03 April 2023
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) recently released its new five-year compliance strategy and supporting compliance priorities to help the shipping industry comply with legislated safety standards from 2023 to 2027. As a result, we are seeing more vessels calling to Australia being inspected, found to have deficiencies, and detained. The number of vessels being banned from Australia has also increased.
This article outlines AMSA’s compliance priorities and guides vessel operators on how to manage their way off the regulator’s ‘watch list’.
AMSA is responsible for Australia’s compliance with international maritime obligations, port State control of international trading ships and the regulation of Australian commercial vessels. Their overall aim is to protect the marine environment and encourage maritime safety.
AMSA’s regulatory activities also include a compliance function, which is aimed at encouraging and facilitating the maritime industry to comply with the law.
In January 2023, AMSA released the latest version of their compliance strategy, which outlines the regulator’s approach to promoting industry compliance with legislated safety standards over the next four years (2023-2027).
AMSA’s previous compliance strategy (2018-2022) established the underlying principles for their approach to compliance as being transparent and collaborative, with a focus on minimising impact on the industry and maximising safety and environmental outcomes.
The 2023-2027 compliance strategy builds on this foundation and states that, for the next four years, AMSA’s approach will be “data-driven, risk-based and proportionate.”
AMSA Executive Director of Operators, Michael Drake, says that it has been a “challenging few years” for commercial vessel owners and operators, and for merchant shipping. Drake says that AMSA, as a modern regulator, is trying to achieve the right balance between ensuring compliance and not adding more regulatory burden on an industry that is already trying to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drake says that to achieve this balance, AMSA will need to be “strategic with where and how we direct our efforts.” He says that this will be aided by the use of incident and inspection data, which will allow AMSA to identify areas of risk which will inform their decision to focus on these areas.
Additionally, Drake says that once AMSA knows where their efforts need to be more strategically placed, their proportionate approach to compliance means that they will adjust compliance activities based on what operators are willing and able to comply with.
There are six key elements of AMSA’s compliance strategy for 2023-2027:
While AMSA’s annual compliance plan for 2023-2024 has not yet been released, their compliance plan for 2022-2023 outlines five key compliance focus areas. Within these focus areas, AMSA has detailed the inspection and education activities they will undertake to improve compliance and maritime safety.
Focus area 1: Port and flag State control
AMSA has identified eight areas of ‘risk’ within port and flag State control. These relate to increases in deficiency and detention rates, deficiencies for water and weather-tight integrity and deficiencies relating to container securing, and a lack of planned maintenance and fire safety awareness.
Additionally, AMSA will focus on implementing their obligations under international concentrated inspection campaigns and specific regional safety concerns, such as incorrect mass measurements of containers and lack of understanding about grain cargo handling.
Focus area 2: Maritime Labour Convention
AMSA continues to identify serious breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention and seafarers’ welfare as a key area of concern. Although the AMSA has received fewer complaints, there are still complaints relating to health and safety protection, accident prevention, wages, food and catering.
Focus area 3: Domestic commercial vessels
AMSA has identified eight areas of ‘risk’ for domestic commercial vessels. These relate to further refinement of inspection targeting, lack of adequate risk assessments, systemic overdue periodic surveys and overall lack of planned maintenance.
AMSA will also focus on the implementation of Marine Order 505 (Certificates of Competency) amendments and regional safety focus areas such as onboard familiarisation, fire preparedness and tender operations for passenger vessels.
Focus area 4: Search and rescue
An area of concern for AMSA is that there has been a 12 per cent increase in accidental beacon alerts in domestic commercial vessels from 2020-2021. Investigations revealed that this is because beacons are being released in bad weather conditions, suggesting that EPIRBS are not being placed in the bracket correctly.
Focus area 5: Environmental
AMSA is concerned with reducing the content of Annex VI of MARPOL sulphur content in ships’ bunker fuel oil. From 2020, this has decreased from 2.50 per cent mass by mass (m/m) to 0.50 per cent m/m.
Vessel owners, operators and charterers should take note of AMSA’s compliance targets and ensure that they have in place proactive compliance practices to ensure that vessels travelling to Australia are in the condition expected of them, crewed by suitably trained crew and provided with sufficient instruction and guidance to ensure compliance with local navigation requirements.
We have already observed an increase in AMSA inspection and enforcement activity, with a number of vessels operated by established shipping operators recently being banned from Australia for a minimum of 90 days as a result of ongoing deficiencies and detention of their vessels calling in Australia.
For businesses who do find themselves on AMSA’s ‘watch list’ or have vessels banned from Australia, it is important to engage with AMSA to develop, implement and demonstrate the effectiveness of a safety and compliance rectification plan. This will support the removal of the operator from the ‘watch list’ and reduce the likelihood of future bans.
Our national Transport, Shipping & Logistics team has recently worked with an operator in relation to its placement on the watch list and banning of vessels from Australia and are experienced in guiding operators through this process. If you have any questions, please contact a member of our team below.
The information in this article is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this article is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.