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OTB Sailing

UPDATED 03.04.2020: Response to boating queries about COVID-19 from Maritime Safety Victoria

26 March 2020

Updated: 3 April 2020

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said these are unprecedented times. The threat of coronavirus to public health is real and everyone must take physical distancing seriously.

“Unfortunately, this means no fishing, no hunting, no boating, no camping, and no golf. Hang up your rods, leave the tinnie in the driveway, and clean your clubs at home,” Professor Sutton said.

“We ask Victorians to stop looking for loopholes. Just do the right thing. The advice is clear; by staying at home you’re saving lives.

Read the media release on the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website.

Other agencies have provided targeted advice:


Frequently asked questions for boaters and Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) maritime stakeholders regarding operations during a pandemic.

Recreational boating

Can I still go fishing or boating?

  • The message is very clear to the Victorian community. There are only four reasons why you should leave home: to get essential goods and services, to access medical services and provide care giving, exercise or to attend work and education. Outside of these reasons, people need to stay home.
  • We are asking the community to use common sense to stop the spread of this deadly virus. These are unprecedented times.
  • People cannot participate in recreational activities like they normally would such as fishing or boating. They need to stay home if not for their own health, but for the health of their loved ones and the wider community.
  • If people do not follow the directions of the Chief Health Officer, Victoria Police can fine individuals $1652 on the spot.
  • Officers can use discretion, but the time for leniency is coming to an end and people need to get the message – if it’s not an essential activity, you need to stay home.

Are safety services still being provided?

  • Water Police are continuing to coordinate rescues and Maritime Search and Rescue (MSAR) agencies are responding. However, MSAR units do not have the same capacity to perform rescues on the water as they normally would.
  • Anyone who chooses to head out on the water is putting themselves and others at risk – not only through the potential spread of COVID-19, but the additional pressure placed on emergency services and search and rescue volunteers.

Will ramps or waterways be closed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak?

  • We are aware of the closure of some waterways – and facilities on land that provide access to waterways and boat ramps.
  • This includes the closure of caravan parks and camping grounds by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the closure or restricted access to some parks by Parks Victoria.
  • Victorian waterways are managed by waterway managers, port management bodies or local port managers, while any facilities on land (including boat ramps) are managed by organisations such as local councils, DELWP or Parks Victoria.
  • In some instances, a waterway may be open, however access may be restricted due to ramp/land closures, and vice versa.
  • As we are notified of closures, we are updating information on the Boating Vic app and website. Please note – as this is a rapidly evolving situation, there will be times that Boating Vic is not completely up to date. Please contact us on [email protected] if you know of any closures.

Are there restrictions on publicly accessible marinas?

We are aware of the closure of some marinas. It is best to contact the operator of a marina directly and to ensure you are following the latest advice from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Marine Licences and Vessel Registrations

Can I still obtain my Marine Licence & PWC endorsement at VicRoads?

  • VicRoads are still issuing and renewing Marine Licences. However, they have ceased to conduct computer-based tests for Marine Licences and PWC Endorsements.
  • You can find more information on their site on how to perform transactions online without having to attend a Customer Service Centre. Many transactions can be completed online if you have an existing VicRoads profile.

Can I still register my boat at VicRoads?

  • VicRoads are still issuing Vessel Registrations. You can find more information on their website on how to perform transactions online without having to attend a Customer Service Centre. Many transactions can be completed online if you have an existing VicRoads profile.

Can I still complete a course for my Marine Licence & PWC endorsement through an Accredited Training Provider?

  • Many Accredited Training Providers have advised MSV they are no longer conducting their scheduled courses. This is in line with the current advice from Victoria’s Chief Health Officer on social distancing.
  • Course participants should contact their preferred training provider to seek further information on course availability.

Boating activity event (BAE) applicants

Will you continue to process BAE and other regulatory applications?

  • Yes. We will continue to work with waterway managers and other stakeholders to process applications for on-water events where appropriate. This includes applications for boating activity exemptions and exclusion zones.
  • We will also continue to work with waterway managers to process applications for:
  1. work notices
  2. waterway rule changes
  3. Notices to Mariners
  4. urgent safety rules.
  • Please note, as the Victorian Government response to the spread of COVID-19 continues, processing times for applications may be affected.

Should COVID-19 be addressed in BAE applications?

  • Event managers are required to identify and address any safety risks likely to be faced by boating event participants, support staff, volunteers, spectators and bystanders. It is important the risks of COVID-19 are adequately identified, addressed and managed when planning and staging an event.
  • All events must comply with any restrictions imposed by Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government or the Federal Government.

As the manager of an event, how does COVID-19 affect my ‘Safety Duty’?

  • Event managers have a ‘safety duty’, as far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure the safety of event participants or persons affected by the event.
  • It is reasonable to conclude event managers are required to consider how the safety of participants, support staff, volunteers, spectators and bystanders will be addressed in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak. This would include consideration of any requirements established by Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government or the Federal Government.

I have an approved event coming up – what should I do?

  • Even though your event application has been approved, subsequent advice from Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government or the Federal Government may impact your application. For example, new social distancing measures may affect the number of people who can participate in your event.
  • It is important your event complies with all requirements relevant for the date the event is to take place, irrespective of when an event application was approved.
  • Follow Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services for the latest updates and adhere to any restrictions imposed by the Federal Government.
  • If you decide to proceed with your event, make sure you consider how you will manage/address all safety risks. The safety of safety of participants, support staff, volunteers, spectators and bystanders should be considered.

I have an approved event, but would like to modify to reduce the number of people involved – what should I do?

  • To modify an approved event, please contact the relevant waterway manager and email us at: [email protected].

I have decided to cancel or reschedule an approved event – what should I do?

  • If an approved event with an associated exclusion zone is cancelled, please contact the relevant waterway manager. Waterway managers are required to revoke the exclusion zone by a Government Gazette notice. Please contact [email protected] if you require assistance.
  • If the event application is still being processed, please advise the relevant waterway manger or us as soon as possible on [email protected].
  • To reschedule an approved event, please contact the relevant waterway manager or contact [email protected] for support.

Waterway managers

I have received an application from a proponent for a BAE to hold an on-water event. I do not believe the safety risk measures proposed are appropriate. What should I do?

  • As the waterway manager, you must be confident the safety management plan for the event adequately addresses all safety risks. The safety of participants, support staff, volunteers, spectators and bystanders should be considered.
  • If the proposal does not adequately address safety risks – or meet the requirements of Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government or the Federal Government – you must return the application to the proponent and request they consider if/how they can hold the event in a way that adequately addresses risk and/or complies with requirements.
  • In some instances, the proponent may determine to postpone/cancel the event until further notice. Relevant advice is available from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

I have determined the need to change a waterway rule or close a waterway until further notice. Can I do that?

  • A waterway manager, port management body or local port manager can apply for rules to be made for waterways under their control, through mechanisms such as the making of permanent waterway rules (which involves a public consultation process).
  • Additionally, waterway managers can submit to Transport Safety Victoria an application for an Urgent Safety Rule or submit a Work Permit application on their waterway. This can be done by contacting us at [email protected].

Compliance and investigations

Will MSV still be undertaking compliance activities on the water?

  • The extent of our compliance activities will be dependent on the advice of Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, the Victorian Government or the Federal Government.
  • We will continue to monitor compliance, issues and incidents, and to work with our compliance partners to monitor boating activities on our waterways.

What do I do if I see unsafe activity on the water?

  • Always call triple zero (000) if you are involved in or witness an emergency.
  • If you witness dangerous behaviour, please contact Water Police on (03) 9399 7500 and provide details of what you are observing.
  • If you wish to discuss any other matter relating to maritime safety, call us on 1800 223 022 or email us at [email protected].

Will you still be undertaking investigations into reported maritime incidents? 

  • Yes. We will continue to monitor incidents and respond and investigate appropriately.

What do I do if I am the master/owner of a domestic commercial vessel (DCV) and am involved in a maritime incident?

  • You must complete an Incident Alert Form #18 immediately and then submit an Incident Report Form #19 within 72 hours. Both forms can be completed and submitted online or downloaded and emailed to AMSA. Reporting a DCV Marine Incident.

Are recreational boating incidents still required to be reported? 

  • Yes, no changes have been made to reporting arrangements.

When and how do I report a recreational boating incident?

  • Where death, injury or property damage occurs on a recreational vessel, report the incident details as soon as possible to police officers present or to the police station nearest to where the accident took place.

Pilotage, licencing & qualifications

Can I still apply for a new Pilot Exempt Master certificate or renew my current or expired one?

  • Yes, however we ask for your patience as there may be delays due to resourcing and system limitations. Also, in response to social distancing requirements, the way we undertake examinations may change. For example, we may use video conferencing.
  • If you are seeking a new PEM certificate or the renewal of PEM certificate, please complete the relevant form (CC13 and CC14 respectively) from the link below and send with all supporting documentation to: [email protected]
  • Please do not post any documentation as TSV staff are working remotely and will not be able to access these documents.
  • You can access forms on our website.

Will you still be undertaking Pilot and Pilot Exempt Master examinations during the pandemic period?

  • Yes, however in response to social distancing requirements, the way we undertake examinations may change. For example, we may use video conferencing.

Can I still get my Local Knowledge Certificate application processed?

  • Yes, however we ask for your patience as there may be delays due to resourcing and system limitations. Also, in response to social distancing requirements, the way we undertake examinations may change. For example, we may use video conferencing.
  • If you are seeking a new LKC or the renewal of an LKC, please complete the relevant form (CC9 and CC10 respectively) from the link below and send with all supporting documentation to: [email protected]
  • Please do not post any documentation as TSV staff are working remotely and will not be able to access these documents.
  • You can access forms on our website.

Will I still be able to sit my Local Knowledge Certificate examination?

  • Yes, however in response to social distancing requirements, the way Harbour Masters undertake examinations may change. For example, Harbour Masters may use video conferencing, tele conferencing or online modules.

Will I still be issued my LKC/PEM/Pilot Card?

  • Yes, however we ask for your patience as there may be delays due to resourcing and system limitations.  Staff are working remotely and will post your respective cards out when they are able to access them.

Will you still be able to process evidentiary certificates?

Yes, however we ask for your patience as there may be delays due to resourcing and system limitations.

Impact to MSV business operations

Will Maritime Safety Victoria still be operating throughout the pandemic response?

  • Yes. The Maritime Safety Branch of Transport Safety Victoria remains open for business. Our systems and processes allow for us to work remotely. We have tested for this and will continue to provide services as needed.

Will TSV staff be contactable during the COVID-19 outbreak?

  • Staff can be contacted via their usual telephone numbers or email addresses. Individual staff hours may vary from standard office hours at times.

I need to talk to someone from TSV but don’t know how to make contact. What do I do?

  • Call us on 1800 223 022 and follow the prompts to be connected to a member of the Maritime Safety team. Alternatively, email us at [email protected] and someone will get back to you.

Will TSV be maintaining a presence at boat shows and seminars?

  • MSV staff have cancelled attendance at all exhibitions and shows for the immediate future.  If you are scheduling an event for later in the year, feel free to get in touch with us on 1800 223 022.

Will my Freedom of Information application still be processed? 

  • Yes, however we ask for your patience as there may be delays due to resourcing and system limitations.

Will I be able to come into the TSV office to submit an application or talk with staff?

  • It is unlikely our office will be open to the public during the COVID-19 outbreak. To be safe, call first on 1800 223 022.

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