Australian authorities have fined a ‘hire and drive’ operator for illegal charter sending a strong message to operators about breaching the conditions of their certificate of survey.

A ‘hire and drive’ operator was fined $3,756 by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) for chartering a domestic commercial vessel (DCV) on Sydney Harbour without the required classification.

The vessel operator has breached the conditions of the certificate of survey and the certificate of operation by operating a class 4 vessel as a class 2 vessel, according to AMSA authority.

As it is reported, they have operated the vessel for charter without the appropriate crew complement, without a safety management system that addresses the passenger charter operations, and on a vessel that was not approved against the required standards.

“The survey and certification process are critical to ensure that at the time of survey, DCVs are compliant with Australian laws and standards,” said AMSA’s Acting National Operations Manager, Regions David Marsh.

“Failure to operate according to your service category is against the law and may jeopardise the safety of those on board your vessel.

“AMSA will take strong action if skippers and operators are dishonest and break these laws,” he added.

As far as the conditions of the charter, the authority notes that the vessel was chartered out as a class 2 (non-passenger) vessel, with a skipper, when it only held certification as a class 4 (hire and drive) vessel. 

The operator advertised the vessel ‘for hire’ through an online third-party agency, which exclusively advertises class 1 (passenger) and class 2 vessels.

All vessels that are required to hold a certificate of survey must comply with survey requirements for the relevant service category, according to the Australian authority.

“Unless otherwise exempted, vessels must also carry a certificate of operation that addresses the safety management of the operations that they are undertaking,” it is said.

Under the national law and the national standards for commercial vessels, class 1 and 2 vessels are required to be operated by appropriately qualified crew.

These vessels also have higher design, build and safety equipment standards to ensure they are safe for carrying passengers, and will handle the rigours of chartering where passengers have an expectation that they will be in safe hands.

Furthermore, class 4 certification allows operators to hire vessels out to the public for leisure activities where the hirer drives the vessel themselves.

As for any recreational vessel owner, the hirer of a class 4 vessel accepts considerable responsibility for their own safety as the driver of the vessel.