National Regulator for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety Statement of Regulatory Approach
Overview of the regulatory approach
This page explains the regulatory approach of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority as the national regulator for Domestic Commercial Vessel safety.
Please click on the statements to reveal the information you may be interested in.
Safety is primary.
Marine safety risks must be reduced as far as reasonably practicable. Regulation must be scaled to reflect risk.
Regulation - and its application - must be flexible enough to address the risks of a highly varied industry in order to support safety, innovation and business and environmental sustainability.
The Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 regulates approximately 27,000 domestic commercial vessels and 66,000 masters and crew across the country. The fleet is involved in a wide range of commercial activities in highly varied conditions, from small boats on aquaculture leases to ferry fleets carrying millions of passengers per year.
The age of the vessels, their operations and the areas in which they operate vary significantly, as do their risk management processes. The regulatory approach must be flexible enough to manage the risks of these different vessels, operations and operators, while supporting both business and environmental sustainability.
The National Regulator develops and maintains a collaborative relationship with industry.
The regulator and those it regulates share an obligation to make the domestic commercial maritime sector safer. All parties whose actions impact on safety are subject to general safety duties under the National Law, including operators, masters, builders, crew and passengers.
By building a collaborative relationship with industry, the National Regulator will ensure that it stays in touch with the on-the-water realities of operating a domestic commercial vessel, and able to offer practical safety solutions, support and advice. It will facilitate information sharing between industry and the regulator, including safety data, which allows for true risk-based oversight by the National Regulator.
The regulatory scheme is performance-based, not prescriptive.
Prescriptive requirements can discourage operators from considering how safety is best managed and create a ‘meet the minimum requirements’ attitude. It is also difficult for prescriptive rules to keep pace with the latest safety developments and technology, which can stifle innovation.
Performance-based regulation provides industry with the opportunity to take a more active role in delivering safety outcomes and encourages operators to adopt current best practice. A performance-based approach is more likely to bring about mutually beneficial interactions between industry and the regulator.
The operator has the primary responsibility for ensuring the vessel is safe and operates safely.
The operator (the person who has overall general control and management of the vessel) is in the best position to identify and control the risks of their operation. They are responsible under the law for making sure that those risks are being managed effectively.
The National Regulator will support risk management by the operator through effective performance-based regulation, by providing accessible information and support and making it simpler for operators to maintain safe vessels and operations, and by verifying that the operator is managing risks where appropriate.
The National Regulator will take a ‘trust and verify’ approach to maintaining safety wherever possible.
The performance-based approach of the National Regulator includes moving towards a ‘trust and verify’ system of monitoring compliance with safety outcomes.
Where operators have compliant vessels, a good safety record and a safety management system, the National Regulator will focus on periodically verifying that they are complying with the safety outcomes required by the law through risk-based surveillance and systems-based audits.
More regulatory oversight will be directed towards industry sectors and operators that do not have a good record of compliance, including new vessels, operators and crew, and where the risks and/or consequences of an incident are high.
In addition, breaches of the law may be met with strong enforcement actions in order to promote voluntary compliance.
Importantly, this performance-based or ‘trust and verify’ approach to compliance cannot be implemented overnight. A transitional process will be applied to ensure that operators take responsibility for safety outcomes through the implementation of an effective safety management system.
The National Regulator will make use of third-party expertise to bolster its regulatory safety activities.
The National Regulator will encourage the use of third-party expertise, where appropriate, to contribute to its regulatory activities. This will include a greater role for approved Registered Training Organisations and nationally accrediting private surveyors. These arrangements will increase the availability of resources that enable operators to meet their obligations under the law.
The National Regulator will strive to make it simple for people to maintain safety.
By streamlining the structure of the regulations and producing high-quality guidance material and training programs, the National Regulator will improve safety by making it easier for operators, surveyors and marine safety officers and inspectors to establish and maintain safe vessels and safe operating practices.
The National Regulator will work together with other safety agencies to reduce the potential for duplication of safety rules and the application of those rules.
Domestic commercial vessels are subject to different laws including maritime safety, occupational health and safety, local waterways management, environmental laws and fisheries management requirements. Where there is potential overlap or duplication of these laws and duplication of effort for vessel operators to meet the requirements, the National Regulator will work with those agencies involved to reduce or remove that duplication.