Marine Matters | Vessel Registration & Certification

Vessel Registration & Certification


  • New Vessel Certification (NSCV and USL Code)
  • Periodic Survey Inspections
  • Certificates of Compliances for Repairs or Modifications
  • Positive Flotation Certificates

    1. New Vessel Certification

    Commercial Vessels:

    All commercially operated vessels in Australia (that is they are used to earn any income or are owned under a time share agreement) must be built to a government recognised standard and must be operated with a current Certificate of Survey or Certificate of Operation for that standard.  The regulation of Australian domestic commercial vessel safety has recently changed in three ways: the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessels) National Law Act 2012 now applies to the domestic vessel fleet in all Australian States and Territories; the National Law means there is one National System for domestic vessels and seafarers; and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has become the National Regulator of the National System with the Australian States' and Territories' Marine Safety Agencies, such as Maritime Safety Queensland, acting as delegates for AMSA.  At this stage there are still differences in the process of gaining a Certificate of Survey or a Certificate of Operation between the States and Territories because Queensland uses privately operating accredited marine surveyors and Certificates of Compliances but some other delegates use Government employed marine surveyors.  The AMSA website, under the 'Domestic Vessels' section has detailed information about the new system, including a section that allows owners and operators to download application forms for a Certificate of Survey or a Certificate of Operation, and a very useful tool (under the heading 'Standards and Tools') that allows an applicant to put in details of their vessel and the area of operation and print out lists of items or equipment for their vessel.  Marine Matters is now an AMSA accredited corporation for Marine Surveying and Russ Behan also has an individual accreditation as a marine surveyor under the National Law. A list of accredited entities throughout Australia is available on the AMSA website.

    Recreational Vessels:

    All recreational vessels must be registered with the relevant State or Territory for recreational use, and, depending on the length of the vessel and/or where it is berthed, it must be insured but there are no Government enforced standards for the construction of recreational vessels although many owners choose to build to a commercial standard for safety and increased resale value.  It is very difficult, or impossible, to convert a vessel constructed without a recognised standard, to a Certified standard that would allow the vessel to be used commercially.  There is a National Standard for General Safety Requirements that applies to all registered vessels.

    Certificates of Compliance:

    Marine Matters is accredited with the Queensland delegate for AMSA, Maritime Safety Queensland, to issue Certificates of Compliances stating that a vessel�s construction complies with the recognised standard and carries the required safety equipment. In Queensland, accredited marine surveyors are accredited to issue Compliances in one or more of the following areas: Hull and Superstructure; Machinery; Electrical; and Safety Equipment; and for vessels constructed in one or more of the following materials: Steel, Timber, Aluminium, Glass Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP), Composite (FRP with timber or foam core) and Ferro Cement. Marine Matters and Russ Behan are accredited for all areas except Design and Electrical, and for all construction materials.


    The cost of accredited marine surveyor�s services will vary according to the number of inspections required and the construction material.  Owners generally want more inspections than builders and each surveyor will have his own minimum number.  Currently there is no mandatory minimum number of inspections required.  AMSA has guidelines for inspection stages which Marine Matters follows.   In Queensland, accredited marine surveyors operate privately and must have a minimum level of insurance to protect themselves and their clients.  Consequentially they may request extra inspections when they think it is necessary.

    New Vessel Certification Process:

    imageThe Certification process begins with the submission of an Application for Survey of a Domestic Commercial Vessel to the AMSA delegate, by the owner.  The application must include three copies of the plans and specifications for approval and the construction should not start until the plans are approved by the AMSA delegate. Marine Matters suggests that owners discuss the Application with an accredited marine surveyor, who is familiar with the system, before submitting it. The designer, the builder, and the electrician must also be accredited with the AMSA delegate. The accredited marine surveyor is appointed by the builder and/or the owner and is provided with a copy of the plans and specifications so that a timetable can be prepared for stage reviews of the construction and fit out, and the AMSA delegate has to approve this. The accredited marine surveyor follows the National Standard for the Administration of Marine Safety (NSAMS) guidelines and the National Standard for Commercial Vessels (NSCV), and visits the work site, checks the facilities, the qualifications of the builder and the contractors, and the materials before construction begins.  As the construction proceeds, the accredited marine surveyor checks the construction against the approved plans and, in the case of FRP vessels submits test panels.  When the vessel is complete and launched, the accredited marine surveyor uses the NSAMS checklist to conduct the initial survey and provides the owner with a copy to submit to the AMSA delegate.  It is now possible for Marine Matters to act as an accredited marine surveyor in other Australian States and Territories

    Marine Matters uses photographs and notes to record each inspection, and reports to the client (the builder and/or the owner) after each inspection.  Any variations to the approved plans are noted and either included in the plans and submitted for approval again, or the construction is changed to comply with the approved plans.  Any other concerns are noted and comments are included in the report.

    Certificates of Compliances are issued by Marine Matters to the AMSA delegate or the client.  Once all the required Compliances have been issued the Application for either a Certificate of Survey and /or a Certificate of Operation can be finalised.  Currently, there is a considerable back log of applications in Queensland so a Restricted Use Flag is usually issued to allow the vessel to be launched and moved to another location while the Application is finalised.  In some cases the vessel may also be allowed to begin commercial operation.

    2. Periodic Survey Inspections

    Vessel Certificates must be maintained by having the vessel surveyed at mandatory periods to check their compliance with the standard.  An Application for the Renewal of the Certificate is submitted to the AMSA delegate and an accredited marine surveyor is engaged to use the NSAMS Checklist to check that the vessel complies with the standard.  In Queensland, Marine Matters issues the appropriate Certificates of Compliances to MSQ.   Marine Safety Officers employed by the AMSA delegates, including MSQ, may audit the vessel at any time and if there are areas of non compliance with the standard, a Written Direction is issued.  The owner must then make the cvessel compliant and engage an accredited marine surveyor to certify the compliance.

    3. Certificates of Compliances for Repairs or Modifications

    Accredited marine surveyors must also inspect any major repairs, engine upgrades, or other modifications to commercial vessels and, in Queensland, issue a Certificate of Compliance if they are acceptable. In some cases, the approved drawings will also need to be modified and the changes approved.  �As built� approved plans and specifications are kept on file by the AMSA delegate and a copy must also be kept on board the vessel.

    4. Positive Flotation Certificates

    Some types of commercial vessels must float in an upright position when flooded with water.  It is possible for builders and naval architects/designers to design vessels that should do this, but often, when they are physically tested, they fail.  Marine Matters provides Positive Flotation Certificates based on a swamp test.  Equipment that would be damaged by sinking is removed before certified weights are loaded into the vessel to simulate the weight of the number of passengers indicated on the builder�s plate, and the equipment.  The bungs are removed and the boat is swamped.  Photographs are taken and if the boat passes, a signed statement is issued for a Certificate.