National transport schemes

In 2009, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to pursue national schemes for the regulation of rail, marine and heavy vehicles as part of the national agenda for a seamless economy.

The national schemes establish single national regulators for these sectors and a single national investigator for rail.

The states and the Northern Territory signed intergovernmental agreements for the national schemes in August 2011.

The national marine scheme commenced on 1 July 2013.

The national rail scheme commenced operation in Victoria on 19 May 2014.

National marine scheme

The national system for domestic commercial vessels (the national marine scheme) commenced in Australia on 1 July 2013.

The changes follow an intergovernmental agreement between the Commonwealth and states and territories signed in August 2011 for a national scheme for all commercial vessels in Australian and coastal waters, noting that responsibility for the vessels is currently divided between the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions.

The scheme requires that responsibility for all commercial vessels regulated by states and territories transfer to the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth legislation

The Commonwealth enacted legislation (the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel National Law) Act 2012) - the national law - using its constitutional powers to establish the scheme.

The national law is drawn largely from Victorian law (the Marine Safety Act 2010) as the most modern of the state and territory marine laws, underscoring Victoria's leading role in reform in this area.

The national law transferred control of over 90 per cent of the Victorian commercial vessel fleet to the Commonwealth when it commenced on 1 July 2013.

Victorian legislation

Victoria has passed local marine legislation to support the national marine scheme.

The Marine (Domestic Commercial Vessel National Law Application) Act 2013 transfers to Commonwealth control a small number of vessels - less than 10 per cent of the Victorian commercial vessel fleet - the Commonwealth cannot reach using its own powers.

The national regulator

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is the regulator for all commercial vessels in Australian coastal and inland waters.

However, the intergovernmental agreement provided for AMSA to delegate day-to-day administration of the national scheme to Transport Safety Victoria.

State laws preserved

The national law is not a holistic one-stop-shop scheme for the regulation of commercial vessels. It does not fully replace state and territory laws and local statutes such as the Marine Safety Act. These continue to apply in part to commercial vessel operations across the state. Examples of key things that remain regulated by local law include waterway operations, pilotage requirements and drug and blood alcohol controls.

Measures like reforms made by the recent Transport Legislation Amendment (Marine Drug and Alcohol Standards Modernisation and Other Matters) Act 2012 are not affected by the national scheme and continue to keep Victoria at the forefront of safety. Accordingly, Victoria's zero blood alcohol limit for operators and masters of commercial vessels and rigorous drug assessment and testing regimes still apply while those vessels are in our state waters.

Benefits of the national scheme

The national scheme:

  • eliminates re-certification and administrative costs when vessel operations transfer between jurisdictions
  • is likely to result in a reduction in the time and costs associated with gaining master and crew qualifications and certificates
  • will continue delivery of benefits contained in Victoria's Marine Safety Act 2010 such as:
    • risk-based survey
    • five-year certification cycle
    • enhanced safety performance through safety duties and operational certification

Rail Safety National Law Application Act 2013

The Rail Safety National Law Application Act 2013 (National Law Application Act) provides the essential foundation for the operation of a national rail safety scheme in Victoria by applying the South Australian-based rail safety national law as the law of Victoria.

The National Law Application Act:

  • satisfies the intergovernmental agreement by applying the national rail safety law thereby enabling Victoria to join the national rail safety regulation scheme
  • empowers an Adelaide-based national regulator to oversee the safety performance of most of Victoria's railways
  • provides for an appropriate degree of continuing local involvement in rail safety regulation in Victoria through a service-level agreement and delegations between the national rail safety regulator and Victoria's existing rail safety regulator
  • derogates from the national law in limited areas to avoid a significant additional red tape burden on Victoria's freight terminal managers and the regional rail link project
  • adjusts local legislation, including the functions and powers of Victoria's Chief Investigator, Transport Safety, to facilitate the operation of a national rail safety investigator.