AMSA Aboard

December 2016

Message from the CEO - our year in review

AMSA CEO Mick Kinley

In 2016 we continued to build our capacity to meet the challenges of the future―in particular, the National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety (National System). As part of our preparation, we restructured our organisation to leverage our considerable existing capabilities through bringing units closer together, adopting more collaborative approaches to the way we work, and managing our information and data more effectively. We now have four divisions: Response, Operations, Standards and Corporate Services.

It has been a significant year for us with many challenges and achievements across our areas of operation, a few of which I would like to highlight.

National System transition

From August to October 2016 we consulted on cost recovery proposals for services under the National System. During consultation, we received a response highly critical of the proposals to fully cost recover for services formerly subsidised, in some form, under state-based arrangements. Industry submissions called for a delay in implementation to allow greater participation by industry in the development of an appropriate cost recovery mechanism.  

In response to the feedback, the Transport and Infrastructure Council decided to extend the timeframe for AMSA to commence service delivery of the National System until 1 July 2018 which will allow each state, the Northern Territory and stakeholders in the domestic commercial vessel industries to better consult and prepare for the changes. In the meantime, we will work with the states and NT to determine the appropriate transition funding required to address the concerns raised by industry about the impact of cost recovery.

We welcome the extended period of time available to consult further and work with industry towards a smooth transition. We have made considerable progress on plans to deliver services nationally and will maintain the impetus to ensure we are ready to deliver a modern and efficient regulatory system for our domestic commercial vessel industries.

Vessel and seafarer safety

In the lead up to our transition to full service delivery for the National System, we are working with industry to reduce the costs associated with unnecessary red tape and to improve the way services are provided. Together with other regulators including: the Australian Skills Quality Authority, Victorian Registration & Qualification Authority, Training Accreditation Council of Western Australia, and Australian Industry Standards, we are developing a model to reduce regulatory burden and duplication of effort.

In May this year we, and our regulatory partners, conducted a seafarer qualifications information road show in capital cities where we described our model to manage and issue near coastal qualifications. This model was well received by industry and we are in the process of developing systems and processes to deliver certification services to seafarers.

As the National Regulator, our focus is not only on legislation, surveys and certification, but promoting and facilitating an industry safety culture. To improve safety awareness in the domestic commercial vessel industry, we conducted risk and safety management workshops on how to develop, implement and maintain an effective safety management system. In 2015-16, we held 100 workshops across the country with a total of around 1700 attendees.

An example of a dory operation

To further promote a safety culture, we ran several safety campaigns. Most recently, we conducted a dory safety campaign in Queensland. In 2013 a Queensland commercial fisherman drowned after his dory boat capsized. This is one tragic example of a widespread safety issue throughout this sector. The deficiencies in safety identified by the Coroner and AMSA not only put lives at risk, but lead to large-scale search and rescue operations that could be avoided with the introduction of simple and inexpensive VHF radios, the wearing of lifejackets, and knowledge of when to activate a distress beacon. We partnered with Maritime Safety Queensland, Queensland Police Service, Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to meet with fishermen across the state. The regional meetings were complemented by targeted on-water compliance activities.

On 1 March we adopted the Large Yacht Code for super yachts and training vessels of 24-metres or more in length, in a first for the Australian yachting community. The change recognises that large yachts, also referred to as Super Yachts, operated commercially for sport or leisure do not fall naturally into a single class.

Australia shares the view of the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency (UK MCA) that prescribed merchant ship safety standards may be incompatible with the safety needs of large yachts given the nature of their operations. The introduction of Marine Order 52 provided an equivalent standard through the adoption of the UK MCA's Large Commercial Yacht Code 3rd Edition, known as the LY3 Code. The changes focus on the survey and certification requirements of large yachts engaged in commercial operations and how they will be regulated under the Australian Navigation Act 2012. The introduction of the LY3 Code follows the introduction of crew qualifications for Super Yacht master and deck officers on 1 January. The new qualifications introduced a deck certificate or competency structure similar to that of the UK MCA certificate structure for Master, Chief Mate and Deck Watchkeeper qualifications for various tonnage yachts.

On 1 July we implemented changes to regulations for container weight verifications in the shipping industry, requiring shippers to provide a verified gross mass (VGM) for containers. These changes reflect amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), approved by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). To implement the new international requirements, we amended Marine Order 42 (Cargo, stowage and securing). These amendments to SOLAS will improve safety in global shipping and we are pleased to be playing our part in ensuring a safe industry.

Navigation safetyTwo new Traffic Separation Schemes off south-west WA came into force on 1 December 2016

On 1 December 2016 two new IMO-approved Traffic Separation Schemes came into effect off the south-west coast of Western Australia. The two schemes, off Cape Leeuwin and Chatham Island in the state’s south-west, aim to increase navigational safety by separating traffic travelling in opposing directions and improve environmental protection by keeping ships away from the coastline.

Australia’s proposal to the IMO was driven by shipping traffic data which showed that both of these issues were of concern. With around 3250 unique voyages made through this area every year, and shipping volumes increasing, the schemes will improve safety without any reduction in shipping efficiency.

In 2016 we facilitated a controlled under keel clearance management (UKCM) system trial with Rio Tinto bulk commodity vessels departing Weipa and transiting though Torres Strait bound for Gladstone.  The trial investigates the feasibility and continuing safety of transits through Torres Strait at draughts greater than the regulated 12.2 metre limit, and will continue into 2017.  When completed, results and final recommendations will be used by to decide on the potential environmental and commercial benefits to be gained at draughts potentially greater than 12.2 metres.

In the August edition of AMSA Aboard we ran a feature on developments in e-navigation. From the outset, Australia, led by AMSA, has been an active participant in international e-navigation efforts and our work in this area continued in 2016. Regular and meaningful contributions at IMO and International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) committee meetings, significant contributions to IMO Correspondence Groups and leading work on human centred design, have been the hallmark of our engagement. In particular, our contribution on human factors and design of navigational equipment has been well received in international circles and at IMO.

Marine environment

The 2016 National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies (National Plan) exercise was hosted by New South Wales. Phase one dealt with a chemical incident occurring on board a container vessel at sea and a subsequent request from the vessel’s master for a place of refuge in the Port of Newcastle. The operational component of this phase was conducted on board the MV Island Trader which operates a freight service between Port Macquarie and Lord Howe Island. The AMSA and Fire & Rescue New South Wales Hazardous and Noxious Substance Reconnaissance Team was deployed to the vessel, with the assistance of New South Wales Water Police and Port Macquarie Volunteer Marine Rescue. The second phase of the exercise considered the community impacts and cost recovery implications of a chemical incident in the Port of Newcastle. 

MEOSAR satellite tracking ground station in Mingenew

Hazardous and Noxious Substance Reconnaissance Team aboard a RHIB approaches MV Island Trader during Exercise Nautical Twilight

To enhance cooperation and information-sharing on marine debris, we signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Tangaroa Blue in May 2016. Tangaroa Blue is an Australian-registered charity that coordinates the Australian Marine Debris Initiative, a network of community groups and government agencies focused on reducing the amount of marine debris. While the majority of marine debris comes from land-based sources, preventing waste discharge from ships is a key focus for us in environmental protection. The first community activity undertaken as part of this MOU was a marine debris education program for school students on Thursday Island in August. We will continue to work with Tangaroa Blue on other such programs, as well as sharing publications and data on shipping traffic, relevant outcomes of IMO, and accessing the Australian Marine Debris Database to inform our implementation of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships (MARPOL).

Search and rescue

In 2016 we progressed two significant search and rescue programs. Firstly, our Medium-altitude Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) system for emergency distress beacon detection came into operation in August, supporting search and rescue response in Australia. The satellite tracking ground station in Mingenew, Western Australia, detects beacon activations from overhead satellites and forwards the information to the Mission Control Centre in Canberra that sends the beacon alert data to the Australian Joint Rescue Coordination Centre where the search and rescue response is managed. The MEOSAR system is operating in tandem with the existing Low-altitude Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (LEOSAR) system, and is expected to improve search and rescue response times for distress beacon owners in emergency situations.

Secondly, we commenced a staged transition of our dedicated airborne search and rescue service provider in August 2016 when AeroRescue Pty Ltd handed over responsibility for the Perth base to Cobham SAR Services Pty Ltd. AeroRescue has operated specially-modified Dornier 328 aircraft in this role for us since 2005. Cobham will operate four specially-modified Bombardier Challenger (604) jets from three bases: Perth, Cairns and Essendon. The fourth aircraft is designated a maintenance spare and will be capable of deployment to any base to maintain the service, and may be used in training. The Challenger jets will be on call 24/7 to sustain our capability to undertake visual and electronic searches for people in distress.

MEOSAR satellite tracking ground station in Mingenew

MEOSAR satellite tracking ground station, Mingenew, WA

John Larkin and his son Innes were presented with the 2016 Australian Search and Rescue Award during the Australian National Search and Rescue (NATSAR) annual Council meeting hosted by the Western Australia Police in Fremantle on Thursday 20 October.

Australian Search and Rescue Award recipients John and Innes Larkin (centre) are pictured here with their wives Jenny and Tracey Larkin, AMSA's CEO Mick Kinley (left) and Queensland Police Service Senior Sergeant Jim Whitehead (right)

An initiative of the NATSAR Council, the accolade recognises an outstanding contribution to search and rescue activities in Australia. The NATSAR Council is comprised of members from AMSA, the Australian Defence Force, and state, territory and federal police, who take turns hosting the annual award ceremony.

As Mount Barney Lodge Country Retreat owner-operators, John and Innes have lent their extensive knowledge of the national parks and hiking trails surrounding their lodge to numerous search and rescue missions in the area since 1989. This local knowledge and experience has been sought after by search and rescue coordinators on more than 400 occasions for some 700 lost and overdue bushwalkers. In all cases the missing persons were found. As well as participating in searches, John and Innes have offered the facilities of their lodge as a location for field search headquarters and helicopter landing and retrieval zones on countless occasions.

International and domestic engagement

Australia in November announced its candidacy for Category B of the IMO governing Council.  On announcement, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said that while membership of Category B had never been successfully contested, election at this level would more accurately reflect Australia’s significant role in international maritime trade.  It also builds on a solid reputation built up over 50 years of working across the IMO to develop shipping standards, which are fair, effective and sustainable.  The IMO Council elections will be held towards the end of 2017. 

In 2016 we continued our longstanding engagement of major trading partners to ensure reliable, efficient and safe movement of goods between our countries. We also worked further to build capacity in the region, particularly with our nearest neighbours – Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and in the South Pacific.

The 17th session of the Asia-Pacific Heads of Maritime Safety Agencies (APHoMSA) forum was held in Queenstown, New Zealand, from 15-17 March 2016, bringing together senior maritime officials from across our Asia-Pacific region. As the Secretariat of the forum, Australia has a central role in facilitating APHoMSA. This year’s forum was attended by 20 of APHoMSA’s 23 Members, as well as five standing observer organisations: the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA), the Pacific Community (SPC), and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

A record 35 papers were discussed at the forum on a range of topics relating to the APHoMSA pillars of Regional Cooperation, Protecting the Marine Environment, Safety at Sea (including Seafarer Welfare), and Maritime Incident Response. The forum enjoyed increased participation from women and Pacific Island Members thanks to generous funding received from the IMO.AMSA Chairman Stuart Richey speaks at Spillcon 2016

In April we hosted, together with the Australian Institute of Petroleum, Spillcon 2016 - the international oil spill conference for the Asia-Pacific region. Held in Perth, the conference attracted just under 400 domestic and international attendees who joined the presentation sessions, exhibition, on-water display and networking functions over the week-long event.

Together with the Australian Maritime College, we hosted Ergoship 2016 in Melbourne in April. The first conference of its kind in Australia, Ergoship provided a national and international forum for the dissemination and exchange of applied scientific knowledge in the field of human factors within a maritime context. The program included a variety of high-calibre national and international speakers who presented on a range of human factors topics including safety culture, fatigue risk management, seafarer health and wellbeing, and designing maritime systems for user needs.

From 15-16 June we hosted a salvage and wreck workshop at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney. There were around 140 delegates in attendance representing Commonwealth and state governments, overseas maritime regulators, ship owners and operators, cargo owners, ship and cargo insurers, port authorities, the Royal Australian Navy, salvors, towage providers, legal practitioners and consultants. This was the first time in many years that a group of this nature has gathered to workshop potential issues arising from an incident involving a maritime casualty.

Looking forward

This year has been a very busy one for AMSA and we expect this pace to increase in 2017 and beyond. As we move towards full service delivery for the National System there is a lot of work to be done. We will continue to work with our partner agencies and stakeholders every step of the way to ensure we can deliver a modern and efficient system for industry.

I would like to thank our stakeholders and partner agencies for their support throughout the year. I also thank our Chairman Stuart Richey and the AMSA Board, and most importantly our AMSA staff for all of their hard work and efforts through the year.

I wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

Mick Kinley

What's new?


Annual Report 2015-16

Annual Report 2015-16

AMSA's Annual Report 2015-16 is available to view on our website.


Media releases


Marine notices

  • 2016/20 AMSA's approach to STCW Convention amendments due to take effect 1 January 2017
  • 2016/19 Maintenance and adjustment of magnetic compasses
  • 2016/18 Improper use of weighted heaving lines
  • 2016/17 Maximum period of shipboard service for seafarers

All marine notices are available to view on our website.


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