The Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS) and the Vessel Compliance Scheme (VCS)

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What is MARS?

MARS is an online web portal to be used by commercial vessel masters and shipping agents to submit pre-arrival documents required of all international, commercial, vessels seeking Australian biosecurity clearance. MARS has functionality to view information related to the status of your vessel.

Electronic offline forms can be used where there is limited connectivity, but they do not constitute the approved form. Reporting obligations are met once your arrival information has been submitted in MARS.

Use the above link where you already have a current MARS account.

To register for MARS for the first time, read the Accessing MARS Quick Reference Guide (QRG01 PDF).

The Biosecurity Status Document (BSD)

The Biosecurity Status Document (BSD) is a single source of information for biosecurity directions and advice to commercial vessel operator/master/shipping agent for each voyage. BSD documents are emailed to the master and agent and also available in MARS.

The BSD is auto generated in MARS and is version controlled to reflect any reported changes to directions or status occurring throughout a voyage. It uses a traffic light system as a visual cue to alert the user regarding the vessel status and any associated directions or advice issued by the department.

The BSD details the department's directions for arrival including berthing conditions, pratique, ballast water, non-first point of entry and treatment directions.

MARS and vessel arrival support tools

There are a range of support tools available to help use MARS and comply with Australia’s biosecurity requirements. See the MARS Communications and Training Materials webpage for user guides, Quick Reference Guides, FAQs, checklists and brochures.

Vessel Compliance

​​​​The department is committed to the principles of informed compliance, ensuring biosecurity requirements are transparent. Read all about the department’s approach to compliance and the biosecurity compliance statement.

What is the Vessel Compliance Scheme?

The Vessel Compliance Scheme (VCS) is part of the department’s comprehensive strategy to provide greater transparency of Australia’s biosecurity requirements aimed at facilitating compliance by our maritime clients and stakeholders. VCS operates through MARS.

The VCS has been designed with the best interest of vessel operators and shipping agents in mind.

The scheme was developed to improve the transparency of the risks biosecurity officers will focus on as part of the inspections, and the consequences of non-compliance. This will ensure vessel masters and crew are able to better prepare the vessel to reduce the likelihood of non-compliance, thereby improving the chances of qualifying as ‘compliant’ entities to take advantage of reduced intervention and associated benefits.

Vessel operators who understand and consistently comply with Australia’s biosecurity obligations will save time and money

Qualifying for the VCS

Commercial vessel operators must meet the following requirements to be eligible for the VCS and quality for reduced intervention:

  • A minimum of 3 voyages to Australia in a 12 month period
  • Below the individual inspection threshold of 10 points for a voyage
  • Below the collective threshold of 20 points over 3 voyages.

Once on the scheme, vessels will receive reduced physical inspections over a defined voyage cycle.

How the VCS works

It is well recognised within the department that the majority of our clients either do or want to do the right thing. Most non-compliance occurs due to vessel masters, crew and shipping agents being unaware of our requirements and consequences of non-compliance.

To help operators comply, we have developed a demerit action list and associated points which determines vessel eligibility for the VCS. Understand and consistently follow these rules to achieve biosecurity compliance.
During an inspection demerit actions may be accrued. For each negative finding, demerit points will be applied. To stay on the scheme, a vessel must stay under the identified point thresholds.

See the VCS brochure and poster available from the MARS communications and training materials webpage.

The VCS is just one tool to help vessel operators comply with Australia’s biosecurity requirements. See the range of tools available on the MARS Communications and training materials webpage.

Demerits and enforcement

The application of a demerit action does not replace any other enforcement actions available to the department under the Biosecurity Act 2015. A master or agent that commits an offence may be liable to penalties in addition to VCS demerits.

Last reviewed: 2 June 2021
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