Australia seeks to increase penalties for failure to assist vessels in distress

The existing penalties under the provisions of the Navigation Act 1912, which deals with rendering of assistance to vessels in distress and the prevention of collisions, may be amended under a Bill currently before the House of Representatives in Australia.

The Bill seeks to revise the penalties applicable to the failure to render assistance in a collision or to ships or aircraft in distress. It should be noted that these provisions only apply to vessels to which part II of the Act applies - namely Australian vessels or vessels involved in the coastal trade and vessels not registered in Australia but owned by Australian entities and crewed predominantly by Australian citizens.

Currently the penalty applicable to the Master of a ship who fails to render assistance to another ship involved in a collision is a fine of up to AUD 20,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of up to 10 years. Under the new provisions the option of the fine is removed with the penalty being up to 10 ten years’ imprisonment.

In addition, the penalty currently applicable to the Master of a vessel requisitioned by a vessel in distress who fails to proceed to the assistance of the vessel in distress is a fine of AUD 20,000 and /or up to ten years’ imprisonment. Under the new provisions the penalty is increased to a mandatory term of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Click here for a full overview of the proposed Bill, courtesy of Norton White.

Contact: Howard Snaith