Ship operators

Under the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 (MTOFSA), operators of prescribed ship operations have particular security responsibilities including security assessing their own operations and having an approved ship security plan (SSP) in place.

Regulated Australian ships

While not all ships require an SSP, an Australian registered ship must have an approved SSP if it is either:

  • a passenger ship used for interstate or overseas voyages;
    • a ship that carries 13 or more passengers;
  • a cargo ship of 500GT, or greater, used for interstate or overseas voyage, including any of the following:
    • bulk carriers;
    • tankers;
    • multi-purpose vessels;
    • container ships;
    • ro-ro (roll-on/roll-off vehicles, cargos) ships; or
    • reefer (refrigerated cargo) vessels;
  • a mobile offshore drilling unit that is on an interstate or overseas voyage.

Security assessments

The MTOFSA requires security assessments be undertaken of regulated Australian ship operations and is a critical part of successfully developing a security plan. Security risks and vulnerabilities identified through this assessment inform mitigation measures contained in the security plan.

Ship security plan (SSP)

It is an offence for certain ships to operate without having an Australian Government approved SSP. The SSP must address the risks and vulnerabilities identified through the security assessment process and set out the security measures that will be implemented at different maritime security levels. Regulated Australian ships are required to have and comply with their own SSP and the security plans of other maritime industry participants, unless exempted.

SSP exemptions

A ship operator may apply to the Department in writing to be exempted from the requirement to have a SSP. Exemptions are often granted where interstate or overseas voyages are rare, infrequent or exceptional.

Find more information about preparing SSPs.

International ship security certificates (ISSC)

Regulated Australian ships must hold an ISSC to visit security regulated ports outside of Australia. An ISSC verifies that the ship is compliant with international obligations under the Chapter XI-2 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1914 (SOLAS) and International Ship and Port Facility Code 2003 (ISPS). SOLAS and ISPS compliance is necessary for regulated Australian ships visiting overseas ports regulated by another SOLAS Contracting Government.

To obtain an ISSC, a ship operator must:

  • apply to the Department; and
  • have a valid ship security plan; and
  • be ISSC verified.

For a ship to be ISSC verified, a maritime security inspector needs to inspect the ship to make sure that it meets the regulatory requirements. It is an offence for a regulated Australian ship to operate without an ISSC when it is being used for maritime transport. It is also an offence for a regulated Australian ship to be used for maritime transport without an ISSC, interim ISSC or ISSC exemption in force.

It is also an offence for a regulated Australian ship to be used for maritime transport without an ISSC, interim ISSC or ISSC exemption in force.

Exemptions

A ship operator may apply to the Department for an ISSC Exemption. ISSC Exemptions are often granted where interstate or overseas voyages are rare, infrequent or exceptional.

Ship security alert systems

A ship security alert system must be capable of transmitting a ship-to-shore security alert—identifying the ship, its location and indicating that the security of the ship is, or was, under threat. A ship security alert must comply with regulation XI-2/6 of SOLAS.

A regulated Australian SSP, under regulation 4.95, must set out certain information about the ship security alert system.

Regulated foreign ships

The ship operator of a regulated foreign ship must:

  • carry the required ship security records i.e. SSP, an ISSC, a continuous synopsis record;
  • have a valid ISSC, an approved equivalent or an ISSC exemption; and
  • provide pre-arrival information to Immigration and Border Protection before arriving at an Australian port.

Pre-arrival information includes, among other things, details of the ship's ISSC, the ship's maritime security level and the last 10 ports of call.

The master of a regulated foreign ship must also allow a maritime security inspector to board and inspect the ship. This may occur at any time without notice if the ship is within the boundaries of a security regulated port or after giving reasonable notice if a regulated foreign ship is within Australian waters. The maritime security inspector may ask to see the ship's security records. Failure to comply with any such request is an offence.

Maritime security levels

Find more information about maritime security levels (MARSECs)

Ship security zones

Part six of MTOFSA provides for the establishment of on-board security zones.

The Secretary of the Department may declare a ship security zone for specific ships within a port or near an offshore facility. A ship security zone operates around a ship while the ship is underway or berthed in a port or near an offshore facility.

Under regulation 6.95, the port operator of a security regulated port in which a ship security zone is established, must ensure that persons who are in the vicinity of the security regulated port are informed that access to the ship security zone is controlled. Any unauthorised entry into the zone is an offence and penalties may apply. Find more information in the security zone signage guidance.

Unauthorised access to a security zone is an offence under the MTOFSA. Different types of maritime security zones carry different obligations for maritime industry participants who are responsible for them.

Regulatory guidance, tools and templates

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