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Survey & Vessel Registration

For information on registration requirements, click here.

If you wish to operate a vessel commercially in New South Wales, your vessel may require to be in survey.

Commercial vessels are those used for any type of business, trade or commerce. They can include fishing vessels, tourist/charter boats, workboats, ferries, water taxis, dive boats, hire and drive boats. All commercial vessels are assessed in accordance with the Uniform Shipping Laws (USL) Code or to approved Classification Society Standards.

Some vessels are exempt from survey

  • Class 3D/3E professional fishing vessels,
  • Class 2 work vessels less than 6 metres carrying no fare-paying passengers,
  • Class 2D/2E work vessels that do not carry passengers, nor dangerous goods, is not a landing barge, a fuel barge, a tug, a mooring barge or crane barge with a lifting capacity greater than 5 tonnes, or a dredge of more than 24 metres in length,
  • Class 4E hire vessels subject to a Hire and Drive Licence are exempt from Initial Survey

whilst 3C fishing boats less than 7.5 meters in length require Initial Survey, but are exempt from Periodic Survey.


Link to the list of Commercial Vessel fees.

Initial Survey

Initial Survey is the process of surveyor inspections, plan approval and stability approval for vessels entering NSW survey.

At the completion of the Initial Survey a Vessel Permit is issued and the vessels enters Periodic Survey.

Completion Of Application For Initial Survey

An application for initial survey form is to be completed and returned to the Authority together with the prescribed fee. This fee only covers duties completed by the Authority and does not include the cost of consultants engaged in preparing plans, stability etc for approval by the Authority.

New Vessels

Before the start of new vessel construction, a minimum of 2 sets of plans are to be forwarded to the Authority for approval, together with the prescribed fee.

The size and class of the vessel will determine the extent of plans and information required. In general plans are required for new vessel construction in the following cases:

  • All fibreglass vessels
  • Class 1 & Class 2 vessels 7.5 metres and over
  • Class 3 vessels 7.5 metres and over. Class 3 vessels less than 7.5 metres require an accurate arrangement plan when operation will involve large weights on decks or rigging eg tuna fishing, beam trawling, large fish tanks on deck etc.
  • Class 4 vessels 7.5 metres and over. Construction plans for hire houseboats may be replaced by a list of scantling for the house, deck and pontoons

Existing Vessels

The plan submission requirements for existing vessels are the same as for new vessel construction.

Existing timber fishing vessels less than 15 metres may be considered without formal plans if currently in survey in another state.

In order to ascertain the extent of survey work necessary before proceeding with Initial Survey owners are advised to have a preliminary survey inspection completed by a Marine Surveyor or Naval Architect with commercial vessels experience.


Survey During Construction

New Vessels

Vessel construction is not to start until approval of the construction drawings have been completed and the builder notified. If any construction is started before this approval is given, the builder accepts all responsibility for any remedial work which may be required as a consequence of the construction approval.

The Authority will inspect the vessel at various stages during construction in particular:

  • Framework completed and ready for plating, or at various stages during hull lamination in GRP construction
  • Hull plating and stiffening completed or completion of framing in GRP construction
  • Installation of machinery, propulsion system, piping systems, electrical systems, fuel tanks etc
  • Checking of lines plan, bulkheads, arrangement, draft marks etc
  • Witnessing of the appropriate stability test

The particular survey program for each vessel should be discussed with the surveyor responsible for the initial survey.

Existing Vessels

Inspections of the vessel are required, the number of inspections being dependent on the size, classification and condition of the vessel. The surveyor will be able to indicate these during the first survey inspection.

Stability Approval

After the witnessing of the appropriate stability test by a NSW Maritime Authority surveyor, a report should be forwarded to the Authority for stability approval.

The stability report in most instances is complex, and requires the services of a consultant naval architect for preparation.

Completion Of Initial Survey

A final inspection is required at the completion of the Initial Survey process to check the vessel’s safety equipment and to conduct sea trials to confirm the vessel’s safe operation, and trial the machinery, pumps and electrical installation.

All outstanding plans, stability information, test certificates, documentation and any outstanding fees must be submitted to the Authority before a vessel permit will be issued.

Prototype Approval

Prototype approval is a process of plan and stability approval, and surveyor inspections for a series of vessels entering NSW Survey. At the completion of this process the design is granted Prototype Approval and an associated Prototype Approval number. The benefits of prototype approval include:

  • Eliminating the need to submit plans for each vessel.
  • Eliminating the wait for plan approval of each vessel.
  • Streamlined survey procedures for vessels less than 10 meters in length.
  • Clear control over ownership of a design.
  • Enhanced marketing appeal as a Prototype Approved vessel.
  • Reduced costs for a series of vessels. The breaks even point should be 2-3 vessels.

Additional informationon Prototype Approval can be obtained through the Vessel Survey Branch.

Issue Of A Certificate Of Survey

On satisfactory completion of plan approval, stability approval and inspections, the vessel will be issued with a NSW Maritime Vessel Permit valid in most cases for 12 months


Details Required On Plans

New Vessels

Type of Plan
(When Required)

Detailed Required

General Arrangement

Tanks, deck openings, seating and berthing, bulkhead locations, accessways, bulwarks & railings, navigation lights, ventilation, ballast, buoyancy material, the intended use of each space, watertight closing appliances

Lines Plan
(Where hydrostatic data is required)
Body plan, sheer plan, draft marks and watertight bulkhead locations
Sail Plan
Sailing Vessels only)
Location and size of sails and underwater profile of vessel from keel to truck
Damage Control Plan
(Vessels 25 metres and over)
Boundaries of watertight compartments, openings and means for closure, arrangements for correcting list
Structural Drawings Structural profile and decks, bulkheads, sections, superstructure, engine girders, fastening/welding/layup details, material details, thickness and material of windows and window frames
Rudder and Steering Gear

Stock and bearings, construction, couplings, emergency steering, and materials used

Structural Fire Protection Type and disposition of fire divisions, alternative fire protection systems, location of escapes
Machinery arrangement Arrangement and function of main and auxiliary machinery
Piping schematic Bilge, fuel, sanitary, venting, exhaust, steam etc, valves and overflows
Electrical schematic
(32 volts and over)
Electrical equipment, wiring overload, low voltage and other protection devices, emergency power arrangements where necessary
Shaft line Propeller shafts, brackets, material details, cowlings, stern tube and bearings
Freestanding fuel tanks Construction, baffles, support, materials
Fire control plan
(Vessels 35 metres and over)
Location and type of life saving appliances, access routes
Sewage holding tank details For all vessels operating on Sydney Harbour, Murray River or inland waters. It is an offence to discharge sewage in any NSW waterways, under the Clean Waters Act

Existing Vessels

Plans are required as for "New Construction" except that, where no construction plans are available the need for these plans may be waived subject to certain provisions.

Presentation Of Drawings

Plans should be submitted according to one of the following scales:

1:1, 1:2, 1:5, 1:10, 1:20, 1:25, 1:50, 1:75, 1:100. Imperial scaled drawings are only acceptable for existing designs prepared prior to 1987.

For ease of handling and filing, the plans are to be folded to A4 size.

  • Electrical schematics for systems of 32 volts and higher are required for vessels of all lengths and classes.
  • Fuel tank plans (where tanks are not portable) are required for vessels of all lengths and classes.
  • For vessels where no plans are lodged with the Authority, the Initial Survey Approval Report for the vessel should be accompanied by a photograph. This will then be incorporated in the Survey Record Book that is issued by the NSW Maritime Authority to assist in periodic surveys.


For information on Initial Survey requirements phone (02) 9563 8777 between 8.30 and 4.30pm Monday to Friday or fax (02) 9563 8788.

NSW Maritime Authority
Commercial Operations Branch
Locked Bag 5100
Camperdown NSW 1450




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