AMSA backs down on National System

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Commercial vessel safety scheme postponed after industry backlash.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has postponed plans to introduce a national system for commercial vessel safety. The new scheme, called the National System, was due to begin in July next year but, following consultation with the industry, the start date has now been put back another year to 1 July 2018.

The postponement comes in response to industry feedback to the scheme and, in particular, proposals for a new levy and fee structure to pay for administration of the National System. AMSA had proposed two levy models to help recover costs, one a flat fee based on the length of vessels and the other a mix of vessel length and class. It also proposed new national fees for certain safety services such as vessel inspections.

In consultation with industry members, the overwhelming response from commercial operators to the changes was hostile. In its final report on the consultation process published last week, AMSA noted that the levy and fee proposals “prompted highly emotional and mainly very negative reactions”.

The report states: “While some operators (and industry organisations) expressed approval of the National System, positive reactions to the levy model were few and far between. They were voiced by a very small minority and were overshadowed by overwhelmingly negative feedback and concerns.”

The report also notes that the response from the industry “has already had a serious impact on AMSA’s credibility and standing” and that serious consideration should be given to rebuilding industry trust in the future.

In a statement issued last week, AMSA said it was “committed to continuing work with industry partners and broader stakeholders on a way forward”.

Over the course of the consultation process, AMSA said 258 people attended 24 information meetings and it received 632 individual responses representing a total of 5,505 people of which 4,131 were from the fishing industry. It also received over 4,300 phone calls.

The full report on the consultation process is available here: AMSA consultation report

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