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Focus area 2.1: Education, compliance and enforcement

Our safety education, compliance and enforcement activities seek to improve safety outcomes and support a safety culture. Some of our safety campaigns were initiated as a direct response to safety issues identified following fatalities in the domestic commercial vessel sector since the National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety began in 2013. We are now in the process of utilising a suit of safety data to identify that will provide a more data driven approach to our safety education and compliance activities. This will ensure a more proactive approach of identifying safety issues.

AMSA has established eight Regional Safety Committees (RSC) set up in each region (New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and two covering Queensland). These are chaired by the AMSA Liaison Officers and are a forum for AMSA to engage with a broad range of stakeholders on vessel, operational and workplace safety to improve safety outcomes for the domestic commercial vessel industry. Additionally, AMSA established a Maritime Work, Health and Safety Regulators Forum with the aim of working to influence better safety outcomes in the maritime industry.

During 2019–20 AMSA held 62 regional safety management system workshops for commercial fishers attended by over 595 operators (see Case study: Safety Management System workshops). AMSA has also developed a suite of guidance material to help owners, operators and crew in developing and revising their safety management systems.

In response to a number of incidents, AMSA ran a joint safety campaign with a number of Queensland agencies to improve and maintain safety for Queensland reef fisheries (see ‘Case study: Safety Management System workshops’).

AMSA addressed the issue of trawl-net hook-ups, which have caused a number of serious incidents, by developing a suite of guidance material including education video clips, a succinct guidance booklet and stickers outlining the basic principles and steps needed to resolve a hook-up situation. This material has been distributed through meetings and visits to local trawl operators.

AMSA also released a number of maritime safety alerts to domestic commercial vessel operators in response to known safety concerns and incidents, including the risk of explosion associated with petrol vapours, safe access to vessels, and dangerous marine fauna. These alerts can be accessed here.

To raise awareness of identified safety issues, AMSA published maritime safety awareness bulletins on safe vessel access and fire prevention on vessels.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, AMSA attended a wide range of local boating and safety events to engage directly with the maritime industry and help recreational boating users better understand the requirements for fitment and use of emergency position indication radio beacons (EPIRBs) and the benefits of maintaining up-to-date information in the beacon registration system. In the absence of direct engagement, AMSA has increased its use of social media to remind maritime industry and recreational boaters of the benefits of beacons as part of Australia’s search and rescue system.

AMSA continued to build its compliance capability. Through strong inter-agency partnerships, AMSA has been able to expand its ‘reach’ into the diverse domestic maritime sector to target finite resources to highest risk. AMSA staff are being trained to deliver AMSAs compliance functions, including investigation and enforcement.

Additionally, an Enforcement and Inspector Support unit dedicated to investigating high risk, deliberate or repeated non-compliance is supporting AMSA’s investigations and those of our compliance partners. AMSA is applying the full force of the law to those who deliberately and intentionally do not comply.

Implementation of our compliance strategy is underway. AMSA, through improved data collection, process improvement and new capabilities, is increasingly able to target higher risks and identify non-compliance. By engaging with the CSIRO on a risk modelling collaboration project, we have enhanced our risk profiling capabilities.

In addition to the ongoing specialist training being delivered to staff in the regions, a dedicated team of has been deployed to support AMSA’s regional inspectorate and investigators with the aim of bolstering AMSA’s ‘on the ground’ capacity and capability.

Case study: Fishing dory safety campaign

Numerous commercial fishing operations in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait use a parent vessel working with several 5 to 8 metre tender boats—known in the industry as dories. These operations include line fishing for reef fish and diving for lobsters, sea cucumbers, aquarium fish and coral.

In 2019, AMSA’s data indicated that incidents involving dories in Queensland were trending upwards and identified a number of safety issues unique to dory operations, including:

  • lack of effective communication between the dories and parent vessel
  • breakdowns caused by insufficient fuel or other mechanical issues.

Some of the issues resulted in search and rescue operations that were later identified as unnecessary. This included inadvertent activation or incorrect beacon disposal. Roughly two thirds of the distress beacons (15) were also non-GPS, which meant that search and rescue had to search a far larger area to locate the vessel in distress.

As a result AMSA decided to conduct a safety campaign for dory fishing, with a view to investigating other actions that can be taken to improve and maintain safety in the dory fishing sector. The safety campaign focused on:

  • compliance with national law requirements
  • safety education

The campaign was led by AMSA and run jointly with the Queensland Police Service (QPS), Queensland Fisheries and Boating Patrol (QFBP), Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).

Operation Nemo
Between July and September 2019 in the lead up to the safety campaign, AMSA undertook ‘Operation Nemo’ in which 71 parent vessels were inspected (representing 70 per cent of the parent vessel population in Queensland). A further 88 dory fishing operations were inspected and directions and advice provided on required safety improvements. Eighteen dory vessels were found to be in breach of their safety requirements.

Safety education
Dory safety workshops were held in Cooktown, Cairns, Bowen, Mackay and Gladstone ports in November 2019. The three-hour workshops were delivered in collaboration with the Queensland Water Police and raised awareness of the safety needs of dory operations. These formed an integral part of the safety campaign and provided operators and crews with an opportunity to learn about the regulations that apply to their operations and how they can improve safety on their vessels.

Feedback from the workshops was very positive, with a number of attendees voicing their appreciation of AMSA’s commitment to assist and meet with the industry.
AMSA has continued its dialogue with this industry sector and continues to assist individual operators with improving their safety management.

Case study: Safety Management System workshops

Participants in the Queenscliff safety management system workshop Photo shows participants at the Queenscliff safety management workshop
Improving uptake of safety management systems across the domestic commercial vessel fleet continues to be a focus for AMSA—particularly in terms of industry ownership of these systems—and the continued promotion of a safety culture. Based on AMSA’s national study of safety management systems in 2017–18, we redesigned our safety management system educational material to improve engagement and accessibility. It was also tailored for fishing operations.
Three improvement areas were identified for the fishing sector:

  1. effective risk assessment
  2. follow-up on hazardous incidents, and
  3. writing practical procedures.

To increase ownership of safety management systems, and safety culture, the revised material focused the theme: ‘Making your safety management system work for you’. It was designed to generate engagement and learning. Real-world incidents and current safety statistics were included to provide realistic and relevant case studies.

AMSA held 62 workshops nationally between 8 July 2019 and 29 January 2020 with a total of 595 participants. On average, participants rated the workshops 4 out of 5 for relevance to their operation; and rated the degree that it helped them improve their safety management system as 4.5 out of 5.

The workshops successfully challenged the way safety management systems have been historically considered by industry; presenting them as systems for managing fishing businesses safely—not just regulatory red tape.

The campaign was reviewed as part of AMSA’s continuous improvement activities. Lessons learnt from the workshops have been captured and incorporated into subsequent safety educational campaigns.