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STANDING COMMITTEE ON RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT
19/02/2008
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO
Australian Maritime Safety Authority

CHAIR —I welcome representatives from AMSA. Mr Peachey, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Mr Peachey —No, I do not.

CHAIR —I call Senator Scullion.

Senator SCULLION —I have some general questions just exploring where we are up to with some of the changes in a regulatory sense. I know that you will say that there are domestic issues and offshore responsibilities. I am well aware of those. I have not managed to find in this set of estimates roughly where I would be able to speak to the National Maritime Safety Committee and their deliberations. I know some members of AMSA attend NMSC as a member of the Australian Maritime Group. You may be able to provide me with some information on their behalf since we are unable to quiz them directly at this stage.

If you have some difficulties with my questions you can take them on notice. Perhaps you could direct me to the right place to ask the questions. I would be more than happy to ask them then. Do we have an understanding of where we are up to in terms of the national standard for commercial vessels being adopted by everybody?

Mr Peachey —You are right, Senator, the NMSC has had a long and illustrious career trying to establish uniformity with jurisdictions. We do participate on the NMSC. There has been renewed interest in that national consistency agenda. The Australian Maritime Group, which we also participate in, is currently doing a body of work looking at opportunities for uniformity into the future. NMSC will contribute to that work.

Senator SCULLION —One of the biggest challenges we have is that, whilst we have not got consistency with the NMSC, there was always an understanding across the maritime industries that it would be of most use to have a seamless transfer of certificates of competency, masters or whatever between the states and territories as well as offshore. The same was hoped for the survey of vessels.

The survey of the vessels is still problematic. I understand the acceptance of other certificates of competency, whilst more advanced than the survey, is still problematic. Perhaps I should address the details of those questions to the NMSC. I will have to find some way of doing that.

AMSA is responsible for effectively the SCTW component of the competency. We now have a number of changes through the NMSC. Do any of those changes allow some sort of seamless transfer from being a domestic or inshore operator not operating within SCTW to an SCTW accredited individual, particularly with regard to the areas of sea time and those sorts of accreditations?

Mr Peachey —I might ask one of my general managers to answer that.

Mr Prosser —There is quite a lot of work that has been going on at the NMSC of late trying to get uniformity of domestic maritime safety standards. To be truthful, I think they have struggled for the last five to 10 years, as you would probably be aware.

There is work being progressed up through the Australian Maritime Group, which Mr Peachey mentioned. There is a submission through to the Standing Commission on Transport, SCOT, about a couple of options to try to get better jurisdictional clarity and how we can get that seamless transfer.

AMSA is at the moment consulting on a project which they call the ‘tinnie to tanker project’ which is trying to lower the bridges down to try to have a seamless transfer of certificates of competency. The issue of survey standards for vessels is something which will have to be looked at in the longer term as well.

You mentioned SCTW, our compliance with that and whether there any issues that may come up out of that. Similar to what Mr Bills mentioned this morning about the ICAO audit, the IMO has a voluntary audit program which started 12 to 24 months ago. Australia will be audited on that in the latter half of this year. I am hopeful that we will come through that without any holes in the system.

Senator SCULLION —You said there were a couple of options that were provided to the Australian Transport Council, the ATC. These acronyms are new so forgive me if I get them wrong. Would you be able to provide to the committee the options that they are currently considering?

Mr Prosser —It is SCOT, the Standing Committee on Transport.

Senator SCULLION —Wherever those options were provided, I would like a copy of them.

Mr Prosser —The two options are having a single maritime jurisdiction to cover things like certificates of competency et cetera—and there are a number of iterations on what might come out of that—and, alternatively, setting up a model state legislation arrangement where one state would legislate for NSCV type standards and then the other states would then point to that state’s legislation and try to get uniformity that way.

Mr Peachey —Can I interrupt for one moment. Can we take that request on notice. I am not sure what of the protocols governing the release of those working papers.

Senator SCULLION —I was about to say that I can assure you there is no mischief in this question. Whilst today we are enjoying having everything taken on notice, I am quite sure the committee would always extend that privilege.

Mr Wilson —The current process with regard to the consideration of the issue is that a paper has been generated out of officials working in the maritime areas through jurisdictions. That paper will be considered by the Standing Committee on Transport, which is the CEOs of the transport jurisdictions at Commonwealth and state level, on 13 March. If it is okay we will take on notice the question on providing you with the detail of what those two options are. I will check with the secretary of the department and the minister with regard to what we can and cannot provide in terms of the options.

Senator SCULLION —I appreciate that, Mr Wilson. The approach to my next question would be to perhaps elicit some frustration. As some of you would be aware, I have had a longstanding interest in this particular matter. The NMSC and a variety of departments and organisations have struggled with this for 10 years. Effectively, if we cannot get the Queensland and New South Wales departments of maritime transport to hold hands in a room and agree to the fundamentals that everybody else around the world seems to agree with then we will never move anywhere. I am not sure how we are going to resolve that. I look forward to hearing what SCOT has to say about those matters. I preface my question with those remarks. How are you going to implement the tinnie to tanker proposal, which I have to say is very exciting? Those people have had some experience with AMSA.

It is fantastic to see a program that actually addresses that issue. Without the resolution of the NMFC’s difficulty in finding the seamless transfer of both competency and survey around Australia, it would be almost impossible to have some sort of confidence in the tinnie to tanker process, which would have to be subsequent to a favourable decision in the first instance. What steps are you taking to ensure that your own process that deals with the transfer to SCTW is still able to take place without reference to the first process, which you will probably have less confidence in?

Mr Prosser —At this point in time it is really just a proposal and we are out getting stakeholder consultation on it. We still have our normal process applying at this time.

Mr Peachey —I guess the short story is that there are things travelling down different tracks. One is the work that we are doing in terms of our ‘tinnie to tanker’ concept. The other one is, as you rightly referred to, the issue of the jurisdictions and how we actually implement uniformity. Alongside that of course is the Navigation Act itself. So it is a fairly complicated playing field out there of which we are playing a role in two of them.

Senator SCULLION —I would have to say that in my mind the future role of the NMFC hinges on a successful outcome. There is no real reason for its existence apart from the fact they have carriage of what I would have thought is a particularly simple issue. I would have very little confidence in any useful part that the Australian Maritime Group would play on their behalf. That is just a comment, but that is how strongly I think that industry now feel about this matter—that it has just dragged on for so long without a resolution.

If I can just got o another matter, Mr Peachey—the Malu Sara. It is not my intention to cross judiciary paths by the mention of this matter. I am not really interested in the contents of the matter. I am not even sure if it is before the courts or an inquiry at the moment, but I am being particular not to get into the particular details of that. But I am interested in AMSA’s approach to advising Commonwealth government bodies, organisations and departments—be it the chaps floating around in a dinghy in Kakadu or Customs and Quarantine and other agencies in the Torres Strait. What advice are we the Commonwealth providing those organisations about their requirements for both manning and surveying of their vessels? I obviously do not want to go into the specific details, but perhaps you can approach it with the same sensitivity that I am and just talk about the matter of process and what has happened in that regard.

Mr Kinley —Following the Malu Sara incident—and, as you are probably aware, the coronial inquiry is still taking place in Queensland—we took the steps of contacting all Commonwealth agencies to establish which ones of those actually owned small vessels, making sure that they were all aware of their obligations under the legislation and the Marine Orders Part 62. We also went a step further and no longer accepted their word that these vessels all complied with the standards that they were supposed to. We required independent verification that all of those vessels were built to the required standard—which we now have. We are currently awaiting the outcome of the coronial inquiry to see if there are changes required to the legislation, but I am confident that the vessels that are out there now are in compliance.

Senator SCULLION —Just in terms of the vessels initially, I think it was section 62. It has been a long time since I have been anywhere near familiar with any of the act, so can you just remind me about that particular provision as it applies to the vessels?

Mr Kinley —The Marine Order actually deals with the way the vessels were surveyed, in that it did not require an independent surveyor to carry out those surveys on a regular basis because these vessels were owned by Commonwealth agencies and they were able to put in place maintenance regimes and therefore ensure the condition of the vessels was maintained in that way. The steps we took were to make sure that the agencies were aware of the obligations that they had signed up to in declaring they had these maintenance regimes in place and that they had independent verification and there was no possible confusion about the standards that were to be called up. For small boats there was Australian Standard 1799 and for the larger vessels there is the USL code.

Senator SCULLION —With regard to the small vessel standard 1799, just so I have a rough comparison, the Queensland survey for a vessel under seven metres in length would comply roughly with those same similar standards? In fact, we are talking about state and territory standards. That would reflect that?

Mr Kinley —That is correct.

Senator SCULLION —In terms of the manning, there were similar circumstances as you understand, and I am not sure whether that was an AMSA thing—in fact, I am pretty sure it was not. But there was some sort of a notion that because it was Commonwealth there was a different set of circumstances, and I think we all agree that they may have led to the circumstances. What has been the advice in terms of the manning of the vessels that are Commonwealth owned vessels in these circumstances?

Mr Kinley —The advice that we have given is that they certainly were under state jurisdiction, so that was not really any different from what we were allowing. The recreational ship master’s certificate was permissible for vessels of that size. What we have been working with the Commonwealth agencies on is to look at how they can get their people trained up to the coxswain’s level, at least in the full theoretical component, and then look at how they get the 12-months sea time, because that is also another issue that we are looking at—that requirement for a full 12-months sea time for a coxswain’s certificate and whether that is reasonable. We were basically working with the Commonwealth agencies to make sure their vessels can operate safely while meeting the legislative requirements where applicable.

Senator SCULLION —So you are satisfied that all of those Commonwealth agencies that own a vessel and have crews in the way that we have been discussing currently are meeting those obligations?

Mr Kinley —I am satisfied that the ones that have responded to us are, yes.

Senator SCULLION —What is the differential in your list? You have made a list of those people who own them. You have then contacted them. Have they all responded?

Mr Kinley —Some agencies took some time to work out what vessels they owned, but there are some that have not got back to us at this stage.

Senator SCULLION —Will you be able to provide me with a list of those vessels—and the agencies—that are owned that are owned by the Commonwealth? Would you also be able to provide me with a list of those people who have responded?

Mr Kinley —Yes.

Senator SCULLION —Thank you very much, Mr Kinley.

CHAIR —If there are no further questions of AMSA, thank you very much, gentlemen. I now call Aviation and Airports.

[2.38 pm]