Maritime security

An efficient, safe, and secure maritime transport system is integral to Australia's social and economic well-being. Our maritime sector aids both travel and trade, connecting us to the rest of the world.

Australia takes a comprehensive approach to help safeguard Australia's maritime transport system from terrorism and acts of unlawful interference. This approach is based on the principle of ‘security in depth’, meaning the more layers of security, the less chance an attack will occur or be successful.

Guidance on the requirements for the audit and review of security plans in the maritime sector

  • New guidance has been issued PDF: 420 KB ReadSpeaker to assist regulated maritime industry participants in completing their security plans with regards to the audit and review requirements outlined in the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facility Security Regulations 2003. The guidance provides clarification regarding the scheduling of audits; definition of internal and external auditors; and security plan review requirements.
  • Affected regulated maritime industry participants seeking further information should contact their local Office of Transport Security office.

Regulation of maritime security in Australia

The Australian Government regulates the security of the Australian maritime transport through the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 (MTOFSA) and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Regulations 2003. This legislation was introduced to meet obligations in response to Chapter XI-2 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 (SOLAS) and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code 2003 (ISPS).

The MTOFSA sets out a regulatory framework which centres on maritime industry participants assessing their operations for security risks, and preparing a security plan which sets out measures to counter these identified risks. Under this framework, security regulated ships, port operators, port facility operators, offshore facilities and offshore service providers are regulated.

The Department is responsible for administering the Act and Regulations, while maritime industry participants are responsible for delivering security on a day-to-day basis.

Security assessments and plans

Security assessments

The MTOFSA requires that security assessments are undertaken of security regulated maritime, shipping and offshore facility operations and is a critical part of successfully developing a security plan. Security risks and vulnerabilities identified through this assessment will inform the mitigation measures contained in the security plan.

Security plans

The MTOFSA requires certain maritime industry participants to have an approved security plan. They are

  • ship operators;
  • security regulated port operators;
  • port facility operators;
  • offshore facility operators; and
  • offshore service providers.

All security plans must set out, among other things:

  • measures that need to be in place at different maritime security levels;
  • the powers and responsibilities of officials, including maritime security guards;
  • procedures for incident reporting; and
  • measures to prevent the introduction of weapons and prohibited items.

Maritime security levels

ISPS and the MTOFSA set out three maritime security levels (MARSECs).

Maritime security levelEnvironmentMeasures
MARSEC 1 Normal business operations Minimum protective security measures should be maintained at all times.
MARSEC 2 Heightened risk of a security incident Targeted measures implemented during period of heightened risk.
MARSEC 3 A security incident is probable or imminent Although a specific target may not be known, further security measures must be maintained while the security incident is probable or imminent.

Maritime industry participants with an approved security plan must, at all times, be able to operate at, and maintain, MARSEC 1 measures. If industry participants are directed to operate at a higher maritime security level, they must comply with that direction.

Regulated foreign ships

  • Ships registered (flagged) to another country, that are directed by the Department to go to a higher level of security than would otherwise apply, must comply with that direction.
  • They must also comply with maritime security levels in force at any Australian security regulated port.
  • They must comply with security directions from the Department.

Security zones under MTOFSA

Security zones are areas within a security regulated port that are subject to higher security measures than other areas. They are established to restrict general public access and prevent interference with ships, people, vehicles or vessels.

Regulated industry participants can write to the Department requesting the establishment of security zones. The Secretary may establish a security zone within the boundaries of a security regulated port. This is done by the Department sending a written notice to the port operator. Port operators should hold Notices of all security zones established within their ports.

Maritime security guards (MSG)

Regulated industry participants may choose to employ MSGs to safeguard against unlawful interference with maritime or ship operations. MSGs must meet certain training and qualification requirements and are on duty at a security regulated port, on a ship or an offshore facility.

MSGs are employed to perform a range of functions, including but not limited to:

  • access control;
  • controlling embarkation onto vessels/ports of people, baggage and cargo;
  • monitoring of restricted areas (including maritime security zones);
  • provision of security services including patrols;
  • supervision of cargo and ship stores;
  • checking of documentation (including identity documents); and
  • monitoring of closed circuit television.

Read more about the role and powers of MSGs.

Find out more about requirements for specific operations

  • Ship operators have particular security responsibilities including security assessing their own operations and having an approved ship security plan in place.

  • Port operators are also responsible for waterside security measures within the port.

  • Port facilities are at the ship/port interface within a security regulated port and have particular security responsibilities.

  • Port service providers can have their operations covered under a port or port facility operator's security plan or may develop their own security plan.

  • A range of guidance, templates and resources for maritime operators

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Last Updated: 17 October, 2016