Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
Australian-owned marine vessels undertaking commercial,
government or research work will need to abide new national
regulations from July 1, 2013.
The Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law
Act 2012 will replace 50 separate pieces of legislation
currently in force across each State and Territory of Australia
providing a uniform national set of duties for the safe maintenance
and use of commercial vessels.
Express safety duties are imposed on owners, designers,
manufacturers, masters, crew and passengers of commercial vessels
under the Act, breaches of which will attract penalties of up to
$1,530,000 for companies and $306,000 and/or two years'
imprisonment for individuals.
Specific duties imposed on owners of commercial vessels include
maintaining the vessel in a safe condition; implementing and
maintaining a safety management system for the vessel; and
providing information, instruction, training or supervision to
people on board the vessel as is necessary to ensure their
The existing Australian Maritime Safety Authority will be
responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance of the new
provisions. As part of this, the authority's Marine Safety
Inspectors will be granted significant powers to board vessels or
enter premises connected to commercial vessels, direct a vessel to
stop or manoeuvre in a specific way, inspect records in hard copy
and electronic formats, operate equipment, seize items believed to
be evidence of an offence against the Act and obtain information
from individuals connected with a vessel.
Inspectors have authority to issue improvement notices to
individuals or businesses they reasonably suspect of having
breached an obligation imposed under the Act, requiring them to
take specified action to rectify the breach within a certain period
of time. Other powers granted to Inspectors under the Act
issuing a prohibition notice, directing the master of an unsafe
vessel not to operate the vessel until the Inspector is satisfied
any safety risk posed by the vessel has been rectified;
detaining a commercial vessel and/or ordering the vessel to
return to port if the Inspector reasonably believes the vessel is,
will be, or has been involved in a breach of the Act; and
issuing an infringement notice to a person the Inspector
reasonably believes has committed certain offences against the Act,
imposing up to one fifth of the maximum penalty for the
On application by an inspector, or at its own initiative, the
authority may also suspend or revoke certificates of survey,
operation and competency for a vessel or individual. Before taking
such action the authority must provide the business or individual
affected by the proposed suspension/revocation of the certificate
an opportunity to put forward reasons why the suspension/revocation
should not occur.
To prepare for the commencement of the Act on 1 July 2013, all
businesses in the commercial maritime industry should:
provide training to all staff engaged by the business on their
personal safety duties under the Act;
conduct a gap analysis review of the business's existing
operating procedures to identify any compliance issues with
applicable safety duties;
ensure all vessels and individuals obtain and/or maintain the
develop policies and procedures for dealing with Inspectors
monitoring compliance with, or investigating a possible breach of,
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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