(Contains extracts of material courtesy of IMO, AMSA, NMSC, RMS & A.N.T.A. publications, Ranger Hope © 2008)

Log Books and Record Books

Musters and Drills

Distress, Urgency and Safety   

Search and Rescue 


Towage and Salvage

Communication services

Safety Management Systems



Log Books and Record Books


Sea-going vessels over 35 metres must keep an Official Log Book. Others are required to keep a Vessel Record Book.


Other records which all vessels should maintain include Engine Room and Vessel’s Radio Logs. Cargo vessels are also required to keep a record of the lifting equipment’s date of purchase, test certificates, SWL, inspections, and repairs in a ‘cargo register’.


The reasons for keeping of accurate records are.


           Entries in the Official Log Book are admissible in court proceedings as evidence.


           All accurate details of incidents recorded at the time of the event will assist in later investigations and/or insurance claims.


           Records of crew, passengers, cargo, catch or weather can help in future business planning.


           Engine room records are essential for planned maintenance and trouble shooting.


The requirements for the Official Log Book are covered in Appendix M, Section 13, of the USL Code.



Vessel Record Book (VRB)


The requirements regarding the vessel record book are recovered in Appendix N, Section 13, of the USL Code.


The entries to be made in the vessel record book include but are not limited to:


(a)     The date and time or arrivals and departures at each port of call;

(b)     Any deaths and disappearances;

(c)     Illness or injury of persons on board;

(d)     Emergency procedures and drills;

(e)     Details of any casualty to the vessel;

(f)      Details of any assistance given to another vessel; and

(g)     Details of engine running and maintenance of machinery and equipment.


The entries required in the vessel record book are to be made as soon as possible after the occurrence to which it related and should be timed and dated.


In the event of a vessel being lost or abandoned the vessel record book is to be sent to a Superintendent/Authority as soon as possible, if practicable. All entries should be made out to the time of loss or abandonment.


The master is required to produce the VRB, for information, when requested by the Authority.


It is an offence to:


(a)     Wilfully destroy a VRB or an entry in it

(b)     Wilfully render illegible an entry;

(c)     Wilfully make a fake entry or an omission; and

(d)     Sign an entry knowing it to be false.



Crew Lists


The following classes of vessels are required to maintain crew lists:


-        lA, lB, 1C

-        2A, 2B, 2C



The crew list must contain:


-        name and official number of the vessel

-        name and address of the owner

-        name and address of the employer of the crew

-        in respect of each crew member

-        name and address

-        date and place of birth

-        capacity in which employed

-        any certificates held

-        dates of joining/leaving


Crew lists must be maintained on board the vessel and at a place required by the Authority.


Class 3A, 3B, and 3C vessels are required to leave a list of all persons on board, at a place ashore so that it is readily available to the Authority in the case of an emergency.


This list must contain:


-        the name and/or identification number of the vessel; and

-        the name and address of each person on board.





Musters and Drills


Section 15 of the USL Code requires that musters and drills are carried out to enable a vessel’s crew to handle any emergencies. It prescribes:


           Responsibilities to crew and passengers.


           Drills required for differing vessels.


           Schedules for drills.


           Emergency signals.


           Log Book/Record Book entries.


           Obligations for keeping crew lists.


Some States have modified their rules to introduce “acceptable standards’ that modify those of the USL and NSCV.


Reference: USL Code, Section 15.


Prior to the commencement of the USL Code there was little, if any, formal crew training taking place on small vessels. Crew training in emergency procedures on all vessels is now addressed under Section 15.





Section 15 (USL) & the NSCV notes that crew are required to be allocated emergency duties for the following:


        general emergencies (involving a muster and possible abandonment) practised at least monthly

        survival craft drills practised at least every 2 months for passenger vessels (Class 1) and 3 months for non passenger (Class 2) and fishing vessels (Class 3)

        fire drills practised every 2 or 3 months depending on the class of vessel

        collision drills (incorporating flooding) practised every 2 or 3 months depending on the class of vessel


For every drill mentioned above there is an appendix detailing how the drill is to be carried out. Study each appendix carefully.


Having studied all the drills you should be aware that some of these drills go hand in hand. For example, in any emergency passengers need to be mustered, counted and preparations made to abandon the vessel should the circumstances require.


In practice, every time a fire drill or a collision drill is performed, a general emergency and survival craft drill is also performed. If collision and fire drills are practised on alternate months, the emergency drills are practised monthly.


Remember the Emergency Signals:


Emergency Station Signal: At least 7 short and 1 long blast

Fire Station Signal:              Continuous ringing of a bell

Abandon Ship Signal:         1 short and 1 long blast sounded at least 3 times


Remember, these drills must be recorded in the Vessel Record Book and individual state legislation provides severe penalties for:


1.      not conducting emergency drills as required and

2.      not entering completed drills in the record book


It is essential that to effectively practice these drills on a regular basis there must be a crew duty list detailing each person’s duties.



Emergency station lists need to be clear and concise if they are to work. Try to keep duties to no more than 5 or 6 per crew member.


For example,

        Alarm raised

        Fire confirmed by master


Emergency Station List - engine room fire




shut down engine and fans

muster passengers and report head count to master

shut off fuel

get passengers into life jackets

close vents

put EPIRB, flares, first aid kit, vessel record book in the grab bag and take to muster point

activate smothering system

prepare life raft

monitor bulkheads


Boundary cool as necessary







Minimum and adequate manning:


           A Company operating a fleet of 5 vessels each involved in carrying several hundred tourists on day trips would have a very large staff rostered on rotating shifts on all of the vessels in the fleet. To ensure that all crew members received adequate training on the different vessels it would seem sensible if not essential to conduct Crew Emergency Practice Procedures more than once per month.

            Conversely, an operation, which involved one vessel on extended voyages with a regular crew, could well achieve suitable emergency response standards by conducting drills as set out in the Code.

           Staff turnover is high in some operations. Remember that you must ensure that each new crew member is to be allocated an emergency station and be properly informed of their emergency station duties before going to sea.

           Man Overboard drills should form part of your emergency procedures. All crew need to be very clear of their responsibilities and a variety of retrieval methods should be practised to suit the type of vessel and varying weather conditions.

           Information for passengers regarding emergency procedures will also vary somewhat depending on operations.


            Paragraph 6 of Part 11 - Emergency Procedures refers to the obligations of Masters of Sea-going Vessels. The procedures outlined may need to be modified to suit the day vessel carrying large numbers of non English speaking tourists on seats instead of in cabins. When preparing your daily safety induction be aware of State or Territory requirements and always remember your overall safety obligations as Master.

           When planning drills make best use of your most qualified and experienced crew. Many States already require a certain number of crew to have undertaken formal safety training (Elements of Shipboard Safety Certificate: Schedule 3 Section 3 USL). In response to Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) 95, it appears likely that it will become mandatory for all persons to undertake training before being employed on a vessel. Use their expertise to focus on the specific needs of your vessel which will allow you to concentrate on procedures rather than technical knowledge.

           How and when to conduct drills to suit the commercial enterprise while satisfying your statutory obligations can also become something of a dilemma. Drills must be meaningful to be effective and this means your crew must be enthusiastic. Pick a suitable time when they are not all tired at the end of a long day and make the drills short and relevant. Developing a spirit of teamwork and a general ‘safety ethic’ will make the practical aspect of the drill more rewarding for all.


Take your obligations and responsibilities toward musters and drills very seriously. Boats are getting bigger and faster and despite improved technology and instrumentation, a maritime disaster could be just around the corner. Don’t let it happen to you. Your career and your peace of mind depend on it.




Marine Casualties


State and Territory legislation concerning Marine Casualties may vary slightly and can be referred to by another term (in Queensland the Marine Safety Act 1994 refers to a ‘marine incident’). You are required to consult your local legislation for specific detail, but generally a ‘casualty’ or ‘incident’ is deemed to have occurred when:


1.         A vessel is lost, abandoned, stranded, grounded, or materially damaged (whether by fire or otherwise), or has been in a collision with another vessel or with any other thing; or

2.         There is a loss of life or injury to a person due to an accident occurring on a vessel.


No matter how minor you may consider the grounding, fire, injury etc. to be, you must still follow the procedures of recording and reporting as:


           you are not qualified to assess damage done to your vessel.

           there could be legal ramifications at a later dated.



In NSW the NSW Maritime Authority requires you to lodge an Incident Report Form within 24 hrs.



Action to take in the event of a collision with another vessel


The Masters of each vessel involved must, without further endangering his vessel or persons on board:


           Render all help necessary to the other vessel to save them from  danger caused by the collision.

           Stand by until the other vessel requires no further help.

           Provide the other Master with sufficient particulars to allow identification of your vessel and its owners.

           Obtain the above information for your own records. The type of information sought would include the vessel’s name and port of registry and the names of the ports from which the vessel sailed and to which it is bound. From that the Authorities will be able to ascertain all the other information required.



Action to be taken in all casualties or incidents


           If appropriate, sound muster stations and initiate emergency procedures. This is when you will know if your drills have been effective!

           Take whatever action you deem necessary as per your planned responses to minimise the danger while noting the chronological order of all the events leading up to and during the incident.

           Make a detailed entry into your Official Log Book/Record Book noting times, actions taken, response of other vessel, weather and visibility details, etc. These details will be required to substantiate reports, insurance claims and will be invaluable if the incident leads to an official investigation.

           Make a full written report to the appropriate authority at the earliest opportunity. (usually 24 hours)


Failure to fulfil your obligations can result in fines and failure to offer assistance to another vessel in a collision can lead to imprisonment.





Distress, Urgency and Safety Messages


Although the procedures for sending such messages are covered in the Radio module the legal obligations and requirements are discussed below


Distress Messages


These messages are sent as a ‘Mayday’ indicating that a vessel, aircraft or other vessel is threatened by grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. You will note that it is the vessel that is threatened and therefore the lives of all on board. The danger must be very serious (grave) and about to take place in immediate future (imminent). The life of a single person as in a person overboard or medical emergency situation does not constitute a ‘Mayday’ as the vessel itself is not threatened. Distress messages can only be sent on the authority of the Master or whoever may be left in charge of the vessel.




Obligations and Procedures


1.         On receiving a distress call, at sea, you are bound to proceed at all speed to assist, informing the distressed party of your intention. Realistically, you may not be able to do this because of distance and fuel constraints, size of vessel or weather conditions. You must never put your own vessel at risk. Because of the number of other more suitable vessels who are responding, you may consider it unnecessary to do so. In any event, full details of the distress call and your response must be entered into the Log/Record Book. If your vessel is alongside then there is no obligation to proceed to sea to render assistance.


2.         The Master of the distressed vessel has the right to requisition one or more vessels which he considers are best able to render assistance out of the vessels that have answered his call. This is done through consultation and it is not likely that you would be requisitioned if you have already decided that it would not be safe for you to respond.


3.         All parties are released from their obligation when either the Master of the vessel in distress or the Master of another vessel at the scene indicates that assistance is no longer necessary.






Urgency Messages


Urgency messages are those that do not warrant a distress, but the vessel has a very urgent message to transmit concerning the safety of the vessel or aircraft or the safety or a person. Typical examples are:


1.         Small fire on board which can be brought under control.

2.         Bilging of a compartment.

3.         Man overboard.

4.         Serious medical emergency.

5.         Engine failure and drifting.


The urgency message can be sent only on the authority of the Master and would be a ‘Pan Pan’ call. Such calls have priority over all other calls save those concerned with distress (Mayday) and you must take care not to cause interference to such calls.


The USL code does not specify the responsibilities of the Master on receiving an urgency message. However, the Master should keep a careful listening watch because the urgency message may be upgraded to a distress message later on.


No reasonable request for urgent assistance should go unanswered. The unwritten ‘law of the sea’ governs our behaviour towards one another when any dangerous situation arises at sea. Our obligation to render assistance is imposed by Article 11 of the International Convention signed in Brussels in 1910 concerning Assistance and Salvage at Sea.



Safety Messages


Should you encounter anything that you consider may be a danger to other vessels in your area of operation, you are bound to communicate the information to vessels in the vicinity and to the appropriate authority. The form in which the information is sent is not obligatory however, a suitable strategy would be a ‘securité’ call to all vessels in the area followed by contact with the nearest base radio station. The type of danger encountered would determine the area you wished to cover with your warning and thus the radio frequency you would choose for transmission. It may be timely to go back to your Radiotelephone Handbook and check procedures for all of the calls discussed above.








Search and Rescue


Responsibility of the Master


The Master of a vessel at sea, is required to give assistance to a vessel, aircraft or survival craft in distress under:


1.         Annex 3 Regulation V 10 of the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, 1974.

2.         Navigation Act 1912, Sections 265 and 317 A.

3.         USL Code, Section 15, Part III – 22 & NSCV.


The requirements under the different sections are basically the same and you have covered this material in previous sections.


Detailed information regarding search and rescue is also covered in other sections of this course. It is recommended that all Masters have a good working knowledge of the correct procedure for search and rescue as detailed in the MERSAR manual.


The MERSAR manual has been compiled by the Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organisation for use by all Rescue Co-ordination Centres throughout the world and by all seagoing vessels. Copies can be obtained from AGPS and major Chart Agencies. Your facilitator will have a copy available to enable you to make yourself familiar with its contents.


You are reminded that although much can be done for vessels in distress by shore authorities, the co-ordination and direction of operations at the scene of the incident will at times be a matter to be decided primarily between the Master of the distressed vessel and the Masters of other vessels going to her rescue. The degree to which reliance must be placed on those at the scene will usually depend upon the locality of the casualty; the more distant the casualty from the shore base, the greater is the reliance on co-ordination between those on the spot. A thorough working knowledge of SAR procedures can save lives.

Search and Rescue provision


When a ship or an aircraft is in distress in the Australian SAR area assistance may be given by vessels in the vicinity, by AusSAR via the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC), Coast Radio Stations (CRS) and local SAR resources, i.e. Water Police, Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol, etc.



Annual Australian Notice to Mariners, read Notice No 4, Search and Rescue.



This notice details:

        Assistance by SAR Aircrafts

        Use of helicopters

        Distress Signals for SAR

        Use of Ships in Assisting Aircraft

        Night Search

        Response Action by Survivors



In a search and rescue operation you may be the only vessel able to assist. Unless land based authorities supply a datum, i.e. the most probable position of the search target, it will be your responsibility to determine this position.





















Step 1       Identify the initial position and time.

Step 2       Calculate any drift, i.e. wind, current and/or tidal stream since first reported.

Step 3       Establish the datum.

Step 4       Use 10 nm as the radius and establish the most probable area.


The datum should be determined before you arrive at the most probable area. This will enable the most appropriate search pattern, i.e. pattern sector or expanding square search, to be selected and applied to your approach course.


Masters are reminded that although much can be done for vessels in distress by shore authorities, the coordination and direction of operations at the scene of the incident will at times be a matter to be decided primarily between the master of the distressed vessel and the masters of other vessels going to her rescue. The degree to which reliance must be placed on those at the scene will usually depend upon the locality of the casualty; the more distant the casualty from the shore base, the greater is the reliance on coordination between those on the spot.


Guidance to Masters involved in SAR operation is contained in the Merchant Ship SAR Manual (MERSAR).







Master’s responsibilities concerning the operation of the vessel with a pilot on board were covered in the Watchkeeping Section. Information as to when and where pilotage is required will be presented here.



Navigation in the Great Barrier Reef


Notice No. 22 of the Annual Australian Notices to Mariners sets out details of Compulsory and Recommended Pilotage in the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 requires all vessels of 70 metres or more in overall length, and all loaded oil tankers, chemical tankers and liquefied gas carriers regardless of length, to carry a pilot, licensed under Commonwealth, State or Territory law, when taking passage through the inner route of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) between Cape York (latitude 10° 41'S) and the vicinity of Cairns Roads (latitude 16° 40'S) or when passing through Hydrographers Passage.


In addition, both the International Maritime Organisation and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority recommend that Masters of all vessels who are not familiar with the Torres Straits or Inner Route of the GBR make use of available pilotage due to the navigational complexity and environmental sensitivity of those areas.


Details of the Mandatory Vessel Reporting System (REEFREP) and the Queensland Coast and Torres Strait Pilot Services are given in Notices 22A and 23.

Pilotage Areas and Pilots


The requirements for carrying pilots in pilotage areas will be found in State/Territory legislation. Information presented here will of necessity be of a general nature to allow for the differences between each State/Territory but can be used as a basis for gathering the information to suit your particular circumstance.


           Pilotage areas will be declared and can include ports, bays, anchorages and rivers

           Vessels under certain lengths are exempt.

New South Wales - less than 30 metres.

Queensland - less than 50 metres if Australian registered and 35 metres if not.

           In towing and pushing situations the length may include both vessels.

           A Harbour Master may direct the Master of a vessel to use the services of a pilot regardless of length.

           It is possible to gain a pilotage exemption for nominated ports by satisfying the authority of your skill and local knowledge. Note that this applies to each pilotage area individually.

           The Master is responsible for the safety of the pilot while transferring to and from the vessel by pilot boat or helicopter.

           By day, vessels navigated with a pilot on board are required to display the International Code Flag “H”.



Planning and Conducting Emergency Drills


You have studied Emergency Procedures in some detail in Section 2 of these notes and we noted some further consideration earlier in this Section. It is now time to put it all into practice.




Towage and Salvage




Towage is a service by which a vessel is assisted in its movements on or through the water, by another vessel, which is usually operating under the specific terms and conditions of a Towage Contract. This contract is based on an agreed amount of remuneration which is usually much lower than what could be expected in the case of a salvage claim decided on by a Court. The majority of tug owners operating in the field of coastal and deep sea towage normally utilise their own particular form of towage contract which will include, apart from the main terms such as price, payment details, free time and demurrage, a section to cover general towage conditions which basically define the insurance and liability aspects. As discussed in section one unless your vessel is a purpose built tug due consideration should be given to attempting any towing operation.





Salvage is covered under Australian Federal Law - Navigation Act 1912, sections 3l5-329c.


The basic principle of salvage is that when a person or persons save or help to save a vessel and/or her cargo from a danger, then the successful salvor is entitled to a reward provided that:


           The property must be exposed to an imminent marine peril and would have been lost without the salvors efforts.

           The salvor must have no pre-existing covenant with the vessel involved and the danger must be real.

           The salvor must act voluntarily.

           The services must be successful in saving or helping to save the property at risk.


It is most important not to confuse salvage with your statutory obligations to render assistance to a vessel in distress or in the case of a collision. In salvage your services are voluntary and offered toward property as opposed to saving human life.


Before the Master of a vessel engages in salvage he should consider the following factors, amongst others.


a)         The Master should ensure that he does not endanger his own vessel or his crew in the subsequent operation.

b)         The Master should be totally satisfied that his endeavours will lead to success.

c)         The Master should advise his vessel’s owners of his intention to salvage.

d)         The Master should establish that the operation does not invalidate the insurance of his vessel.

e)         The Master should inform his charterers and check for the “Deviation Clause” in his Charter party or Bills of Lading.

f)          Remember you are responsible for, and could be sued for, any damage that you cause to the vessel during salvage attempts


Many salvage agreements can be made between the salvor and the vessel being salvaged. The salvor can bargain for the reward beforehand but it is not necessary/prudent to do so as it is very difficult to correctly estimate the amount of effort that may have to be put in to effect success. Therefore salvage agreements are usually “OPEN” which means that a specific amount is not fixed but will be decided by arbitration.


The form of agreement most commonly employed nowadays is the Lloyd’s Standard Form of Salvage Agreement, the latest version was introduced in May 1980 and is known as The Lloyd’s Open Form 1980 or “LOF 80”.




Salvage of Life


You may have noticed in the earlier broad definition of salvage, that the saving of life was not mentioned. The fact of the matter is that internationally, life is not a salvageable item, because the Master has an international obligation, so far as he is able and without the risk of serious damage to his own vessel or the safety of his crew and passengers, to render assistance to every person who is found at sea and in danger of being lost, even if the person concerned is the subject of a foreign State at war with the flag country. Hence the saving of life is placed outside the context of salvage. It is a duty and therefore will not constitute grounds for a salvage award. Be this as it may, however, in Part VII of the Navigation Act, which relates to wrecks and salvage, and in particular Section 315, the Minister is  empowered to award a payment for services rendered within Australian waters for the saving life from any vessel, or elsewhere in saving life from any vessel registered in Australia.





Communication Services


Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)


Reference: Australian Annual Notice to Mariners, Notice No 4E.


GMDSS is a world wide communication distress and safety system providing service via satellite, MF, HF and VHF equipment.





Australia operates on INMARSAT Land Earth Station (LES) located in Perth. This provides communication access to vessels operating in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. It is a computer driven system and automatically receives distress, Maritime Safety Information (MSI) and general signals.


Perth LES also processes the INMARSAT E EPIRB (1.6 GHz).




On 1 July 2002 two TVNZ(A) maritime communication stations replaced the previous six Telstra coast stations (licensed by the ACA as Major Coast Stations). At the same time a number of other changes were made to the service that owners and operators of small vessels need to make themselves aware of.


Monitoring of the MF/HF radiotelephony distress and calling frequencies listed in paragraph 24.3 of the 2002 Edition of the Marine Radio Operators Handbook, ceased to be provided by Telstra coast stations on 30 June 2002.


Small vessels now need to use HF digital selective calling (DSC) techniques in order to alert a maritime communication station. This applies to all distress and safety communications. (There is no routine or public correspondence available through maritime communication stations). After the initial DSC alert, communications between coast and ship stations are conducted by voice (refer to paragraph 73 of the 2002 Edition of the Marine Radio Operators Handbook for more information). Vessels without DSC or Inmarsat equipment will not be able to contact maritime communication stations.


Broadcasting of voice or radio facsimile navigational warnings or weather information by Telstra and the Royal Australian Navy was discontinued on 30 June 2002. The Bureau of Meteorology now transmits a range of high seas and coastal weather warnings on a combination of previously used working frequencies and a set of new frequencies. These frequencies are listed in Appendix 3 of the 2002 Edition of the Marine Radio Operators Handbook. The forecasts and warnings are automatically generated and broadcast. Vessels will not be able to communicate with these stations as they will only operate as broadcast stations.


The States and the Northern Territory are developing a system of nine coast stations which will work together to provide 24 hour aural monitoring of some HF and VHF distress channels. These coast radio stations will be located at: Cairns, Gladstone, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth, Port Hedland and Darwin. Details of these arrangements are outlined in the new Section 3a of the 2002 Edition of the Marine Radio Operators Handbook. Aural monitoring of other MF/HF radiotelephony distress and calling frequencies by other limited coast stations continues, but the coverage provided by these limited coast stations may not be complete. Some weather information also continues to be available by radiotelephony from these stations.


Contact the relevant State/Territory authority or your local volunteer marine rescue organisation to find out information about limited coast stations in your area.



Use of Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs)


The COSPAS/SARSAT is an element of the GMDSS. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s RCC is the regional Mission Control Centre for the COSPAS/SARSAT satellite distress beacon detection system.


EPIRBs operating on 406 MHz are detectable throughout the whole of the Australian SAR area with a high degree of accuracy.


Satellite compatible EPIRBs operating on 121.5 and/or 243 MHz are also detectable, but with a slightly lesser degree of accuracy.


EPIRBs should be switched on as soon as a distress situation occurs and MUST REMAIN SWITCHED ON until the rescue is concluded or until otherwise instructed by the rescue unit or rescue authority,


Should inadvertent or accidental operation of an EPIRB occur, the beacon must be switched off and every effort made immediately to inform the RCC through MCS and INMARSAT.


No action will be taken against any person reporting the inadvertent or accidental operation of an EPIRB.


Consult the Marine Radio Operators Handbook for further information about GMDSS.


Maritime Safety Information


Reference: Australian Annual Notice to Mariners, Notice 5, Maritime Safety Information (MSI) warnings.


Coastal Warnings


There are two types of coastal warnings


1.      Coastal Navigational Warnings (AUSCOAST series).


2.      Safety Messages (SSM series).


Auscoast Warnings These warnings are prefixed AUSCOAST and are numbered consecutively on an annual basis. These concern all coastal navigational aids such as lighthouses, beacons etc. Those AUSCOAST warnings which will remain in force for more than four weeks are promulgated in Section I of the weekly edition of Notices to Mariners.


e.g.   FM RCC AUSTRALIA 140300Z OCT 97





Safety Messages      These are prefixed SSM with an annual sequential number. These cover such dangers as floating objects, etc, and are normally broadcast for a defined period.


e.g.   FM RCC AUSTRALIA 150708Z SEP 97






A vessel discovering objects considered dangerous to navigation, i.e. floating logs, containers etc should immediately send out a safety message and inform the nearest Coast Radio Station (CRS).


The message should include:

        the danger observed

        the position

        and time when last observed


Australian MCS/CRS broadcast coastal warnings at scheduled times, they are listed in Notice No 5.


Information regarding Navarea X warning can be obtained from the notice.



Weapons Practice Warnings


No broadcast warnings are issued in respect of weapons firing practices in those areas depicted in Annual Australian Notice to Mariners No.9. Major exercises will be the subject of special warnings. Vessels approaching weapons practice areas should maintain a radio listening watch on VHF 16 and 2181 kHz.



The Australian Ship Reporting System (AUSREP)


Reference: Annual Australian Notice to Mariners Notices 4A and 4B AUSREP.


AUSREP is a vessel monitoring system operated by the Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) used to initiate and reduce the response time in Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.



Mandatory Use of AUSREP


Under the mandatory category, “only suitably equipped small craft on passage of 200 nm or more between different ports” would apply to a commercial vessel of up to 24 metres.



Concept of The AUSREP System


On departure from an Australian port:

        Masters are to send a Sailing Plan (SP) to MRCC Australia.

        A computerised plot will be maintained of the vessel’s position

        Masters are to send a Position Report (PR) each day at a suitable time, the maximum time between any two reports is not to exceed 24 hours. Dates and times contained in AUSREP reports are to be in Universal Co-ordinated Time (UTC)

        A Final Report (FR) is to be sent on arrival at the destination


Should a ship at any time be in a position more than two hours steaming from the position that would have been predicted from the last SP or PR, then a Deviation Report (DR) must be sent. Failure to send an AUSREP DR, may result in a search being concentrated in the wrong area and the possibility that survivors from a stricken ship may not be found.



The system uses four report types:

        SP    Sail Plan

        PR    Position Report

        DR    Deviation Report

        FR    Final Report

Each report requires certain mandatory fields of information:



AUSREP Sail Plan (SP)


        Mandatory fields  A, F, H, K, L, M, N, V

        Additional fields  G, I, R, Q and X (include if appropriate)(fields listed below)


A SP is sent to the MRCC either up to 24 hours before or up to two (2) hours after departure from a port within the AUSREP area. The SP can be sent via Coast Radio Station, telephone, facsimile, telex or INMARSAT.


AUSREP Message Format Fields


A       vessel’s name and call sign.

B.      Date/time of position (UTC).

C.     Position (Latitude and Longitude).

D.     Geographical position (not to be used in AUSREP messages).

E.      Course.

F.      Speed (vessel’s anticipated average speed till next report).

G.     Name of last non-Australian port of call.

H.      Date/time (UTC) and point of entry into AUSREP system. The point of entry must be the Australian port the vessel is departing from, or if entering the AUSREP area, the latitude/longitude of crossing the AUSREP boundary.

I.        Next foreign (non-Australian) destination and estimated time of arrival at that port.

J.      Whether PILOT is carried on vessel (notification required on all Great Barrier Reef passages).

K.      Date/time (UTC) and point of exit from AUSREP system (point of exit is the latitude/longitude at which the vessel is leaving the AUSREP area, or the Australian port the vessel is to arrive).

L.      Route (vessel’s intended track - state rhumb line or coastal, great circle or composite with limiting latitude).

M.     Coast Radio/Maritime Communication Stations monitored (include INMARSAT A & C numbers if fitted).

N.      Daily reporting time (UTC).

0.      Draught.

P.      Cargo.

Q.     Defects or other limitations.

R.      Pollution (or reports of any pollution seen).

S.      Weather conditions in area.

T.      Ship’s Agents.

U.      Ship type and size.

V.      Medical personnel carried (SP only).

W.     Number of persons on board.

X.      Remarks.

If your are frequently using the AUSREP, consider preparing blank proforma sheets for each report.


























SIGNED: _____________________________________________________



Position Report (PR)


A PR must be sent daily at a time nominated by yourself.



Deviation Report (DR)


A DR is sent when your vessel is more than two hours steaming from the position that you predicted from your last SP or PR.



Final Report (FR)


A FR is sent when your vessel is within two hours steaming of the port.



Refer to the reference and read relevant sections on PR, DR and FR.



Small Craft Participation in the Australian Ship Reporting System




AUSREP is available to all pleasure craft and fishing vessels which meet each of the following criteria:

(a)         Proceeding on a passage of over 200 miles between different ports.


(b)     Having the necessary Department of Transport and Communications approved equipment to allow the vessel to maintain contact with a Maritime Communications Station (MCS) for the duration of the voyage.

(c)     Carry a Department of Transport and Communications approved satellite compatible Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon (EPIRB) together with safety equipment required under state/territory regulations.

(d)     Have lodged with the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) a current Small Craft Particulars form


Action taken when a Report becomes overdue


The success of any ship reporting system depends upon the participants observing the rules. If an expected report is not received within six (6) hours after their nominated report time, then an overdue report situation is deemed to exist by MRCC Australia. The actions taken in these circumstances will depend on the assessment made by SAR authorities but may include:


(a)     Communications check with relevant Limited Coast Radio Stations and shipping in the area.

(b)     Port checks (checks of ports, anchorages and shelters).

(c)     Requests for sighting reports from aircraft and other vessels.


If these checks are completed, a vessel remains overdue, a further assessment will be made by the duty Senior Coordinator at MRCC Australia as to the appropriate course of action to confirm the vessel’s safety. More rapid action may be initiated if warranted by the circumstances.



The AUSREP is a tried and proven system, before you use the system read the guidelines thoroughly.




Submarine Cables and Pipelines


Reference: Australian Annual Notice to Mariners, Notice No 14.


Submarine cables and pipelines are marked by appropriate symbols on charts and every effort should be made to avoid anchoring or trawling in their vicinity. The consequences of fouling a cable or pipeline can be very serious.


-        Modern submarine cables carry very high voltages that can prove lethal if they are cut, or if broken cable ends are brought on board.

-        If a cable is fouled on fishing gear and brought on board, it may be under considerable tension; cutting or breaking the cable while it is under tension may cause serious injury if it whips free.

-        The stability of smaller vessels is affected by the weight of cables. If they attempt to raise the cable from the seabed, they risk sinking.

-        Damage to modem cables disruption to communications and affects trade and international relations.

-        Damage to a gas pipeline may result in a sudden release of gas at high pressure - somewhat like an explosion - which could cause serious damage or loss of the vessel, in addition to a severe fire hazard.



Fishing activities are the most common cause of damage to submarine cables. Damage is commonly caused by trawl otter boards, beam trawls, scallop dredges, or net anchors.



Action to Take if a Vessel Fouls a Submarine Cable or Pipeline


If a vessel fouls a submarine cable, every effort should be made to clear the anchor or gear by normal methods. If these efforts fail, the gear or anchor should be slipped and abandoned. No attempt should be made to cut the cable.


If a vessel fouls a pipeline, the anchor or gear should be slipped and abandoned without attempting to get it clear.


International conventions and subsequent Australian legislation provide that any person who damages or breaks a submarine cable either deliberately or through culpable negligence, is liable to a penalty of imprisonment, or fine, or both. It is obligatory that anyone fouling a cable must sacrifice their gear rather than damage or cut the cable.


Owners of vessels who can prove that they have sacrificed an anchor, a net, or other fishing gear in order to avoid injuring a submarine cable or pipeline, are entitled to receive compensation from the owner of the cable or pipeline.


In Australia, claims for lost or damaged gear through entanglement with a submarine cable should be lodged in writing with Telstra within 24 hours of arrival at the next port of call. Full details should be recorded in the official vessel log.




Areas Dangerous Due to Mines and Unexploded Ordnance


The areas where minefields were laid in Australia during World War II have been swept and have been safely used by shipping for many years. However, a remote danger still exists with regard to anchoring, fishing or any form of submarine or seabed activity. Australian Notice to Mariners No.12 provides details of such areas.


Under no circumstances should an attempt be made to recover a mine and bring it to port.



Read the reference and identify the correct procedure to follow if an explosive weapon is found.




Other Information Relating To the Safe Navigation


Reference:  Annual Notice to Mariners, particular notices.

10B     Radar Beacons (RACONS)

10C     Torres Strait Tide Gauges

11        Depths obtained by Echo Sounders

19        Caution with Regard to Reliability of Navigation Buoys

25        Reliability Diagrams

25A     Zones of Confidence Diagrams

26        Hydrographic Reports

27        Satellite-Derived Positions


The reference also contains information regarding specific military operations, notices 7 and 8.



Ensure your vessel has a current copy of the Annual Australian Notice to Mariners




Safety Management Systems


The process of documented management plans for standing orders, bridge, engine room, restricted visibility, etc. has long been addressed in the IMO STCW code and implemented by sound Masters.


International Regulations for Preventing Collision at Sea in Rule 2 stipulate that the safety of the vessel is the responsibility of the owner, master, or crew, but an overall management plan that included all parties (including the statutory authority), such as the OH&S used on land was ill defined.


The hell of the “Piper Alpha” Oil North Sea oil rig fire and the equally devastating “Marchioness”, ferry mown down in London’s Thames River, its birthday party guests washed into the rescuing crafts’ propellers, were wake up calls that accidents waiting to happen keep happening. In 2002 the IMO published the International Safety Management Code (ISM) to address this problem.


NSW was also having recurring and avoidable accidents caused by a systematic failure in its application of OH&S. The NSW “Passenger Transport Act (1990) (amendment 39)defined vessels with more than 8 seated passengers as ferries and required ferries to maintain a safety management system.


Safety management manual


The principle of safety management is that it will not happen without the coordination of a systematic approach. That coordination requires a pro-active designated person or persons that are responsible for the maintenance of the Safety Management System and its documentation, the SMS Manual.


The SMS manual includes and is required:


  • information necessary for a safe workplace,


  • risk analysed plans for operational,


  •  contingency plans for emergencies,


  • be available at work stations,


  • be audited and updated in a systematic way.



The risk analysis process


The process of ensuring that occupational health and safety hazards are identified, recorded, investigated, analysed, corrected (eliminated or controlled) and verified can be summarised by the four steps:



Identification of all potential hazards.         What could happen.


Assessment of the risk of each hazard.     How likely is it to happen.


Elimination or a control plan.                      How to stop it happening.


Monitor & re-evaluation.                              To improve/update the plan.



Staff training, inclusion in safety planning and the valuing of safe attitudes are encouraged in order to develop safe procedures. In this context, examining “case studies” (such as the Piper Alpha and Marchioness) and relating them to your own operations are a key concept of ISM 2002. 



Hazard Identification


Hazards to persons may include:








Hazards to persons may be categorized as:


  • Gravitational


  • Striking hazards


  • Electrical hazards


  • Chemical


  • Work environment & manual handling


  • Other (operationally specific)



Hazards to vessels may be categorized as:


  • Navigational


  • Structural


  • Environmental

























“And all precautions which may be required by the ordinary practice of seamen, or by the special circumstances of the case.”



 The identification of hazards to persons is carried out by the designated person, (or their stand- in), with the cooperation of the workforce, by methods such as are listed below:


  • Systematic walk around survey.


  • Task analysis flow charting.


  • Consultation with the workforce /staff meetings.


  • Compilation and review of Material safety data sheets.


  • Review of AMSA, OH&S advisory publications & safety alerts.


  • Audit of ship’s documentation; incident, accident, complaints, etc.


  • Independent audit.




Risk assessment


Risk assessment may be informal (intuitively reached) or formal (by audit) and needs to consider the following factors:






Risk   Level   =        Consequence     X           Exposure      X       Probability

                              (outcome severity)    (frequency/duration)        (likelihood)                







The level of risk from a hazard will determine the scale and priorities of control measures required. Low risk activities may be suitable addressed over a period of some weeks, whereas high risk activities will require ceasing operations until the deficiency is rectified.


If a formal assessment is appropriate, the risk level using the matrix shown below and/or other supportive documentation should be researched by the designated person/s.




                        View a printable copy of this simple risk assessment template

























Control plan


A control plan will consider:


Engineering controls-

Get the design right in the first place or redesign

Removal at source



Administrative controls-


Entry permits

Segregation / Isolation


Record keeping


Work practice controls-

Safe work practices

Passenger and crew briefing

Personal protective equipment and rescue equipment

Drill and musters

Training and staff development


Monitoring and re-evaluation:


This is coordinated by the designated person/s with the responsibility for monitoring the safe operation of the vessel. Sources for their audit include:



  • incident, accident and other ships safety reportage documentation.


  • the vessel’s operational & emergency checklists.


  • staff in-service training.


  • staff qualifications and certification validity.


  • Vessel’s Record book.


  • record of drills and musters.


  • The audit of an independent surveyor.




Training & staff development:

The cooperation of the staff is essential in implementing of an effective control plan. While the necessity to monitor and document places a burden on staff, the encouragement of safe attitudes is the foundation of safe practice.