I’m often asked, “what triggers a marine investigation?” Before I answer that I think it’s wise to ensure all know what a marine incident is.

What is a Marine Incident?

Marine incidents are defined by relevant Australian laws and include a number of different types of incidents.

A marine incident may include the following:

  1. Death of, or injury to, a person associated with the operation or navigation of a vessel
  2. The loss or presumed loss of a vessel
  3. Collision of a vessel with another vessel
  4. Collision by a vessel with an object
  5. The grounding, sinking, flooding or capsizing of a vessel
  6. Fire on board a vessel
  7. Loss of stability of a vessel that affects the safety of the vessel
  8. The structural failure of a vessel
  9. A close quarters situation
  10. A dangerous occurrence, which is an occurrence that could have caused the death of, or serious personal injury to, any person on the vessel

It can also include:

  1. An event that results in, or could have resulted in:
    • the death of, or injury to, a person on board a vessel
    • the loss of a person from a vessel
    • a vessel becoming disabled and requiring assistance
  1. The fouling or damaging by a vessel of:
    • any pipeline or submarine cable
    • any aid to navigation
  2. Other incidents that are prescribed by the regulations include but are not limited to:
    • failure in operation of a component of material handling equipment, whether or not a person is injured because of the failure
    • loss of cargo of a vessel
    • significant damage to a vessel
    • a seafarer is injured or contracts an illness that incapacitates them from the performance of their duty
  3. Any serious danger to navigation on or near the course of the vessel

When to report a marine incident

There are 2 reports to be submitted as follows:

  1. Incident Alert: this is to be submitted as soon as is reasonably possible after the incident
  2. Incident Report: this must be submitted with 72 hours of the incident by the Master or owner of the vessel.

When AMSA investigates

AMSA will determine the appropriate response to each marine incident on a case-by-case basis. Whether or not an investigation occurs is determined by factors including:

  • Existence and extent of fatalities/serious injuries.
  • Anticipated safety value of an investigation, including the likelihood of improving the understanding of the scope and impact of any safety system failures.
  • Impact of the incident on the public, in particular the potential impact on public confidence in the safety of domestic commercial vessels.
  • Impact on the environment.
  • Likelihood of safety or regulatory action arising from the investigation.
  • Relevance to an identified or targeted safety or compliance program.
  • Timeliness of marine incident notification.
  • The need to deter the behaviour that led to the incident.
  • Resource availability.

In some cases, we may conduct a limited fact-finding investigation or no investigation at all.

Investigations are undertaken by AMSA staff who may utilise the services of compliance partners from another state, territory or Australian Government Agencies.

How do AMSA use investigation findings

We may use the findings from investigations to:

  • Inform our understanding of risk and the safety and compliance culture in the domestic commercial vessel industry.
  • Inform industry education and awareness programs, and changes to regulatory instruments or standards.
  • Add to our existing data for ongoing analysis.

Remember…if the investigation identifies that you are in the wrong then they will take the appropriate action in relation to the severity of the incident.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Number one recommendation is to avoid incidents where possible! We recognise that some incidents are just accidents and no matter how much you minimise the risk at times all risk cannot be removed.

We strongly recommend that you look carefully at your operation to ensure existing and potential risks are either eliminated or mitigated to a safe level.

The idea is that if you are involved in a marine incident you have a system and documentation behind you to identify that you have taken all precautions to ensure a safe operation.


If you are unsure about preparing an incident alert or a marine incident report contact our office on 07 4242 1412 and we can guide you through the process.

DO NOT at any time try to avoid submitting an incident report as there is always someone who witnessed the incident or was aware of it. By not submitting an incident report you are actually in breach of the law and may be subject to legal action.