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Commercial Houseboat crewing exemption

In response to BIA’s advocacy over the last three years on behalf of the Class 4 DCV houseboat sector, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has put in place a new exemption to support houseboat business owners and employees operating houseboats when not on hire.

The new Exemption 48 – Marine Safety (Houseboats) Exemption 2024 provides for masters and crew of Class 4 houseboats up to 24 metres in length to perform certain activities when not on hire, providing they hold at least a Coxswain Grade 3 certificate of competency and meet other conditions under the exemption.

Since plans for the Coxswain 3 qualification were proposed to provide an entry level commercial vessel qualification, but limited to vessels up to 12 metres in length, BIA has worked to find a solution for houseboat business that supports business operations in a safe way, while also ensuring an appropriate level of competency is assessed for each operator.

Chair of the BIA Houseboat Hirers Association, Allen Buckley said “we welcome this pragmatic approach from AMSA which recognises both the professionalism of the operators in the houseboat industry and the lower risk profile of this sector of the DCV fleet.  This will considerably help our more than 50 member businesses operating commercial houseboats on the River Murray and other inland waterways.”
EX48 exempts masters and crew from the competency requirements under Marine Order 504 – Certificates of operation and operation requirements (MO504) and Marine Order 505 – Certificates of competency when operating the vessel without hirers onboard for the purposes of:

  • relocating the vessel within a marina
  • maintenance or survey
  • pump out of sewage
  • refuelling or
  • delivery or retrieval of the vessel.

A person is permitted to perform these tasks if they:

  • hold a certificate of competency that is at least a Coxswain Grade 3 Near Coastal
  • have received an onboard induction, familiarisation and training for the vessel in accordance with MO504
  • only operate the vessel during daylight hours
  • only operate the vessel in category E waters, and
  • only operate the vessel without passengers on board.

AMSA advises that the new exemption will provide greater flexibility for operators and crew, while still considering the risks involved, noting that operators do not need to apply for the exemption, but must ensure they meet the criteria to be eligible to hold a Coxswains 3 CoC.

More information on EX48 is available here or BIA Members can Email George Bolton at for further advice.