The Australia Government has ratified a new Code of Practice for offshore vessel operators to come into effect next year, despite advice from AMMA and Maritime Industry Australia Limited that it did not represent industry best practice.

On 22 August 2018, then-Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation Craig Laundy signed off on the Seacare Authority Code of Practice 2018 – Health and Safety in Shipboard Work, including Offshore Support Vessels.

The Code covers the health and safety of seafarers, contractors and other persons on board prescribed ships under the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 (the OHS (MI) Act).

Under the Act, the Minister has the power to approve codes of practice prepared by the Seafarers Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Authority or any other body to provide “practical guidance to operators of vessels on how to comply with the duties.

The new Code of Practice will commence on 1 January 2019.

In a joint letter to Mr Laundy in April 2018, AMMA and the Maritime Industry Australia Limited raised concerns about the draft code which was provided for industry consultation.

Concerns included the draft not representing industry best practice and that it would result in a Code of Practice that does not meet its principal obligation with the section of the Act to provide guidance to operators.

“Both MIAL and AMMA had understood that guidance to operators was to be provided by way of reference to the Guidelines for Offshore Marine Operations (GOMO) and an Australian supplement addressing Australian operating conditions,” the letter stated.

“We understand this to also be the preferred position of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority who are the inspectorate for OSHMI Act. The most recent draft provided for industry consultation does not reflect this position.”

The correspondence foretold the real potential to cause confusion as to the responsibilities on board vessels and those on facilities.

It also raised concerns about the truncated industry consultation period and called for the Minister to resist approving the Code until a proper consultation period had been undertaken.

For more information about the new code including changes to compliance obligations, please email AMMA’s maritime specialist [email protected].