Charter vessels

A charter vessel is privately hired for a fee for activities such as fishing, touring or diving and is accordingly used in connection with a business or commercial activity.

We have received reports of vessels conducting "informal" charters. These charters appear to be using vessels that we have not surveyed and may be unsafe.

Read our advice about what to ask before booking a charter to ensure the vessel is safe, operating legally and the crew is qualified.

Questions to ask before booking a charter

If you are chartering a vessel, ask to see the Certificate of Survey (COS) and a Certificate of Operation (COO) (or a certificate of survey that was in effect on 30 June 2012). These certificates must be displayed on the vessel. Details to look for include:

  • area of operation
  • maximum number of people allowed on board
  • required number of crew
  • approved safety equipment.

We recommend that you also ask to see the qualifications of the master who will be operating the vessel.


Certificate of survey (COS) and Certificate of operation (COO)

It is an offence under the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012 (Cth) to operate a commercial vessel, unless it has a valid COS and a COO. A certificate of survey that was in effect on 30 June 2012 is considered to be a COS and a COO under the Act. A COS and COO demonstrate that:

  • The vessel's design, construction and equipment have been inspected by Maritime Safety Victoria
  • The onboard practices have been reviewed by Maritime Safety Victoria
  • The person operating the vessel has the competence and capacity to operate the vessel safely.

Visit the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) website for more information about certificates of survey and certificates of operation.

Certificate of competency

If a master or crew member on a charter vessel acts in a capacity for which a certificate of competency is required, and they don't have one, this is an offence under the Marine Safety National Law Act.

A certificate of competency recognises that the holder has met training and sea-time requirements in deck and/or engineering disciplines. The certificate of competency must be appropriate to the vessel class, length and area of operation.

Visit the AMSA website for more information about certificates of competency.

There may be additional certification requirements because of increased risks associated with operating in certain areas. For example, the master of a trading vessel carrying passengers in or through Port Phillip Heads or across the Lakes Entrance Bar must hold a local knowledge certificate for these activities.

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