The end of an era: 130 years of vessel surveys

8 August 2017

On 30 June 2017, MSV staff conducted their final domestic commercial vessel (DCV) survey.

Surveys are conducted to ensure that DCV comply with national standards and are operationally compliant for the safety of people and the environment.

The Marine Board of Victoria was established in 1887 with a remit for practices to evolve alongside improvements to safety equipment.

Over the 130-year history, surveys have been conducted in several different ways. At one time surveys were undertaken by two people - one covering engineering and the other covering the deck and safety equipment.

The roles were later combined and covered by one surveyor, more lately with the addition of checks to safety management systems. These changes were made to align with world best practice as well as owner and master responsibilities.

Surveyors typically have a background of extensive maritime experience in jobs such as shipwrights, boat builders/designers, naval architects, marine masters and engineers.

These backgrounds formed a good basis on which MSV surveyors have expanded their knowledge and modern practices in vessel surveys and safety management systems.

The diversity of background experience has allowed MSV surveyors to share expertise across the survey group and provide a consistent service.

Vessels have ranged in materials - steel, aluminium, timber and fibre-reinforced plastic - and lengths from 3 m to 80 m.

The final MSV survey was conducted in the Port of Melbourne on the lines vessel ‘Alpha’.

A history of vessel surveys in Victoria

In 1887, a Parliamentary Bill was passed to create the Marine Board of Victoria - the purpose of which was “To secure the safety of life and property at sea”.

The Board had the power to enforce safety standards on ships and make preliminary investigations into captains who engaged in “reckless conduct” at sea.

In 2002, the Marine Board of Victoria was replaced by Marine Safety Victoria and surveys were conducted by government surveyors as part of a vessel’s annual certification.

In 2010, Marine Safety Victoria merged with Public Transport Safety Victoria to become Transport Safety Victoria (TSV). Maritime Safety Victoria is a branch of TSV.

In 2012, the Marine Safety Act introduced a risk-based survey system that meant lower risk DCVs did not require annual surveys. The Act also introduced a certificate of operation to balance a vessel owner’s safety duties and responsibilities with the risk-based approach.

In 2013, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) became the national regulator. MSV continued to survey vessels under delegation.

In 2017, MSV ceased initial and periodic survey services. MSV will continue to process applications and provide DCV services until 1 July 2018 under delegation arrangements to the national regulator, but the survey itself will be conducted by an AMSA-accredited private surveyor.

In 2018, AMSA will take control over all survey services and operational safety for administration and certification.