Vessel compliance

​​​​The department is committed to the principles of informed compliance, ensuring biosecurity requirements are transparent. Read all about the department’s approach to compliance and the biosecurity compliance statement.

The Vessel Compliance Scheme

The Vessel Compliance Scheme (VCS) is part of the department’s comprehensive strategy to provide greater transparency of Australia’s biosecurity requirements aimed at facilitating compliance by our maritime clients and stakeholders. VCS operates through MARS.

The VCS has been designed with the best interest of vessel operators and shipping agents in mind.

The scheme was developed to improve the transparency of the risks biosecurity officers will focus on as part of the inspections, and the consequences of non-compliance. This will ensure vessel masters and crew are able to better prepare the vessel to reduce the likelihood of non-compliance, thereby improving the chances of qualifying as ‘compliant’ entities to take advantage of reduced intervention and associated benefits.

Vessel operators who understand and consistently comply with Australia’s biosecurity obligations will save time and money

Qualifying for the VCS

Commercial vessel operators must meet the following requirements to be eligible for the VCS and quality for reduced intervention:

  • A minimum of 3 voyages to Australia in a 12 month period
  • Below the individual inspection threshold of 10 points for a voyage
  • Below the collective threshold of 20 points over 3 voyages.

Once on the scheme, vessels will receive reduced physical inspections over a defined voyage cycle.

How the VCS works

It is well recognised within the department that the majority of our clients either do or want to do the right thing. Most non-compliance occurs due to vessel masters, crew and shipping agents being unaware of our requirements and consequences of non-compliance.

To help operators comply, we have developed a demerit action list and associated points which determines vessel eligibility for the VCS. Understand and consistently follow these rules to achieve biosecurity compliance.
During an inspection demerit actions may be accrued. For each negative finding, demerit points will be applied. To stay on the scheme, a vessel must stay under the identified point thresholds.

See the VCS brochure and poster available from the MARS communications and training materials webpage.

The VCS is just one tool to help vessel operators comply with Australia’s biosecurity requirements. See the range of tools available on the MARS Communications and training materials webpage.

Demerits and enforcement

The application of a demerit action does not replace any other enforcement actions available to the department under the Biosecurity Act 2015. A master or agent that commits an offence may be liable to penalties in addition to VCS demerits.