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Beware of Queensland! 

 Circular for Queensland Boat Owners

 A Boat Owner Just Wants to Know????

 Dear Minister,
I appreciate any time you can spend with this issue. My concerns highlight an apparent problem in the application of some legislation within msq

I am aware from my experience with visiting yachts that the issues I am raising are of considerable concern to many boat owners.

My experiences have mainly been with yachts that have visited Queensland and then passed through the NT. This includes both Australian and foreign yachts.

This matter relates, initially, to my own experiences with MSQ (Marine Safety Queensland) while trying to obtain Queensland registration for my own yacht.

I am the owner of a 16.08 m ferro cement yacht, privately owned, and I wish to have it registered in Queensland. The yacht has Australian registration 385810 "Myambla". I have lived on the yacht for 30 years and sailed it overseas and around some of Australia.

Inability to Obtain Vessel Registration

I wish to obtain Queensland registration so I can legally sail and use the vessel in Queensland waters. (As an Australian I feel entitled to this)

I began this process over two months ago and still have not managed to achieve any outcome.

As my yacht is over 15 m (by 1.08m), I am required to comply with the 67A TOMPA requirements for insurance cover for pollution clean up ($250 000 cover) and wreck removal ($10 000 000).

If an owner cannot obtain these two insurance covers, there is an exemption pathway offered by msq. I am very aware of the requirements to meet these exemptions. They are expensive, difficult and take a minimum of 12 weeks to be processed (making them unrealistic for visiting yachts). They seem designed for very large vessels. (mainly to manage the abandonment of large vessels on beaches and reefs)

The exemption documents do not absolve the vessel owner of liability for the two issues of pollution clean up and wreck removal. I am retired and could not possibly pay for wreck removal or pollution clean up. So I feel that I should be able to obtain adequate insurance. This also seems to me to be the responsible approach to concerns over the well being of the marine environment.(Of which I am a strong advocate)

In an attempt to find out all I could about the exemption requirements: in particular the fine details of survey requirements and risk management, I sent off two emails to msq . I only received a response to my third email, possibly because I prefaced it with the suggestion I might have to contact your office.

I also submitted to msq that I had spent much time trying to obtain either a stand-alone insurance policy within Australia to meet the two requirements, or a comprehensive policy that could have the two special issues covered. Without any success.

I have not found an insurance company that will offer the stand-alone cover. Australian companies only offer the special cover as additions to (or sometimes within) existing policies.

Further to this, my yacht is ferro cement and as such I cannot obtain a comprehensive policy in Australia for it. So I cannot attach the two requirements to a non-existing policy!

Clearly this left me in a difficult position. I can't meet the two msq requirements.

I managed to contact an overseas company that will provide me with a comprehensive policy on my ferro cement yacht and that company will also provide (for an additional premium) cover for the $250 000 pollution clean up. However, that company regards the $10 000 000 cover requirement for wreck removal of my 16 m yacht as "quite absurd". They have offered me a $250 000 cover amendment (for wreck removal) to the comprehensive policy (again for an addition to the premium) This clearly does not meet the msq conditions.
In my second unanswered email to msq, I included this information along with contact details for that insurance company. I suggested that they may consider it as acceptable. I have had no response to this suggestion.

I have not received a sensible response from msq to date. Their only response was on the 15 th October.
I can email your office a copy of my dealings with msq if required..

Considering that it is now the 22nd Oct, I suspect that msq. is not really able to address my concerns. I suspect they just hope that I will go away.

I have nearly as much sympathy for their dilemma as I have for my own.

Problems with the Legislation

It seems to me that there is a fundamental flaw in the legislation.
I should not find myself restricted in such a manner. I should not have to spend time and effort trying to do the right thing.

If the legislation to protect the reef was really "serious" then there should be a genuine collection of revenue based on some real parameters. I know that assessing various vessels is difficult, but the current legislation does not make sense.

For example, a smaller private motor vessel marginally less than the 15 m,(say 14.9 m) that carries say 1500 L of fuel oil, may be used extensively for visits to the reef or islands. If it has an accident, the clean up may be well in excess of $250 000 because of the large quantity of fuel oil carried. It may sink (wreck) over a shallow reef that prevents salvage vessels from accessing it. The subsequent wreck removal may well be very difficult. Possibly impossible! (read "expensive")

This 14.9 m vessel did not have to meet the two msq requirements due to its size. The owner does not have to meet any requirements such as survey or have any risk management plan in place. He only needs to be registered and have the private skipper's license for a vessel with more than 4.5 hp.(Plus the normal safety equipment) He is not compelled to insure his vessel so may carry absolutely no other public liability insurance. If he has inadequate assets, then the taxpayer will probably pay the clean up bill.

Now, for some one with a 15.1 m private vessel (20 cm longer), everything is suddenly very different. The owner may only carry a few hundred litres of fuel and may only use the vessel once a year - or never. As I have outlined above, it seems that this owner must carry insurance or seek the exemption.

By insisting on the insurance you are essentially compelling an unwilling owner to take out comprehensive insurance (stand alone cover not being available) or you (meaning the legislation) have accepted (through the exemption) that the reef is not really worth protecting (as the person seeking the exemption does so on the condition that insurance is not available.. see the msq exemption requirements). These are oddly conflicting positions to adopt. (Irrational?)

The somewhat arbitrary but dramatic shift in management policy due to a length variation of 0.2 m reeks of inconsistency and clumsiness. It is irrational. It is arbitrary. It is very unfair. It is probably legally challengeable. It is bad legislation. It brings the administration of marine safety in Queensland into disrepute. (I can strongly assure you of the disrepute matter.) It commonly leads to avoidance.(People just take a gamble they won't be caught, and in some parts of the Queensland coast this is very common.)

A Proposal

There is a constant claim that the annual registration is nothing but a revenue raising device, however I do understand that registration fees probably support some services. But, as for vehicle (cars, trucks etc) registration, why not include (or even offer to include) this (assumed) essential insurance component in the registration fee?

Base it on a sliding scale of, say length.(Boat volume - a cubic measure - may be a better indicator of historical damage to the reef, so the scale may not be linear eg the registration insurance cost component increases as the cube (i.e Insurance cost component = constant x length3 )). Whatever. Keep it simple. Maybe use the existing length categories used for the current registration cost table.

This would mean that all boats (with power greater than 4.5 hp) have insurance for the msq requirements. The insurance could be based on real time usage rather than annual payments (eg an owner may wish to de-register their vessel for 6 months. Like car insurance they can rightfully, receive a rebate.)
It would guarantee that competing broker's fees would not gobble up insurance dollars.

The annual insurance premium component of the registration could be used to actually address issues such as more/better moorings/signage near popular reefs and thus actually enhance safety and aid in the protection of the reef. Surely, prevention is better than cure.

It would seem reasonable that a vessel owner may opt out of the insurance component of their registration if they could show that they already possessed it through a commercial insurer. This would be similar to the compulsory third party personal insurance model used for car insurance. This would also serve as a "balance and check" on the premiums and also allow the commercial insurance companies a competitive "door" to a new market. It would also dramatically increase the number of clients within the market (as all private vessels with power over 4.5 hp would require the insurance).

There already is a special "extra" within the registration costs for - "A $16.15 recreational use fee collected by Queensland Transport on behalf of the Department of Primary Industries for fish restocking."
So the practice of an additional impost is already in place.
Further, I would suggest that msq "flatten" the basic registration fee from the minuscule $48.80 (for vessels under 4.5 m) to $315.30 (for vessels 20.1 m and over) if an insurance component for pollution and wreck removal are to be included, other wise the fee cost would rise very dramatically for a small length increase.

Visiting Yachts

For visiting private yachts from interstate and overseas, the managing of the short term registration would now be a one stop shop issue rather than chasing insurance companies who want annual premiums. No surveys, no hassles. No hoofing around town comparing insurance premiums.

Overseas vessels often have problems explaining all this to their home country insurance company. Particularly the $10 000 000 wreck removal requirement.

Many overseas cruising vessel owners choose specifically not to carry comprehensive insurance (as these policies are often very restrictive). When visiting, they do not want to go through all the problems of getting a comprehensive policy for a complete year when they may only want to stay for a few months. They weigh up options. One of which is to not visit Queensland which deprives local of $'s. (They often choose to make Darwin their only Australian stop over as these msq requirements do not exist there.)
Another is to ignore the rules and go where there are fewer "inspectors". The current msq legislation actually "encourages" criminal behaviour!
(There are many hundreds of visiting yachts each year to Darwin, so we are talking about a potentially very large collection of criminals!!... not to mention visiting yachts from NSW and Victoria)

Registration could be done by email. (Yachties normal communication system) The only data required would be length of the vessel, which most vessels can supply from national registration papers or vessel type or builders plate. If this fails, any registration officer can readily check the length of a boat. No survey required.

A relevant observation

A clue to the origin of the problem lies in a statement from msq staffer kimberly.s.foster@msq.qld.gov.au (sent to me)

"Maritime Safety Queensland consulted with the insurance industry during
drafting of the legislation. $250,000 for pollution clean up was based on
the costs to respond to a number of incidents in Queensland over the last
10 years, the quantity of pollutants onboard and the risk of recreational
ships causing marine pollution. The $10 million salvage and wreck removal
was based on advice from the insurance industry (in Australia) that a
standard fully comprehensive insurance policy already provided this level
of coverage. This is the first issue we have had brought to our attention
with the $10 million component. I will be contacting the representatives
of the insurance industry we liaised during the drafting of the legislation
to clarify current practices and whether there are issues we need to
address further."

You will notice that nowhere was there any mention of any consultation with the actual owners of vessels or any boating organisations!! It seems that they only consulted with the insurance companies!! Talk about leaving Dracular in charge of the Blood Bank. It all becomes clear doesn't it?

The part " a standard fully comprehensive insurance policy already provided this level
of coverage"., turns out simply not to be true at all. It is unique to Queensland and it is an option. It is not required elsewhere. It may be included automatically by some Queensland brokers. (It is more prevalent within some commercial (eg charter boat) policies where public liability is of paramount concern.)
Also some companies only have $5 000 000 max components in their third party components, not $10 000 000.
(However, this is all irrelevant for my case, as I can't get "a standard fully comprehensive insurance policy" in Australia.)


There are a couple of issues here. For myself, the primary one is the seemingly impossible task of getting registration and still complying with reef protection. I would appreciate any help here.

However, there are other matters I hope to have touched on. I would like to see a serious review of the whole model for achieving reef protection insurance.

I (and others) believe the whole system to be both unfair and difficult.

Final note

I don't wish to be difficult or complaining, and maybe there is a simple solution here. If there were, I would greatly appreciate hearing about it. However, after two months of chasing this issue and getting nowhere, I think that there is some basis for my complaints.

I hope something positive comes out of this before the concerns spread to national and international cruising/yachting journals. Recent events with Australian customs officials have done great damage to our international reputation and has turned many of the cruising fraternity folk (with their $'s) away from Australia.

The msq requirements are doing the same thing for Queensland.

Thank you for any consideration.

Bill Shorter


Post Script
I have just been checking the Queensland transport website only to see the outrageous registration fee increases (as of Monday 20 th Oct)
This is horrific! This is some sick joke, surely?

Length General Pensioners / Senior Card Holders % Increase
Old Fee New Fee Old Fee New fee General
Up to and including 4.5 m A$68.90 A$81.50 A$42.55 A$48.80 18.3
4.51 m - 6 m A$108.50 A$161.30 A$62.35 A$88.70 48.7
6.01 m - 10 m A$148.15 A$268.05 A$82.15 A$142.10 80.9
10.01 m - 15 m A$174.50 A$393.85 A$95.35 A$205.00 125.7
15.01 m - 20 m A$214.05 A$488.30 A$115.10 A$252.20 128.
20.01 m and over A$267.00 A$614.50 A$141.60 A$315.30 130.

I would suggest that this stupendous increase be used to cover all the msq pollution clean up and wreck removal insurance requirements.

 And the Response?

Mr William Shorter

Dear Mr Shorter

Thank you for your email dated 22 October 2008 to the Honourable John Mickel MP, Minister for Transport, Trade, Employment and Industrial Relations regarding the requirement under Queensland legislation for all ships over 15 metres to have insurance for pollution cleanup, salvage and wreck removal. The Minister has asked that I respond on his behalf.

There have been a number of recent maritime incidents in Queensland waters that have posed a significant risk to navigational safety and the protection of the marine environment. On most of these occasions, Maritime Safety Queensland incurred costs as a result of cleaning up the discharge of a pollutant, removing a potential risk of a pollution discharge or preventing a ship from being a navigational hazard. The highest percentage of response actions involved vessels less than 35 metres in length, which can be an equally significant source of pollution as larger vessels.

In 2005, the Queensland Government undertook public consultation throughout the State with all stakeholders, including the boating community, about the proposal to introduce a legislative requirement for ships over 15 metres to have ship insurance. Amendments to the Transport Operations (Marine Pollution) Act 1995 were passed in 2006 with subsequent amendments to the Transport Operations (Marine Pollution) Regulation 1995 passed in 2007. This legislation does not impact on your ability to register your ship in Queensland. Registration enquiries should be directed to a Queensland Transport Customer Service Centre.

During consultation it was identified that some ships, particularly those of ferro-cement construction, may have difficulties complying with the legislation. To address this concern the legislation provides an exemption for case-by-case assessment by Maritime Safety Queensland. To provide an exemption, Maritime Safety Queensland needs to be satisfied that a ship is seaworthy and does not pose an unacceptable risk to marine pollution or marine safety. In the interest of transparency this assurance needs to be provided by an independent and qualified marine surveyor at a cost to the ship owner.

As the requirement for ship insurance is established under an Act, it is not possible for an exemption to be provided other than through an amendment to the relevant Regulation. In accordance with Queensland?s normal legislative processes, the minimum period of time required to make an amendment to the Transport Operations (Marine Pollution) Regulation 2008 to lawfully establish a ship insurance exemption would be 12 weeks.

At this stage, Maritime Safety Queensland has no plans to review the current legislation. I am advised that Maritime Safety Queensland has noted your comments and that the agency is working with the insurance industry to address the issues and concerns raised by the boating community to improve ship owners' ability to comply with this requirement.

I understand that Maritime Safety Queensland is still to provide information on how to assess seaworthiness from outside of Queensland for a possible exemption. As there is no accredited surveyor system in place in the Northern Territory, Maritime Safety Queensland is investigating the best course of action and will forward the relevant information as soon as it is available.

I trust that this information has provided further clarity on this matter.
If you require any further information, please call Ms Kimberly Foster, Maritime Services Branch on (07) 3120 7428.

Yours sincerely

Assistant Policy Advisor