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National marine scheme

The national system for domestic commercial vessels (the national marine scheme) commenced in Australia on 1 July 2013.

The changes result from an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the Commonwealth and States and Territories signed in August 2011 for a national scheme for all commercial vessels in Australian and coastal waters, noting that responsibility for the vessels is currently divided between the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions.

The scheme requires that responsibility for all commercial vessels regulated by States and Territories transfer to the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth legislation

The Commonwealth enacted legislation (the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel National Law) Act 2012) (the national law) using its constitutional powers to establish the scheme.

The national law is drawn largely from Victorian law (the Marine Safety Act 2010) as the most modern of the State and Territory marine laws. This underscores Victoria's leading role in reform in this area.

The national law transferred control of over 90 per cent of the Victorian commercial vessel fleet to the Commonwealth when it commenced on 1 July 2013. 

Victorian legislation

Victoria recently passed local marine legislation to support the national marine scheme.

The Marine (Domestic Commercial Vessel National Law Application) Act 2013 transfers to Commonwealth control a small number of vessels (less than 10 per cent of the Victorian commercial vessel fleet) that the Commonwealth cannot reach using its own powers.

The national regulator

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is the regulator for all commercial vessels in Australian coastal and inland waters. 

However, the intergovernmental agreement provided for AMSA to delegate day to day administration of the national scheme to the local regulator, Transport Safety Victoria.

State laws preserved

The national law is not a holistic one stop shop scheme for the regulation of commercial vessels.  It does not fully replace State and Territory laws and local statutes such as the Marine Safety Act.  These continue to apply in part to commercial vessel operations across the State.  Examples of key things that remain regulated by local law include waterway operations, pilotage requirements and drug and blood alcohol controls.

Measures like reforms made by the recent Transport Legislation Amendment (Marine Drug and Alcohol Standards Modernisation and Other Matters) Act 2012 are not affected by the national scheme and continue to keep Victoria at the forefront of safety.  Accordingly, Victoria's zero blood alcohol limit for operators and masters of commercial vessels and rigorous drug assessment and testing regimes still apply while those vessels are in our State waters.

Benefits of the national scheme

The national scheme:

  • eliminates recertification and administrative costs when vessel operations transfer between jurisdictions
  • is likely to result in a reduction in the time and costs associated with gaining master and crew qualifications and certificates
  • will continue delivery of benefits contained in Victoria's Marine Safety Act 2010 such as:
    • risk based survey
    • five year certification cycle
    • enhanced safety performance through safety duties and operational certification

Further information

For further information email Ian Shepherd or call (03) 8392 6486.

Read the Minister's second reading speech for the national law.

Page last reviewed on 15 May 2015

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