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Strategic challenge 4: Ensuring a vibrant and progressive organisation

AMSA’s ability to respond to our operational challenges is heavily dependent on our people, processes and technology. In 2019–20, AMSA undertook to respond to this challenge through the following focus areas:

Focus area 4.1: Workforce engagement, development and safety

Employee engagement
Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organisation, and put discretionary effort into their work. Research indicates that employee engagement is a predictor of organisational performance. AMSA has conducted employee engagement surveys since 2008. In May 2020, AMSA recorded an overall engagement score of 71 per cent. This is eight percentage points higher than the previous year, and is 19 per cent higher than when AMSA first started measuring engagement using this collection method in 2017. It is also the highest overall engagement score recorded since AMSA started formally measuring engagement levels in 2008.

Our overall people capability is reliant on having contemporary and fit-for-purpose human resources (HR) systems that provide the foundation for the successful implementation of all other HR initiatives. In 2019–20 AMSA implemented a project to upgrade all HR systems to support the workforce. This project aligned with the AMSA Strategic Workforce Plan 2018–2021 theme 2 of ‘Building new capabilities in our workforce’. The initiative under this item, 2.5 Modernise human resources technology and systems, was delivered through the scoping, sourcing and implementation of several new systems including payroll, performance management, recruitment and learning management.

AMSA has been working in partnership with Melbourne Business School (MBS) for more than two years to design and deliver tailored leadership development programs for senior and developing managers. The strategic driver for these programs is detailed in the AMSA Strategic Workforce Plan 2018–2021—specifically supporting the delivery of theme 3 ‘Developing and empowering our leaders’ . These programs have focused on developing and strengthening AMSA’s leadership culture.

The two programs, Senior Leaders Program and the Leadership Development Program, delivered by MBS are now complete. The 2020 AMSA employee engagement survey results support the effectiveness of the program, showing an increase in employee satisfaction in areas of decision making, providing performance related feedback, communication, positive role modelling of culture from leaders, increased understanding of customers and leaders’ ability to effectively manage change.

Focus area 4.2: Good governance

Recent inquires and reviews—notably the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry—emphasised the importance of good governance to an organisation’s ethical wellbeing and performance. During the year the AMSA Board commissioned an independent review of AMSA’s governance, culture and accountability arrangements. Undertaken by AMSA’s internal audit provider, EY, the review found that AMSA has ‘well established and robust governance and accountability practices in place which should support:

  • alignment with industry and public expectations, and
  • a culture which promotes positive behaviours across the organisation as it delivers on its mission’.

Notwithstanding the review’s conclusions, there is always room for improvement. To that end, over the year we:

  • updated our Fraud Control and Anti-Corruption Plan
  • updated our risk management framework, including enhancement of our risk appetite and tolerance statements
  • streamlined non-financial performance reporting
  • improved the visibility of key public interest information, notably our response to coroner’s findings—see Coronial inquests and Appendix 6: Coronial inquiries 2015-16 to 2018-19 for more detail
  • updated our business continuity plans and pandemic plan to reflect lessons learned from our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Focus area 4.3: Sound financial management

AMSA recorded an operating surplus of $3 million for the 2019–20 financial year after movements in exceptional items such as write-offs and reversals of provisions. The operating result is reasonably close to budget and forecasts developed, demonstrating sound financial management principles. The cash and investment balance as at 30 June 2020 is $89.7 million, including an adjusted Pollution Response Reserve (PRR) of $35 million set aside to fund future environmental pollution emergencies. During 2019–20, $15.7 million was drawn from the PRR to fund the costs of a clean-up from the pollution incident caused by YM Efficiency. This cash and investment balance is sufficient to meet AMSA’s foreseeable liability obligations and operational liquidity requirements.

Focus area 4.4: Reliable and responsive information technology

AMSA’s focus in 2019–20 was to modernise our systems through implementing enterprise-wide solutions supporting response incident management, human resources, finance, and information technology service management business functions. This involved market approaches to replace ageing technologies currently delivering:

  • asset management—approach finalised and is currently in the final stages of delivery
  • human resource management / payroll—approach finalised and solution implemented with all staff transitioned to using these solutions
  • performance management—approach finalised and solution implemented with all staff transitioned to using these solutions
  • recruitment—approach finalised and solution implemented with all staff transitioned to using these solutions
  • learning management—approach finalised and solution implemented with all staff transitioned to using these solutions
  • incident management—responses reviewed. No off-the-shelf solution identified.

AMSA’s digital media and geospatial analytics platforms have been upgraded providing an enterprise platform that will be used in the new incident management solution and all future geospatial business outcomes.
The market approach for the management of ICT services was completed and successfully transitioned to the new service provider, Digital61 Pty Ltd, in August 2019. At this time, Digital61 successfully performed a live disaster recovery failover and failback for the AMSA Response Centre as a key performance indicator of their readiness.

Core capabilities for the national system solution to support Marine Order 505 implementation have been completed, however, the final solution requires legislative changes with delivery expected in 2021.

As with many organisations, the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges to AMSA with the need to quickly move the majority of staff to home-based work while maintaining access to critical systems. To support remote working and better collaboration across the workforce, Office 365 solutions (including Office Online, Microsoft SharePoint and Teams) were made available for all staff in addition to existing mobility solutions.

AMSA’s maturity against Australian Cyber Security Centre’s Essential Eight strategies to mitigate cyber security incidents has continued to develop. This has been through improving security policies and processes, implementation of solutions for identifying, reporting and patching vulnerabilities and hardening of desktop and server fleets.

Capability programs

2019–20 Corporate Plan: Page 73

Delivery of the following projects and programs is a major component of our response to this strategic challenge:

For projects and programs, the ‘traffic light’ indicates:

  • Green: On track
  • Amber: Minor issues, but recoverable
  • Red: Major issues, management intervention required
  • Blue: Complete
  • Grey: On hold
Strategic challenge 4: capability programs

Project name




Human Resources System Rectification

Select and implement a contemporary human resources information technology system to allow AMSA to fully leverage the capability of its staff


Scoping, sourcing and implementation of four new systems was completed by project deadline of 30 June. New systems include payroll, performance, recruitment and learning management. Benefits of new functionality in these systems includes:

  • increased business process automation and approval workflows
  • reduced use of paper-based forms
  • improved employee self-service functionality
  • expanded access to online learning and development options
  • streamlined performance management system
  • integration between the recruitment and human resources systems.

AMSA Leadership Development Program

Build leadership capability in AMSA to respond to operational demands


Senior Leaders Program and Leadership Development Program delivered by the Melbourne Business School have both concluded. Positive results are evident in the staff engagement survey results.

Strategic Asset Management

Select and implement a single system to manage AMSA’s asset base, including aids to navigation, search and rescue, pollution response, property and information technology assets


The initial configuration design is close to complete. Work has commenced on the AMSA wide functional design, before the final configuration is completed and tested.

Invoice automation and expense management

Select and implement a cloud-based solution to automate supplier invoice processing and travel expense management to reduce the administrative burden on staff, increase accuracy, and processing speed


Phase 1 went ‘live’ on 15 July, and Phase 2 will commence in August 2020 and expected go live March 2021.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sourcing

Transition to a new vendor to deliver the following services:

  • service desk and desktop
  • infrastructure and data centre
  • network
  • project resource support as applicable


The transition of information communication technology services from ASG Group Ltd to Digital61 Pty Ltd was successfully implemented in August 2019.

National System Property Works (Phase 2)

Refurbish five offices—Sydney, Adelaide, Newcastle, Port Kembla and Canberra—to support AMSA’s role as the national regulator for domestic commercial vessels


Coffs Harbour Regional Office

Establish an office in Coffs Harbour and Airlie Beach for up to 50 staff (by 2022) to reinforce AMSA’s regional footprint and customer service capability, and alleviate accommodation pressure in Canberra