While it’s not a question that most people have considered or even thought about it’s one that vessel owners and operators should. It’s not just vessel Master’s it should be considered for business managers as well.

But staying with the Master scenario what would your crew do if something happened to the Master?

Here’s a couple of examples to get you thinking…

  1. One of 2 deckhands onboard a trawler walked into the wheelhouse and found the Master lying unconscious on the wheelhouse deck.

What should he do?

What happened to the Master: Do you know?

  1. A charter vessel was on a night time delivery voyage when the Mate walked into the wheelhouse to relive the Master who was not there.

Where is the Master?

  1. Onboard a trawler that was working the Mate walked into the wheelhouse to let the Master know it was time to winch up but there was no Master.

What happened to the Master?

Do these examples sound strange, well it’s sad to say but all three are real life situations that actually occurred!

In scenario 1 the Master had suffered a heart attack (most likely due to the crew!) and while being attended to by the deckhands the vessel ran aground.

The Master in scenario 2 went into the engine room without letting anyone know (which was against the SMS procedures) and got his hand caught in machinery causing serious injuries.

Shorlink hand picture

In the last example the Master simply fell overboard from the wheelhouse deck while checking the wires. Fortunately, he was recovered a short time later.

Shorlink SOS picture

What do these 3 examples tell you?

Very simply Masters are not as bullet proof as many think they are and therefore every SMS should have a procedure for dealing with an Incapacitated Master.

Does your SMS have an Incapacitated Master procedure?

It’s a procedure we put in all the SMS manuals we develop and one that’s actually saved lives!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend that you have a procedure to deal with a Master that’s become incapacitated in any way. You need to take into account potential causes and how to deal with them in the event the Master becomes incapacitated for any reason.

If you’re the Master then you want to be saved and if you’re the owner and the Master becomes incapacitated or is lost then you can become legally responsible if there is no procedure for dealing with an incapacitated or lost Master.


Our tip is to ensure you include the one thing we DO NOT seen in Incapacitated Master procedures we’ve reviewed and that is “what’s the boat doing and where is it”.

Those two things are what can save you from having a single emergency to encountering multiple emergencies situations at once.

Bunkering (refuelling) operations present a high-risk factor especially when refuelling petrol powered vessels. An explosion after refuelling an outboard powered charter vessel resulted in the Master suffering serious burns.


While petrol is highlighted diesel does not have the same flash point, but it is still a flammable liquid with the potential to cause serious injuries and damage to vessels.

Let’s look at some of the risk factors for petrol fuelled vessels.

Petrol vapours are denser than air so any vapours can accumulate in your bilge or other areas which are not properly vented. When petrol vapours mix with air the mixture becomes explosive.

Exposure of accumulated petrol vapours to an ignition source has the potential to cause an explosion and/or fire. The result is potentially catastrophic with serious injury to loss of life, damage to or loss of vessel, damage to infrastructure and environmental damage.

Potential ignition sources include:

  • Smoking, naked flames or pilot lights
  • Communication equipment, e.g., mobile phones
  • Portable electrical equipment
  • Fixed electrical systems
  • Hot work which includes welding, cutting, grinding, etc.
  • Hot surfaces, e.g., exhaust pipes, flues and ducting
  • Sparks generated by mechanical means, e.g., hammers, etc.
  • Static electricity 

To reduce the risk of explosion:

  • Ensure the fuel system complies with the applicable standards
  • Undertake regular inspections of the fuel system
  • Prevent the build-up of vapours by ventilating any area where they could occur
  • Removing or isolating all ignition sources
  • Ensure all electric equipment maintained

A guide to refuelling

In Australia all bunkering/refuelling operations must be carried out in accordance with AS1940:2017.

Below is a basic guide to preparing for refuelling your vessel.

  • Shut down the main engine/s
  • Ensure firefighting equipment is at hand
  • Ensure spill kit is available
  • Ensure adequate lighting is available
  • Block scuppers/freeing ports
  • Close hatches and doors (especially on petrol powered vessels)
  • Ensure all hot works have ceased on the vessel, adjacent vessels and within 20mtrs
  • Ensure all electric appliances are off within 20mtrs
  • Turn off mobile phones
  • Ensure no smoking withing 10mtrs 
  • Estimate the amount of fuel required
  • Ensure the fuel about to be delivered is diesel or unleaded as required
  • Check hose for leaks or damage
  • Where camlocks are not used ensure contact is maintained between the nozzle and the filler pipe; and
  • At all times the nozzle must be hand operated. 

The above is a list of precautionary steps to ensure safe refuelling practices but there are other items that must be considered including where the refuelling is being undertaken, is it at a:

  • Shore-based facility (marina, etc.)
  • Road fuel tanker
  • Fuel barge or mother ship
  • Roadside fuel service station
  • Or are you using Jerri Cans

The results of not following procedures

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Number one recommendation is to ensure you undertake safe refuelling practices at all times in accordance with AS1940:2017.

No matter where you refuel you must comply with the supplier’s procedure for dispensing fuel no matter if it’s a marina, other shore-based facility, road tanker, fuel barge or mothership!


Best tip is to recognise the refuelling procedure is a critical component of every vessels SMS so take the time to get it right. If you’re having problems with putting a refuelling procedure together don’t hesitate to contact us for advice or help to develop your procedure.

The issue and impact of plastics in our oceans, people, plants, animals and entire ecosystems was front and centre at the recent United Nations Ocean Conference in Portugal.

Plastics in our Oceans. What are the impacts on the industry?

Through the UN Environment Assembly, more than 500 organisations and 21 additional governments, including Australia, have signed up to commitments to change how plastic is produced, used and reused to keep it out of the environment.

The FRDC funded research looking into plastic issue across Australian waters.  The project found that seafood species in Australia consume microplastics at low levels in comparison to elsewhere in the world.  However, the issue remains despite being low.

Professor Bronwyn Gillanders at the University of Adelaide is now working on a related project focussed on the potential effects and implications of plastic in seafood and its impacts for fishing and aquaculture.  This research will be presented at Human Health Symposium being held in September.

From 2021, seven out of eight Australia States and territories have committed to ban single-use plastics which are being rolled out in Stages.  Australia’s National Packaging Targets set a goal to phase out problematic single-use plastics by 2025.

This will have an affect on your vessel, whether recreational or commercial – this can and should affect your time on the water.

Discarding Fishing Nets!

Approximately 46% of the 79 thousand tons of ocean plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of fishing nets, some as large as football fields.

Fishing nets lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea – also known as “ghost nets” – can continue killing indiscriminately for decades and decades, entangling or suffocating countless fish, sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, seals and marine birds every year. An estimated 30% percent of the decline in some fish populations is a result of discarded fishing equipment, while more than 70% of marine animal entanglements involve abandoned plastic fishing nets.

This is crazy! As the marine industry is now seeing the light at the end of the the COVID tunnel, we need to make sure that every person that is on the water is being responsible for what is ‘in’ the water.

The Ocean is your backyard, you need to keep it clean and maintained!

For our recreational clients, please take your catch home and dispose of the waste with your household rubbish.

Dispose of marine litter such as bait packaging, unwanted fishing line and plastic bags responsibly to reduce impacts on marine mammals and seabirds.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

From a business sense, if your company is producing any single use plastic onboard, now is the time you need to be looking at alternatives.

You will need to consider all options to reduce the use of single-use and non-compostable and non-biodegradable plastics as this may important to retaining and enhancing the sustainability credentials of a business.

While options to ‘green’ a business’ around single-use plastics can present a great business opportunity, eventually, as the focus on our industry is for a more sustainable future, this will also likely become essential to ensuring legal compliance and, accordingly, may become an issue of fundamental importance to business survival.


Make the most of the disposal facilities at boat ramps and marinas to reduce plastic pollution associated with marine industry.

Review your current use of single-use plastics both onboard, in warehouses, office etc and seek alternatives where required as a matter of importance.

Every crew member is aware of the legalities around ‘throwing things overboard’.  Under no circumstances should fishing lines/nets be discarded overboard.

The disposal of all garbage into the sea from vessels is prohibited, except in some limited circumstances.

Under MARPOL Annex V, garbage includes all kinds of food waste, domestic waste and operational waste, all plastics, cargo residues, incinerator ashes, cooking oil, fishing gear, and animal carcasses generated during the normal operation of the vessel.

Garbage Discharges. Do you know the requirements?

Food wastes

While the vessel is en-route, food wastes that have been ground and capable of passing through a screen with openings no greater than 25mm, can only be discharged 3nm or more from the nearest land.

Garbage Discharges. Do you know the requirements?

Food waste not ground can only be discharged 12 nautical miles or more from the nearest land. Vessels operating alongside or within 500mtrs of a fixed and floating platform cannot discharge food waste, except under very limited circumstances.

Additional requirements are in place for vessels operating in MARPOL Special Areas and Polar Regions. Refer to MARPOL for more information, noting that there are currently no Annex V Special Areas designated around the Australian mainland. There is, however, an extended ‘nearest land’ boundary around the Great Barrier Reef area.

Cargo residues

Cargo residues may be left over after loading or unloading. Cargo residues classified as Harmful to the Marine Environment (HME), cannot be discharged into the sea, except under very limited circumstances. Such waste must be discharged to an onshore waste reception facility.

Cargo residues not classified as HME can be discharged into the sea provided that the vessel is en-route, and the discharge occurs as far as practicable from the nearest land, but not less than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.

Cleaning agents or additives contained in holds, deck and external surfaces wash water can be discharged into the sea, provided that they are not classified as HME.

For cleaning agents and additives, HME substances are those that are identified as marine pollutants in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, or which meet the criteria in the Appendix of MARPOL Annex III (harmful substances). These criteria can be found in the 2017 Guidelines.

Animal carcasses

Animal carcasses may only be discharged into the sea when:

  • the vessel is not in a MARPOL designated special area;
  • the vessel is en-route, and the discharge is as far as possible from the nearest land;
  • the carcass has been slit or cut so that its thoracic and abdominal cavities are opened or passed through a comminuter, grinder, hogger, mincer or similar equipment; and
  • the discharge is undertaken in accordance with section 2.12 of the 2017 Guidelines.

Mixed garbage

When different types of garbage are combined or contaminated by other substances that are prohibited from discharge, the more stringent discharge requirements will apply.

Garbage management

AMSA requires that larger vessels manage, and record waste generated on board the vessel, including discharges.

Garbage Management Plans

Under MARPOL Annex V every vessel of 100 gross tonnage and above, and every vessel certified to carry 15 or more persons, is required to carry a Garbage Management Plan. The Garbage Management Plan contains procedures for collecting, storing, processing and the discharge of garbage, including the use of equipment onboard.

Garbage Record Books

Under MARPOL Annex V every vessel of 400 gross tonnage and above, and every vessel certified to carry 15 or more persons engaged in international voyages, is required to maintain and retain onboard a Garbage Record Book.

Fishing vessel operators must record the discharge or loss of fishing gear in the Garbage Record Book or the vessel’s official logbook.

The Garbage Record Books are divided into Part I and Part II. Part I is used by all vessels, but Part II is only required for vessels that carry solid bulk cargoes.

Part I covers discharges of:

  1. Plastics
  2. Food wastes
  3. Domestic wastes
  4. Cooking oil
  5. Incinerator ashes
  6. Operational wastes
  7. Animal carcass(es)
  8. Fishing gear
  9. E-waste

Part II covers discharges of:

  1. Cargo residues (non-Harmful to the Marine Environment)
  2. Cargo residues (Harmful to the Marine Environment).


All vessels of 12 metres or more in length are required to display placards that notify the crew and passengers of the MARPOL garbage discharge requirements for that vessel under MARPOL.

The placards should be placed in prominent places onboard the vessel where the crew and passengers will see them to inform how they can manage their waste (e.g., galley spaces, wheelhouse, main deck and passenger accommodation).

Garbage Placards can be obtained from any AMSA office or by submitting a request to AMSA through the AMSA website.

Reception facilities

Australia is required under MARPOL to ensure that adequate reception facilities are available in ports and terminals to meet the needs of the vessels regularly using them, including the reception of all waste streams generated on board a vessel during normal operations.

Further information on arranging for waste reception, reporting inadequacies of facilities, and best practice regarding the provision of waste reception facilities in Australia can be found on AMSA’s Waste reception facilities in Australian ports webpage.


Exceptions to the prohibition of garbage discharge under MARPOL Annex V are:

General garbage

  • The discharge of garbage from a vessel is necessary to secure the safety of a vessel and those on board, or saving a life at sea;
  • The accidental loss of garbage resulting from damage to a vessel or its equipment, provided that all reasonable precautions have been taken before and after the occurrence of the damage, to prevent or minimise the accidental loss;

Fishing gear

  • The accidental loss of fishing gear from a vessel provided that all reasonable precautions have been taken to prevent such loss; or
  • The discharge of fishing gear from a vessel for the protection of the marine environment or for the safety of that vessel or its crew.

When the loss or discharge of fishing gear, such as nets, long lines, fish traps or any human-made contraptions designed to catch fish, cannot be reasonably retrieved, and poses a significant threat to the marine environment and navigation, the fishing vessel operator is required to report the approximate position and reasons for the loss to the nearest port authority or the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra (on 1800 641 792).

This allows AMSA to broadcast Maritime Safety Information (MSI) if there is a significant risk to navigation. The loss must still be recorded in the garbage record book, as above.

It is recommended that state/NT and port authorities are consulted on any local regulations that may apply in specific circumstances.


There are substantial penalties for MARPOL breaches in the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Vessels) Act 1983, including the power to detain vessels.  A detention requires the owner to post an undertaking of considerable financial security.

Guidelines for the Implementation of MARPOL Annex V

The 2017 Guidelines for the Implementation of MARPOL Annex V (Resolution MEPC.295(71)), as amended, (2017 Guidelines) were developed to assist vessel owners, vessel operators, vessels’ crews, cargo owners and equipment manufacturers in complying with certain requirements set out in Annex V of MARPOL. This includes the management of cargo residues, cleaning agents or additives, and the treatment of animal carcasses.

The 2017 Guidelines also provide information on all aspects of garbage management, such as waste minimisation, vessel board garbage handling and storage, vessel board treatment of garbage (e.g., grinding or comminution, compaction and incineration).

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Where required we recommend that you have a Garbage Record book to record the relevant information or record it in the vessels Log Book.

In today’s world ensuring you maintain the appropriate records is paramount!


Use sealable bags to store garbage onboard and dispose of all garbage in the appropriate receptacles ashore.

It’s also a good tip to separate recyclable items from general garbage and place them in the appropriate recycling bins ashore.

While most of us hope we never have to deal with an emergency situation at sea or in our shore-based business the fact is we can find ourselves in an emergency situation which requires swift action at any moment.

Dealing with emergency situations. Would you know what to do?

Even though we don’t think about it the simple fact is we face the potential of a fire onboard our vessel or in our office or factory every day. It’s not only fires there are so many other emergency situations that can occur both at sea and ashore.

Potential emergencies at sea

A short list of emergencies that can occur at sea which includes but is not limited to:

  • Fire
  • Person overboard
  • Injuries both minor, serious and critical
  • Collision
  • Grounding
  • Flooding (taking on water)
  • Adverse weather

Potential emergencies onshore

A short list of emergencies that can occur onshore which includes but is not limited to:

  • Fire
  • Injuries both minor, serious and critical
  • Forklift accidents
  • Vehicle accidents/collisions
  • Collisions between vehicles and people
  • Flooding by natural causes or plumbing failures
  • Bomb/terrorist threats
  • Working at heights
  • Working in confined spaces

Both of these lists are to highlight potentially what can happen at sea and in shore-based facilities and start you thinking about how you would deal with them.

For vessels it starts with having a Safety Management System (SMS) that complies with either Marine Order 504 or the ISM Code. The SMS must have documented procedures for dealing with onboard emergencies.

Shore-based facilities the starting point is having an Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) that preferably complies with ISO 45001. This manual must have documented procedures for dealing with workplace emergencies.

The emergency procedures for both of these should include procedures for all potential emergencies identified which is the first step to being “emergency prepared”.

The second step is to ensure all vessel crew and shore-based workers are inducted into each procedure relevant to their allocated duties.

Following on from that all crew and workers must be trained in emergency procedures that apply to them. Training should include initial and ongoing training to ensure they can deal with emergency situations in a safe and efficient manner.

Note that all crew &/or workers are not necessarily responsible for all emergency procedures as they may not be involved in some tasks or areas where the potential dangers exist.

From a vessel or business owners’ perspective they must ensure all of the above are in place and undertaken to ensure your vessel or business has the best chance of surviving emergency situations.

While we understand that all of this is a lot of work how much work do you think it takes to deal with the loss of a vessel or business facility or worse still the serious injury or death of crew members or workers?

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Number one recommendation is to ensure you have a compliant SMS for commercial vessels &/or a OHSMS for business owners.

Actually, this is not just a recommendation it’s law!


The best tip we can give you is once you have your SMS or OHSMS in place is to ensure you induct and train all crew members &/or shore-based workers in emergency procedures.

Failure to do this puts you, your vessel or business and the lives of those who work for you in serious danger!

Is it worth the risk?

While it’s something that we hope we don’t have to do it can be a task we’re faced with! AMSA coordinate all search and rescue operations (SAR) in Australia and activate local Water Police who may then task local rescue organisations to assist with their efforts.

Participating in search and rescue operations Do you know your requirements?

When a distress beacon is activated AMSA react by calling the emergency contacts listed in the EPIRBs registration and then if necessary go into action. The same thing applies when a MAYDAY called is received.

Depending on the location of the distress beacon or mayday AMSA may launch one of their aircraft to conduct a search and/or activate local Water Police who may in turn task the local rescue organisation.

AMSA or the local Water Police may request any vessels in the vicinity to assist with the SAR operations and will advise you of their specific requirements.

Many vessel operators and in particular have procedures for assisting with SAR efforts and these should be followed to ensure safety and insurance requirements are covered.

When requested to participate in SAR the coordinator (usually Water Police) will usually direct you to a search grid. All you have to do is follow their directions and maintain regular contact to relay all relevant information.

When required the SAR coordinator will tell you to stand down and issue any further instructions as may be required.

SAR procedure

While this procedure applies mainly to those who operate in more open waters but in our view should apply to all vessels whether operating in open waters, bays or estuaries!

We’ve been asked why it should be included in SMSs for vessels that work in rivers. Our answer is simple. For us there are two points to take into account here…

  1. While you may be in a river or small bay locating a vessel may not be that difficult during daylight but during the hours of darkness or in restricted visibility it becomes more difficult, especially if it’s a large river system and the information at hand is limited: BUT
  2. How hard is it to locate a person in the water? Even during daytime locating a person in the water can be difficult. Whether conditions, available light and many other factors can make locating a person in the water difficult.

Things to consider when developing a SAR procedure

For most operators this procedure should be based on working with relevant emergency groups such as the local Water Police and rescue organisations.

More specific procedures are required for some operators which provide rescue services or vessels operating in isolated locations where help is not easily obtained quickly.

The primary things to consider prior to developing a search and rescue procedure are…

  • Where you operate
  • The size and type of vessel
  • Fuel
  • Fatigue factors
  • Who is controlling the operation, the SAR coordinator

Shorlink’s Recommendation

While a SAR procedure is not mandatory we strongly recommend it, especially for those who operate offshore.

You never know when you may be required to assist in SAR or be in a situation where you are involved in an incident that you are the victim in need of SAR!


Many of the incidents that occur requiring SAR can be eliminated or if they do occur can be safely and efficiently dealt with by regular maintenance and having crew that have appropriate training and…ongoing training is provided.

Our best tip is to ensure your maintenance and crew training are up to date. Emergency training for crew needs to be regular not just when they join the vessel so please ensure your crew are properly trained!

What is a distress beacon – EPIRBs and PLBs?

An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is a small electronic device that, when activated in an emergency, can help search and rescue authorities pinpoint your position.

Once activated, EPIRBs continuously send out a signal for at least 48 hours. Search and rescue authorities respond to all EPIRB activations. You must only activate the EPIRB in an emergency and you must tell them immediately if you no longer need help.

GPS enabled EPIRBs are accurate to 150 meters whereas non GPS enabled EPIRBs are only accurate to within 5 nautical miles!

Distress Beacons! Is yours registered?

EPIRBs must:

  • comply with AS/NZS 4280.1:2017
  • be registered with AMSA. Registration is free and must be renewed every 2 years. You will also need to tell AMSA when the beacon ownership or boat details change.

A distress beacon is an electronic device that, when activated in a life threatening

situation, assists rescue authorities to locate people in distress.

Do I need a distress beacon?

All boats operating beyond smooth and partially smooth waters or more than 2nm from land in open waters must carry a 406MHz digital EPIRB.

Recreational operators of lightweight craft have a choice if they want to carry an EPIRB or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). If you choose to carry a PLB in place of an EPIRB, it must:

Lightweight craft means off the beach type craft, human powered canoe and kayak, small sailing vessels (less than 6m in length) and personal watercraft.

Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

A personal locator beacon, or PLB for short, is a personal electronic transmitting device that is designed to alert potential rescuers to a life-threatening situation in the air, on water or in remote areas.

Registering a Distress Beacon

If you own a distress beacon, it MUST be registered. Registering your beacon is free and in is mandatory by law.

A registered beacon provides AMSA with essential information to contact you and your emergency contacts in the event of an emergency.

This information is critical for search and rescue authorities to commence a response in the shortest possible time. This could make all the difference in a life threatening situation.

If your beacon is unregistered, this process will be slower, and the response may be delayed. Beacon registration is valid for two years and must then be renewed.

Whenever your contact details or beacon details change, you must update them with AMSA. Don’t wait for your registration to expire before doing this because incorrect contact details can also delay the response.

You can register your beacon online for free using AMSA app. This process will require you to use your email address as a username. You will also need to create a password. Make sure you save this information in a safe place for future use. You can also visit www.amsa.gov.au/beacons or call 1800 406 406.

Buying and selling a beacon

When buying a new distress beacon ensure it is a 406MHz digital EPIRB and be sure to register it with AMSA

If you have purchased your beacon second hand, you must update your details with AMSA. If you don’t, simple…. AMSA won’t be able to find you if you are in trouble.

If you have sold a beacon, it is equally as important that you contact AMSA to update your details and let them know your beacon has been sold.

Maritime mobile service identity

You will need a maritime mobile service identity (MMSI) number when using certain marine radio communications equipment. This number will assist emergency response services to respond to a distress alert, or another emergency.

If you aren’t sure if you require a MMSI or not, then click on this link to read more:

Disposing of beacons

Do not dispose of old EPIRBs and PLBs in general waste as it will end up in landfill and could be accidentally activated. Contact your local battery store to check whether they disconnect and dispose of beacons. A small fee may apply.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our best recommendation is to check your EPIRB for accessibility, condition and registration. Remember if it’s not easily accessible then it may not be of use to you in an emergency.

Additionally, if its condition has been comprised it may not work when needed and if it’s no registered then that can impact on your rescue.

We often note that during inspections that a number of operators, primarily recreational but some commercial ones have not registered their EPIRB.

We strongly recommend, logging into AMSA immediately and ensuring ALL details are correct regardless of if you think so or not.


If you work on a commercial vessel where there is a high potential for going overboard, e.g., trawlers, longline vessels, tugs, etc. our best tip is to wear a PLB which is GPS enabled. This greatly enhances your chances of recovery if you go overboard!

If you are unsure about any issues relating to Distress Beacons, registration etc. please do not hesitate to contact our office on (07) 4242 1412.

Remember to always be prepared to survive until help ar rives.

Dealing with permanent incapacity and death

This topic is one that is close to my heart as over the years I’ve lost a number of friends and acquaintances then witnessed their businesses end up in turmoil and families not knowing what to do next.

Continuity Planning What would you do if you were incapacitated?

Unfortunately, this is not a subject that many people consider or even want to think about BUT: the reality is you should be considering what would happen to your business if you became permanently incapacitated or worse still died!

Business continuity planning is something that most business owners, yes if you own a commercial boat you’re a business owner, don’t take seriously or even consider.

What would happen if you were suddenly permanently incapacitated and unable to do the thing you used to do? If you only own a small business or one vessel you could sell it or get someone else to run it for you but what happens if you own a larger business or a number of vessels?

Owning a larger business means you have workers, most of whom have families to consider. If you own a number of vessels means you have crew to consider and possibly shore staff not to mention the work you would normally be doing.

You may be operating the business or one of the vessels yourself or maybe you do a lot of


Either way there is sudden hole in your operations which can drastically impact on your business operations and income of those who work for you not to mention your personal income.

Go one step further and consider what would happen if you were to suddenly die? Being incapacitated means that you may still be able to undertake some work depending on the nature of the situation but…

…when you’re dead you’re not going to be doing anything!

I know these are hard questions and ones that most don’t consider until it’s too late but over many years I been involved with several businesses where these incidents have occurred.

In almost every case there was no continuity plan in place which left the business in turmoil. The flow on effect is workers are without income not to mention the family of the owner are often left with a business they either knew little about or how to run it in many cases.

As I said earlier if it’s a small  business or a single vessel operation it may be as simple as selling the business or vessel which is OK if you’re incapacitated because you know what to do. What happens if you’re not around because of your hospitalisation or worse still death?

Do those remaining know what to do in selling the business or vessel or if keeping it is the option how to get the right workers and then manage the operation?

While most people know that I’m an advocate for safety management systems I’m equally and advocate for business strategies which include…

  1. Continuity planning:This is the process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to a company including permanent incapacity or death of the owner or owners;
  2. Succession planning:This is a process for identifying and developing internal and/or external people with the potential to fill key business leadership positions in the company;
  3. Exit strategy planning:This is the process of explicitly defining exit-related objectives for the owner(s) of a business, followed by the design of a comprehensive strategy and road map that take into account all personal, business, financial, legal, and taxation aspects of achieving those objectives.

While all this may sound like a lot it’s how you need to be focused if you’re a business owner. Failure to take these things into account may leave your family and workers in a dangerous position.

Things to consider

While this is a subject that most people simply don’t want to face the reality is you need to and…you need do it sooner rather than latter because all so often latter is simply too late!

Here are a few points to consider…

  • How big is your business
  • How many workers do you have
  • How many vessels to you own
  • Do you have vessels on charter
  • Are you operating chartered or leased vessels
  • Do you have shore based facilities
  • What is your level of debt
  • Do you have emergency funds in hand or available
  • Do you have a business continuity plan in place
  • If so does it take into account becoming permanently incapacitated and death
  • Do you have workers including crew and/or shore staff
  • Do you have sub-contractors
  • Do you have a will
  • Does someone have power of attorney for you
  • Does someone other than yourself have access to finances
  • Do you have immediate family

These are just a few things to take into account when putting together a business continuity plan.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

The very best recommendation we can give is that when developing your business continuity plan you need to take into account anything that can or may affect the ongoing operation of your business.

Not only incapacity or death but also things such as natural disasters, premises or vessel loss, financial situations, changes in government regulations and anything else that may cause major disruptions to your business operations.


If you don’t have a documented continuity plan in place my best tip is to get one underway now!

If you’re unsure about how to develop a business continuity plan don’t hesitate to contact me as I’ve been involved in the development of these for many years in not only in maritime but also in a range of other industries.

Having the right medical stores onboard can and has saved lives. This is why AMSA have documented lists based on your vessels area of operations.

Medical Stores Do you know your vessels requirements?

NSCV Section C7A states that sufficient and appropriate medical supplies must be maintained to treat likely individual injuries until professional medical treatment becomes available.

In the NSCV Annex H Requirements for medical supplies Table H1 Medical assistance times specifies the time period in which medical assistance can be obtained and which Scale applies.

Time Period Scale

2 hours Scale G

6 hours Scale F

12 hours Scales E and D

Location: First Aid kits

The first aid kit shall be located adjacent to the Masters accommodation or in the wheelhouse. In small partly open vessel, the first aid kit shall be stowed so as to protect it from incoming salt and spray.

Location: Medical Cabinets

All vessels covered by Scale D and E shall be provided with a medical cabinet of suitable size, design and construction for storing medical supplies

In DCV’s they shall be located either:

  • The Masters accommodation; or
  • In a dry and cool space accessible to the Master and a nominated crew member.

Maintenance of first aid kits and medical cabinets

First Aid kits and medical cabinets shall be cleaned and checked every three (3) months. It’s vital to ensure medical supplies with expiry dates are monitored and replaced when passed their expiry date.

We often come across owners, Master and crew members who believe that the expiry dates are not important, and the medicines continue to work when expired. The simple fact is they have expiry dates as the medicine’s components start to break down and fail making them less effective every day following their expiry date!

Flexibility to determine the type and quantity of first aid supplies

If you are operating in Class C, C Restricted, D or E waters, and are required to meet the National Standard for Commercial Vessels (NSCV) Part C7A (Safety Equipment), you now have flexibility to determine the type and quantity of first aid supplies that are appropriate for your operation.

To do this you need to apply for an equivalent solution.

Equivalent Solution

The owner/Master of a vessel operating in operational area C, C Restricted, D or E may undertake a risk assessment of their vessel and operation and determine the appropriate type and quantity of first aid supplies that are to be carried onboard the vessel for that operation.

The risk assessment and subsequent determination of the type and quantity of first aid supplies carried onboard must:

  • Consider the required outcomes of the NSCV Part C7A; and
  • As a minimum comply with the WHS Code of Practice; and
  • Where necessary include additional items needed to address identified risks including the following:
  • Distance/access to medical aid;
  • Communication capability to access medical assistance and advice;
  • Type of operation and activities being undertaken (e.g., types and level of hazards likely to be encountered);
  • Length of voyage;
  • Number of persons onboard (e.g., children, elderly, level of experience, gender, etc.);
  • The level of first aid training of the crew, personnel and persons onboard including the first aid procedures and drills carried out onboard the vessel;
  • Prevailing or expected environmental conditions likely to be encountered on the voyage;
  • Incidents and accidents that have occurred in the operation and in the wider industry sector.

To enable regular review and ease of resupply, it is recommended that the risk assessment and resulting list of first aid items that will be carried onboard the vessel are kept with the records or as part of the vessels SMS.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend that you check your medical supplies against the Scale relevant to your operations and that all items with expiry dates are replaced where the expiry date has passed.

Secondly we recommend you keep a copy of the scale relevant to your operations with your medical supplies for easy reference.


If you carry extra medical supplies our best tip is to ensure you have a list of those with your required scale list.

If you need a list of what’s required either go to the AMSA website or email us providing the following information and we’ll send you a printable list along with an additional medicines form.

Fatigue is one of those sneaky things that will creep up on you and often without you realising it until something happens. It’s been a major problem over the years in maritime industries but especially in the commercial fishing sector.

Fatigue Management A silent villain!

Crew members on charter vessels, ferries, water taxis and other passenger/vehicle transport vessels that operate in Australia are usually short voyage operations.

In addition, they usually operate between fixed times and often with crew changes scheduled in during their operating timetables. Crews on construction vessels are usually controlled by legislation in relation to their operating times.

This makes fatigue relatively easy to manage compared to some other sectors, but it can still be a major issue. Crew members and shore-based workers who fail to get adequate rest between working hours are in risk of suffering from fatigue.

Fishing operations such as net fishing or prawn trawling in bay and/or estuary waters are often either day or night operations allowing sufficient rest periods between voyages.

Others such as long liners, line fishing vessels and offshore trawlers operate offshore and may undertake round the clock operations. This is where fatigue management is critical to ensure the safety of all persons onboard.

In shore-based workplaces workers are subject to fatigue as well based on the hours they work, number of shifts and many other factors that often don’t get taken into account.

Things to consider

Your operations will determine how you manage fatigue. Here are a few pointers on what to consider…

  • Do you operate on scheduled times, around the clock or somewhere in-between
  • Crew/worker rosters (where applicable)
  • When developing rosters time taken for each crew member or worker to travel to and from work
  • Time in-between shifts (hours for rest)
  • How many days in a row (e.g., 3 days on 2 days off)
  • What berthing/bedding facilities are onboard (for extended voyages) or in the workplace (for on-site workers; e.g., FIFO)
  • For vessels operating extended hours how rest periods are managed
  • Who manages fatigue levels onboard or in the workplace

This is a starting point of things to consider before jumping into developing your fatigue management programme!

What to identify when assessing fatigue

To properly assess fatigue, you need to take into account two key elements which are:

  1. Standard working hours which includes
  • Total hours worked per day
  • Days worked per week
  • Total hours worked per week
  • Hours between shifts
  • Night shifts
  • Breaks per shift
  1. Additional hours which takes into account:
  • Overtime
  • Extended hours
  • Times you get called back to work
  • Secondary employment

The combination of the above will identify a crew member or workers risk of fatigue and then allow a process to be put in place, where required to minimise the risk.

Calculating fatigue exposure

The risk of fatigue is calculated by undertaking a risk assessment that is designed to identify all the areas that contribute to fatigue.

In general terms risk of fatigue is broken down as follows:

Low Risk is deemed that a person works less than 50 hours per week

Medium Risk is where a person works between 50 – 70 hours per week

High Risk is where a person works more than 70 hours per week

Developing a fatigue management procedure

This procedure can be quite tricky to ensure it’s on target and I always recommend doing a risk assessment on fatigue for your operations before you start.

When developing a fatigue management procedure here’s the key points to take into account…

  • Identify who monitors fatigue onboard or in the workplace
  • Identify who manages breaks onboard or in the workplace
  • For vessels that have crew changes during operations specify start and finish times; or
  • Workplaces that have worker rotation specify start and finish times
  • For vessels or workers operating extended hours when rest periods are to be taken; and
  • a roster for breaks (times when individual crew members are off duty)

The above points provide the basis for developing your fatigue management procedure but remember it is a tricky one to get right.

Remember that fatigue often goes unnoticed until something happens and that could be anything from a minor injury to loss of life or damage to or loss of a vessel or workplace.

So…please take fatigue seriously because it can be and is a killer!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend that you take fatigue seriously and undertake a detailed risk assessment in relation to fatigue.

You can do a group risk assessment where you take into account all crew members or workers who are operating on the same work hours.

Where there are differences in specific crew members or workers hours you need to do a risk assessment on that person or persons.


When undertaking risk assessments for fatigue our tip is to ensure you cover all aspects of the group or individual crew member or workers hours including total hours worked per week, breaks and the one that most people don’t take into account travel time to and from work.

To get an honest appraisal of a person’s fatigue potential you need to be honest about all their hours both work and rest periods.

If in doubt or you need assistance with fatigue risk assessments don’t hesitate to contact our office because we’re here to help!