Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is an Australian statutory authority responsible for the regulation and safety oversight of Australia's shipping fleet and management of Australia's international maritime obligations.[2] The authority has jurisdiction over Australia's exclusive economic zone which covers an area of 11,000,000 square kilometres (4,200,000 sq mi).[3] AMSA maintains Australia's shipping registries: the general[4] and the international shipping registers.[5]

Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Offices in Canberra
Statutory authority overview
JurisdictionAustralian exclusive economic zone [1]
HeadquartersCanberra, Australian Capital Territory
Minister responsible

AMSA was established in 1990 under the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Act 1990[6][7] and governed by the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997. AMSA is an agency within the Department of Infrastructure and Transport.[2] Directors are appointed by the minister.[7] The international treaties which AMSA administers include the Navigation Act 2012 and the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983.[3]

Organised sea rescue in Australia was well established during the second world war.[8] Precursor international arrangements also included usage of a range of warning and communication systems.[9]

AMSA is funded largely through levies on the shipping industry. In the 2010-2011 financial year, AMSA recorded expenses of just over $146 million, with revenue at just under $159 million, creating a surplus of more than $10 million.[10]


Marine safety activities of AMSA include:

  • the provision, operation and maintenance of a network of marine aids to navigation, for example, lighthouses
  • ensuring the seaworthiness and safe operation of Australian and foreign vessels in Australian waters, including the enforcement of compulsory pilotage[3]
  • administering the certification of seafarers
  • the provision of a maritime distress and safety communications network
  • the operation of Australia's Rescue Coordination Centre and coordination of search and rescue (SAR) operations for civilian aircraft and vessels in distress[11] and
  • the development of a maritime safety commercial vessel legislative framework and operating system.

AMSA aims to protect the marine environment by administering programs to prevent and respond to the threat of ship-sourced marine pollution; and together with the Australian Marine Oil Spill Centre, managing Australia's National Plan to combat pollution of the sea by oil and other noxious and hazardous substances.

It is responsible for administering MARPOL 73/78,[7] an international marine environmental convention designed to minimize pollution of the seas. AMSA can instigate prosecutions itself, but mainly works with states and territories during investigations and enforcement activities such as vessel inspections.[7] A recent major AMSA project involved the rewrite of the Navigation Act 1912, the agency's governing statute.

Shipping registers

AMSA maintains two shipping registers. Ships registered on an Australian shipping register have Australian nationality for international shipping law purposes. Unless otherwise exempt, Australian owned ships are required to be registered on the general or international shipping register if it is a domestic commercial vessel, 24 metres or over in tonnage length, capable of navigating the high seas, or any vessel travelling overseas.[4] Vessels engaging in international trading that are at least 24 metres in tonnage length and wholly owned or operated by Australian residents, or by Australian residents and Australian nationals may apply to be registered on the international register. There are tax incentives for ships on the international register to make the register competitive with other registers, such as vessels being operated with mixed crews, with the majority of officers and crew not being required to be Australian citizens or residents.[5] AMSA has delegated certain survey and certification functions to a number of recognised classification societies, which are members of the International Association of Classification Societies.[12][13]

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2011 directed AMSA to work co-operatively with the states and territories to create a national system for domestic commercial vessels,[14] including any changes to Commonwealth, state and territory laws and administrative arrangements of the parties that are necessary to facilitate the reform. The new legislation[15] came into effect in 2013, and the transition to the new system was completed in July 2018.[16]


The Authority publishes a range of materials in relation to maritime safety.[17]As of 2011 its maritime survival manual Survival at Sea: A Training and Instruction Manual is in its 6th edition.[18]

See also


  1. "AMSA Seafarer Certifications - Australian Maritime Safety Authority".
  2. "Australian Maritime Safety Authority". Department of Infrastructure and Transport. Archived from the original on 25 May 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  3. Ornitz, Barbara E.; Michael A. Champ (2002). Oil Spills First Principles: Prevention and Best Response. Elsevier. p. 274. ISBN 0080428142. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  4. AMSA, Register a vessel
  5. AMSA, Australian international shipping register
  6. Australian Maritime Safety Authority (2001), AMSA's first decade, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, ISBN 978-0-642-70990-5
  7. White, M. W. D. (2007). Australasian Marine Pollution Laws. Federation Press. pp. 200–201. ISBN 978-1862875524. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  8. "R.A.A.F. CRASH BOATS". The Age (27499). Victoria, Australia. 9 June 1943. p. 3. Retrieved 2 March 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "Australia in air, sea rescue system". The Canberra Times. 64, (17, 222). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 7 October 1989. p. 5. Retrieved 2 March 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  10. "Annual Report 2010-11". Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  11. "History: Australian Search and Rescue (AusSAR)". Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015. A national centre was established by the Federal Government in 1997 for coordination of Australia's civil search and rescue (SAR) activities. ... Australian Maritime Safety Authority has merged the former aviation SAR responsibilities of Air Services Australia with its own maritime SAR responsibilities
  12. How flag State administration works in Australia
  13. The Navigation Act and National Law – Documents issued by recognised classification societies
  14. Intergovernmental Agreement on Commercial Vessel Safety Reform%
  15. Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012
  16. Vessels & operators
  17. "Publications". Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  18. Survival at Sea: A Training and Instruction Manual (6th ed.). Australian Maritime Safety Authority. 2011. ISBN 978-0-9806416-3-9.
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