship performance we will also look at the performance of the company as a whole. Where this is deemed unacceptable the periods detailed in these general principles may be extended. 

Additionally, or in combination with the general principles above, a direction to refuse access may be issued where:

  • A significant breach of Australian legislation has occurred.
  • The effectiveness of the ship operator’s management system is considered to pose a significant risk to the welfare of seafarers, their safety or Australia’s marine environment.
  • The standards of some ships managed by an operator are so poor as to cast significant doubt on the standards of other vessels managed by the same company. We may consider directions in respect to other vessels of that operator.
  • A vessel owner or operator is found to have knowingly and intentionally acted in a manner to underpay or deny payment to seafarers working on their ships. Where such action is detected and it is clear the owner or operator has acted in a manner to hide this from authorities the vessel may be refused access for a period at least 12 months.

A direction resulting from a new detention in Australia will generally have effect as soon as the ship leaves the Australian port or anchorage following the clearance of the latest detainable deficiency.

We may vary the direction to allow access to a specific port in the event of force majeure or overriding safety considerations. Specific requirements may be imposed on the owner, operator or the Master of the ship to ensure safe entry in those circumstances.

Directions requiring compliance

A ship’s current circumstances or non-compliance history may result in issuing a direction requiring compliance with specific requirements while the vessel is approaching, entering, using or leaving any port, or specified port/s in Australia or its EEZ.  

These requirements will be applied having given consideration to the nature and level of risk posed to the welfare and safety of seafarers, ships and the marine environment.  

Such directions will be additional to port State control actions and may be applied where it is considered specific action is required by the Master and/or operator in order to address identified risks. 

Examples of such situations include:

  • Non-compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention such as payment of wages, crew welfare or Seafarer employment agreements.
  • Poor management of fatigue and hours of work/rest.
  • Lack of compliance with mandatory reporting requirements such as ReefREP. 
  • Carriage of inadequate and out-of-date nautical charts and publications.
  • Exercise of unsound navigation practices including; passage planning, identification of hazards and lack of understanding of designated shipping areas (within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park).
  • Inappropriate procedures and use of equipment required by MARPOL.

Compliance and enforcement policy

We will always take into consideration the specific circumstances that exist in relation to the ship.

The principles we apply ensure that decision making is accountable, consistent, transparent, impartial, proportionate and fair are documented in our compliance enforcement policy.

Last updated: 

Monday 13 July 2020