Maritime and Marine Legislation Update

Articles Written by Lydia Litton (Associate)

This article sets out an overview of the key proposals drafted under the Maritime Powers Bill 2012 ('Maritime Bill'), the Maritime Powers (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012 ('Maritime Powers Amendments Bill') and the Marine Engineers Qualifications Bill 2013 ('Marine Engineers Bill'). It also provides a brief summary of the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Amendment Act 2013 (Cth) ('Marine Safety Amendment Act'). 

In short:

  • the Maritime Bill provides a maritime officer1 with a broad set of enforcements powers for use in, and in relation to, maritime areas;
  • the Maritime Powers Amendments Bill contains consequential amendments to legislation arising from the development of the Maritime Bill. It repeals maritime enforcement powers in a number of other Acts2 where they overlap with powers in the Maritime Bill; 
  • the Marine Engineers Bill is a bill to prevent a reduction in marine engineering training and certification standards in Australia; and 
  • the Marine Safety Amendment Act amends the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 (Cth) ('National Law Act') to ensure that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority ('AMSA') is able to reimburse to the States and Northern Territoryamounts collected for infringement notices. The amendments do not place any additional financial burden on the domestic commercial vessel industry, nor regulatory burden on the domestic commercial vessel industry.

The Maritime Bill

This Bill consolidates the Commonwealth's existing maritime enforcement regime by providing a single framework for use by on-water enforcement agencies. It establishes a system of authorisations under which maritime officers may exercise enforcement powers in the maritime domain.


The Maritime Bill provides maritime officers with a broad set of enforcement powers for use in, and in relation to, maritime areas. These include powers over illegal foreign fishing, customs, migration, quarantine and drug trafficking, as well as international agreements and arrangements at sea. Such powers can be used by a maritime officer to give effect to Australian laws and international agreements. However, an authorisation is necessary to begin the exercise of powers in relation to a vessel or installation.


The Maritime Bill applies to installations3 and Australian vessels.4

Scope of powers

A maritime officer exercising powers in relation to a vessel or installation may detain a vessel, take the vessel to a port or to another place that the officer considers appropriate, and remain in control of the vessel, or require the person in charge of the vessel to remain in control of it, at that place until the vessel is released or disposed.

A maritime officer may also exercise maritime powers in relation to:

  • any person or thing on, or in the vicinity of a vessel or installation;
  • any person whom the officer suspects, on reasonable grounds, was on or is intending to go onto a vessel or installation; and
  • any thing that the officer suspects was on or is to be taken onto a vessel or installation or is, was, or is to be, attached to, or controlled or directed from, a vessel or installation.


Foreign vessels

The Maritime Bill does not authorise the exercise of powers in relation to a foreign vessel5 at a place between Australiaand another country unless the exercise of the powers satisfies certain exceptions.

Foreign installations 

The Maritime Bill does not authorise the exercise of powers in relation to a foreign installation at a place between Australiaand another country unless such powers exercised are: 

  • to administer, ensure compliance with or investigate a contravention of an international agreement or decision that applies to foreign installations, or persons on foreign installations, in that place;
  • at the request or with the agreement of the country that controls the installation; or
  • to ensure the safety of a maritime officer or any other person when exercising such powers.

Vessels and installations in states and internal territories

The Maritime Bill does not permit the exercise of powers in relation to a vessel or installation in a State or internal Territory unless:

  • the powers are exercised as part of the continuous exercise of powers begun outside the State or internal Territory;
  • the powers are exercised in relation to a Commonwealth law in waters navigable from waters of the sea; or
  • to ensure the safety of a maritime officer or any other person when exercising powers under the Maritime Bill.

However, powers under the Maritime Bill will be available in respect of vessels in ports in states or internal territories where a maritime officer is enforcing a Commonwealth law in waters navigable from the sea.

International law

In accordance with international law, the exercise of maritime officers' powers is limited in places outside Australia.

Marine Engineers Bill

The Marine Engineers Bill is a bill to prevent a reduction in marine engineering training by setting minimum standards in relation to the certification of marine engineering and electro-technical competency. This will prevent any reduction in standards that may have occurred or will occur due to the framework established by the National Law Act and the Navigation Act 2012 (Cth) ('Navigation Act').

It will do this by requiring that any marine regulations, such as Marine Orders, be amended by the issuing authority so as to comply with and give effect to the existing Australian standards for engineering training and certification.

Scope of the Marine Engineers Bill

Importantly, with the passage of the Navigation Act, existing Australian standards will no longer apply to Australia's merchant trading fleet if the vessel does not trade internationally. The Navigation Act also does not apply to the more than 150 commercial vessels engaged in the Australian oil and gas industry or to other relevant operations.

The passage of the National Law Act has resulted in lower training and certification standards than those required by the Navigation Act. To ensure this reduction in training and certification requirements does not progress, the Marine Engineers Bill proposes that where a commercial vessel is either:

  • of 500 or more gross registered tonnes; or
  • of propulsion power of 3000 kW or more,

then the engineer requirements on that vessel shall be required to meet the marine engineer training and certification standards set out in the Marine Engineers Bill.

1 A 'maritime officer' is defined as a customs officer; member of the Australian Defence Force; member of the Australian Federal Police; and other persons appointed by the Minister.

2 TheCustoms Act 1901 (Cth); Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth); Fisheries Management Act 1991 (Cth); Torres StraitFisheries Act 1984 (Cth); and Migration Act 1958 (Cth). 

3 An 'installation' is defined as an artificial island, installation or structure within the meaning of the Convention.

4 An 'Australian vessel' is defined as an 'Australian ship' within the meaning of section 29 of the Shipping Registration Act 1981 (Cth), or a vessel that is not registered under the law of a foreign country and is either wholly owned by, or solely operated by, one or more residents of Australia and/or Australian nationals.

5 A 'foreign vessel' is defined as a vessel registered in or owned by foreign countries, as well as any vessels without nationality.

Important Disclaimer: The material contained in this article is comment of a general nature only and is not and nor is it intended to be advice on any specific professional matter. In that the effectiveness or accuracy of any professional advice depends upon the particular circumstances of each case, neither the firm nor any individual author accepts any responsibility whatsoever for any acts or omissions resulting from reliance upon the content of any articles. Before acting on the basis of any material contained in this publication, we recommend that you consult your professional adviser. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation (Australia-wide except in Tasmania).

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