Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS)
Maritime Arrivals Reporting Systems (MARS)
Modernising vessel biosecurity clearance
Paperless. Efficient. Transparent.
Biosecurity reporting obligations
Pre-arrival information, and changes, for maritime conveyances (vessels) must be reported in a method approved by the Director of Biosecurity, which is MARS. Electronic offline forms can be used where there is limited connectivity, but they do not constitute the approved form. Your reporting obligations are met once your information has been submitted in MARS.
Vessel Operator Responsibilities: The operator of the vessel is obligated to accurately report information in accordance with Section 193 of the Biosecurity Act 2015. This information must be lodged in MARS no later than 12 hours prior to arrival.
Shipping Agent Responsibilities: Where the vessel operator uses a shipping agent, the agent is responsible for lodgement of accurate and timely information into MARS. The agent must ensure that this information is a true and correct representation of the reports provided by the vessel operator, and that any changes have been confirmed with the operator.
Any changes in circumstances during the voyage in Australian waters must be reported to the department as soon as practicable.
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 vessels seeking Australian biosecurity clearance. MARS has functionality to view information related to the status of your vessel.
What vessel types need to use MARS?
- General Cargo
- Break bulk
- Heavy lift
- Livestock carriers
- Government and Military
A key policy initiative developed in conjunction with MARS
- The Vessel Compliance Scheme (VCS) has been developed to provide greater transparency of what biosecurity officers look for when they board a vessel and the consequence of non-compliance with Australia’s biosecurity obligations.
- The scheme objective drives informed compliance from masters and vessel operators by ensuring they understand department requirements and are incentivised to comply.
- MARS provides the platform for VCS, building on current department compliance measures.
As a client, you now have a single source of information for biosecurity directions and advice for each voyage. This is the Biosecurity Status Document (BSD).
The BSD is auto generated in MARS and is version controlled to reflect any reported changes to directions or status occurring during 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 department's information such as berthing conditions, pratique, ballast water, non-first point of entry and treatment directions will be available on each BSD.
BSD documents are emailed to the master and agent and available in MARS. The documents are versioned to reflect any changes to conditions or status throughout a voyage.
Here is a sample BSD.
MARS offline forms and communication and training materials
A range of Industry support tools are available at:
- MARS offline forms and
- MARS communications and training materials.
- Read about Vessel pratique and Vessel compliance
- Email Travellers and vessels if you have questions about MARS or the VCS.
- Phone the Maritime National Coordination Centre (MNCC) on 1300 004 605 within Australia or +61 8 8201 6185 outside Australia.
MARS frequently asked questions
Vessel masters and agents (users) access MARS through a website known as the application ‘portal’. The key capabilities of this online application system include:
- Online submission for pre-arrival reports.
- The ability to establish and maintain a user profile. For new vessel entries the system will automatically create a vessel ‘profile’ from the information received in the pre-arrival reports. For subsequent pre-arrival reports, the system will pre-fill relevant fields.
- The ability to ‘clone’ a ballast water report.
- The ability to request additional services for crew change, Ship Sanitation Certificate inspections and coastal strip.
- Biosecurity Status Document (BSD) will be automatically emailed from the department once pre-arrival reports are processed and when any changes have been submitted by the master or agent.
- The ability for masters and agents to:
- Nominate agents (Port Agent, Billing Agent, Crew Agent) for a particular voyage.
- View a summary of invoices, including charges and payment status for each invoice.
- Print copies of the directions and certificates issued by the department.
MARS is a secure environment and accessible only through registration, a User ID and password provided by the department.
MARS IT requirements
You do not need any special hardware or software to use MARS. The system is optimised for the following browsers:
9, 10, 11
Safari and Safari (iOS)
- For Internet Explorer only Native mode is supported. View Compatibility mode and Enterprise mode must be disabled. ActiveX must be enabled.
- Stylesheets must be enabled
- XMLHTTP support must be enabled
- For optimal accessibility with Screen reader assistive technology, using the most recent version of the browser is recommended.
For optimal accessibility with Screen reader assistive technology, using the most recent version of the browser is recommended.
If the vessel master submits a Pre-arrival Arrival Report (PAR), will the shipping agent be able to make amendments on behalf of the master? e.g. agents name incorrect, SSC issue date incorrect
Prior to lodgement of pre-arrival reports in MARS, amendments can be made as part of the arrangements between a master and an agent. Once pre-arrival reports have been submitted, only the party (agent or master) that lodged the information would be able to make amendments through resubmitting the pre-arrival reports.
All agents nominated as a billing party are notified to enable the agent to dispute and advise the department of the right agent.
Can cruise ships request approval for port visits one or two years ahead for both first points of entry and non-first points of entry?
Yes. Applications to enter a non-first point of entry (NFP) must be submitted in MARS and will be accepted one to two years ahead of the anticipated arrival. The management of cruise vessels should be reported using MARS with the Maritime Travellers Passengers Committee (MTPC) providing approvals. From the initial application, you will receive the following response from MARS on the Biosecurity Status Document (BSD):
For Cruise Vessel Applications Only
Please note this is a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources s247 conditional approval only, pending Maritime Travellers Processing Committee (MTPC) approval document.
Vessel operators/Masters must still have and provide both the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Biosecurity Status Document (BSD) and the MTPC approval document on request.
Does the master/agent have the ability to lodge subsequent port reporting obligations in MARS?
A Ballast Water Report can be submitted up to 14 days prior to a vessel arrival. As this is prior to the 96-12 hour pre-arrival reporting window, how will these forms be submitted?
In MARS, the agent will be able to submit the ballast water information separate to the PAR. The voyage number MUST match the ballast water information with the PAR when it is received.
What is the MARS voyage number?
In MARS, the voyage number is the unique identifier.
- It is essential that you use the correct voyage number, as MARS uses this to link information such as the PAR, ballast water and non-first point of entry reports.
- MARS only accepts alphanumeric characters (letters A -Z and numbers 0 -9). No spaces or other characters accepted.
Will Ship Sanitation Certificates (SSC) be issued electronically and emailed or will a hard copy still be issued?
Ship Sanitation Certificates will be issued electronically. The agent/master will have the ability to print the electronic copy available in the system.
Is it mandatory for agents/masters to upload certificates such as Ship Sanitation Certificate (SSC) and Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM) documentation?
No - this is optional. Biosecurity officers may ask to see original documents as part of the vessel inspection.
If there is a request for service, for example crew change, submitted via MARS and the department cannot provide that service, how is it communicated that the service will not happen?
This is communicated to the agent via email. There is information specific to crew change from the Vessels webpages.
How will the results of the analysis of a Ballast Water Report be communicated to the master?
Ballast Water information is communicated via Biosecurity Status Document (BSD) which will be sent electronically to vessel master and/or nominated agents.
Communication between the department and our stakeholders
Will MARS create less direct contact with the department and would this affect services and relationships with industry?
The development of the MARS is a direct result of increased collaboration with our clients and has the common benefit of reducing administrative burden for both industry and the department. It will not reduce the requirement for departmental officers to consult with industry on shipping matters and managing biosecurity risks.
Access and security
What if masters have limited internet or email access and cannot directly input information to MARS?
The department will continue to provide ‘offline forms’ where masters have limited and/or unreliable internet access. The following options will be available for vessel masters/agents:
- Masters with internet access submit pre-arrival information using the MARS online web portal.
- Masters with email but no internet access complete an offline form that has been provided by an agent and then email the xml data file back to the agent. The agent then loads this data file into MARS.
- Masters with no email or no internet access complete the forms provided to them by an agent and return them to the agent. The agent then manually enters this data into MARS.
Is it necessary to maintain a constant internet connection to complete an electronic form?
MARS will have some tolerance for session drop-outs. Alternatively, ‘offline forms’ could be used to complete pre-arrival information in an offline mode (no internet connection required). The ‘xml’ file can be uploaded via MARS portal as noted in the options above.
Many vessels do not have the capability of adding attachments to emails and therefore they will not be able to self submit or send to the agent a ‘smart form’. What happens in this scenario?
The master can submit the information to the agency through manual means. Refer to the options provided for vessels with limited and/or unreliable internet connectivity. It is the responsibility of the agent to provide the BSD and any certificates to the vessel. Failure to follow directions on the BSD, may result in demerit actions against the vessel.
Invoicing and revenue
How is an agent or billing party identified for invoicing arrangements through MARS? Is this connected to an ABN number?
A URN (Unique Registration Number) is a client identifier in the department's financial system. It is generally based on a region/city. Large companies may have different URN numbers for different regions. ABN numbers are recorded, but will not necessarily have a one to one match with the department’s financial management system’s URN number.
If an agent for a vessel attends three ports during a voyage, will the agent in one location be able to view the invoices created for services at other locations?
An agency will be able to see all financial transactions across their agency. Therefore, if the same agency performs business in three ports they will be able to view relevant details, including details of invoices. Different agencies will not be able to see information for other agencies.
When will invoices be sent?
The trigger for invoices is the actual port departure date for a vessel. The departure date is taken from the information made available to the department such as the Pre- Arrival Report (PAR); and the system will default to this date. Agents have the ability to nominate or change an invoice date, in consultation with the department. The features of billing information includes:
- There is a single invoice per visit, per port.
- The vessel operator or agent supplies the billing information during the lodgment of pre-arrival information and/or a service request.
- Users can view a summary of invoices, including charges and payment status for each invoice.
- Invoices are triggered within 24 hours of a vessel departing from a port.
- The choice of specific agency setup structure can be tailored, depending on your individual business needs.
Implementation planning and training
Will there be formal training available for agents?
Support will be provided in many ways. This will include direct support for agencies from departmental staff in their location. Agencies will support masters through this implementation phase.
The Maritime National Coordination Centre (MNCC) is also a key point of contact for using MARS. Any technical questions about MARS and registration questions should be directed to the MNCC.
- Australia’s Biosecurity Checklist for Commercial Vessels
- Vessel Compliance Scheme (VCS) for Commercial Maritime Vessels poster
- MARS Quick Reference Guides and FAQs
- MARS User Guides
- Biosecurity Clearance of Vessels and MARS online eLearning
- Pest Alert! Do you have stowaways on board brochure
All merchant vessels are required to have the Australian Seafarers Handbook on board for reference. When will the current biosecurity information be updated to reflect the MARS changes?
The department will review all external publications to align with MARS as part of the implementation stage.
Lessons learnt from MARS rollout and tips for agents
Advice to industry
Duplicate voyage numbers
Masters not clicking “Send to Agency” button on offline form
PDF form looks complete but application in MARS is missing information
Master fails to record pump details
Master has difficulties completing the offline form and sends PDF to agent
Note, if there are multiple errors/omissions with the offline form, it won’t be highlighted in the one error message. The field will have to be corrected and the “Send to Agency” button clicked again to see the next error message.
Master has difficulties completing the offline form and sends incomplete XML to agent
Master has difficulty completing Q1 on the BW Report
Masters are sending the XML to the MNCC
Masters don’t know how to record flow through exchange conducted over multiple time periods
Masters don’t know how to record internal transfer on BW report
Agents have queried why a red light has been received for the NFP section
Multiple submissions of a report with BSD is not received immediately after
How can an already approved agency rep be made a MARS Agency Administrator?
Agents have asked how they can find out in MARS if the vessel is getting an RVI
An agent is unable to submit a crew service request because a different agency has already been nominated as the crew agency