Positive Flotation Certificates
1. New Vessel Certification
All vessels in Australia used commercially (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 for that standard. The Certificate, usually called a Certificate of Survey, must be displayed on board the vessel in a prominent position and indicates the vessel’s dimensions, areas of operation and the number of crew and passengers allowed for each area of operation. Vessels are inspected annually to renew the Certificate. Generally, commercial vessels that allow their Certificates to lapse are treated as a new or recreational vessel and must undergo the Certification process from the start.
There are no Government enforced standards for the construction of vessels to be used recreationally although many people 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.
Certificates of Compliance:
Marine Matters is accredited with MSQ to issue Certificates of Compliances stating that a vessel’s construction complies with a recognised standard and carries the required safety equipment. Certificates of Compliances may only be issued by marine surveyors accredited with a regulatory body, or marine surveyors directly employed by a government regulatory body. 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 is accredited for all areas except Electrical and for all construction materials.
Australia Wide Certification:
Currently the Australian Federal Government is working with the States and Territories to develop a National Standard for Commercial Vessels (NSCV) that will allow commercial vessels to operate anywhere in Australia. The process began in 1997 but only sections of the new standard have been developed to date. At the present time marine surveyors are trying to use sections of the new code as well as sections of the older codes. Currently each State uses the Uniform Shipping Laws Code (USL Code) or a globally recognised standard or ‘Class’ such as Lloyds Register (LR), DNV, MCA or GL. In theory, Australia is supposed to have a ‘seamless transfer’ of Certification between States but in practice, what is acceptable in one state may not be acceptable in another.
The cost of marine surveyor’s services during the construction of a vessel to a recognised standard, 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. MSQ has guidelines for inspection stages which Marine Matters follows, but they are not mandatory. 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 necessary.
New Vessel Certification Process:
Generally, the Certification process begins with the submission of an Intent to Build form followed by an accredited designer submitting the plans and specifications to the regulatory body for approval. The builder must also be accredited with the regulatory body. The accredited marine surveyor is appointed by the builder and/or the owner. Once the plans are stamped as approved, the Marine Matters’ surveyor follows the USL Code guidelines and visits the work site, checks the facilities, the qualifications of the builder and the contractors, and the materials. The builder provides the surveyor with a copy of the approved plans and an estimate of the construction time frame or Build Schedule, so that the inspection stages can be roughly planned.
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 included in the report.
Certificates of Compliances are issued by Marine Matters to MSQ and the client. Marine Matters is then able to submit an Application for either a Certificate of Survey or, in Queensland, a Certificate of Registration Commercial Ship may also be used. Generally, it takes at least 6 weeks for the Certificate to be issued by the regulatory body if the application is straight forward. In most cases in Queensland, a Restricted Use Flag will be issued to allow the vessel to be launched and moved to another location during this time. 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. Periodic surveys are generally carried out by an accredited marine surveyor but in Queensland the vessel owner may also certify that the vessel is compliant. Marine Safety Officers employed by the regulatory body may audit the vessel at any time.
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 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 regulatory body and a copy must also be kept on board the vessel.
4. Positive Flotation Certificates
All vessels under 6 metres in length and used commercially in Queensland, 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. Certified weights are loaded into the boat 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.