Securing safer boats and ships

Securing safer boats and ships:

Stopping the race to the bottom on vessel safety, crewing, qualifications and training

The MUA is campaigning to preserve and improve standards for vessel safety, which are closely tied to crewing, qualifications and training.

The union is concerned that recent changes to the Navigation Act, the introduction of the Domestic Commercial Vessel (DCV) National Law Act, and the transfer of smaller vessel regulation from states to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has resulted in a race to the bottom on vessel safety, crewing, qualifications and training.

Vessels previously regulated under the Navigation Act are now regulated under the DCV National Law Act. Vessels classified as ‘Domestic Commercial Vessels’ are now allowed to operate interstate throughout Australia and up to 200nm from shore. DCVs:

  • have much lower standards for crewing, qualifications and training
  • do not require Integrated Ratings on board
  • are not required to comply with internationally agreed safety qualifications such as the Standards of Training and Watchkeeping Convention (STCW), the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), the International Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG), and many parts of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention.

Vessels are now only required to come under the Navigation Act if they travel overseas or intend to travel overseas and maintain international certifications.

The MUA is aiming to return vessels to the safer regulation of the Navigation Act, and to improve safety for vessels remaining under the DCV National Law through:

  • raising minimum crewing & manning quality and levels
  • preserving and enhancing qualifications
  • improving quality, length and relevance of training courses
  • improving safety on commercial vessels.

Union work

The MUA is advancing the campaign through political, industrial, and regulatory work.

In March 2019, the Senate called an inquiry into the Performance of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which was readopted in the new Parliament in July 2019. The MUA made a comprehensive submission, and appeared before the Inquiry in September (see transcript).

The Productivity Commission is holding an inquiry into the outcomes of the National Transport Reform that resulted in the DCV Act and AMSA’s national control of vessel regulation.  The MUA made a submission to this inquiry in July.

AMSA also has a constant process of revising Marine Orders. The MUA seeks to review all proposed Marine Orders to see how they will affect members and maritime safety in Australia, and to make a submission wherever possible.

A summary of MUA submissions on Marine Orders is available here.

Click here to read an AMSA safety alert on safe access to vessels



Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney