56-2021: Amendments to Human Health and Coronavirus (COVID-19) questions for the Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS)

8 April 2021

Who does this notice affect?

This notice is of interest to all vessel masters and shipping agents who represent international commercial vessels for the purposes of Australian biosecurity clearance.

What has changed?

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the department), in consultation with the Department of Health has revised the pre-arrival human health and COVID-19 questions for the arrival of commercial vessels to Australia.

This is part of the Australian Government’s continuing efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to ensure the safe operation of the shipping industry, its crew, onshore operations staff and the department’s biosecurity inspections officers.

MARS pre-arrival reporting (PAR) and Human Health Update questions have been revised or new questions added. The changes take effect from 9 April 2021 and include:

  • Making certain human health questions mandatory.
  • Incorporating additional COVID-19 symptom questions into MARS reporting.
  • A new mandatory question requiring the last (international) port departure date.

New directions may appear on Biosecurity Status Documents (BSDs) in relation to human health.

What do you need to do?

Continue to submit each PAR or Human Health Update in MARS.

Depending on the answers to the human health questions, further information may be requested by the department’s Maritime National Coordination Centre (MNCC). In these circumstances:

  • Responses by masters or shipping agents are required within a three hour time period to ensure human health assessments do not unnecessarily delay the arrival of the vessel.
  • Pratique may not be granted until all required information has been received and assessed by the MNCC.

Do you use MARS offline forms?

As an alternative to direct MARS access, offline forms can be used by vessel masters or officers where there is limited or unreliable internet connectivity to meet pre-arrival reporting obligations.

The MARS PAR and Human Health Update offline forms have been updated on the MARS Offline Forms webpage, for use from Thursday 9 April 2021. Vessel masters and shipping agents should ensure they have downloaded the PAR and Human Health Update to avoid errors and delays when submitting reporting into MARS.

Who to contact for vessel arrival, PAR and human health reporting?

The department’s Maritime National Coordination Centre (MNCC) is the first point of contact for all international vessel questions. The MNCC is based in Adelaide, South Australia.

Phone: 1300 004 605 (in Australia) or +61 8 8201 6185 (outside Australia), fax 1300 005 882 or email maritimencc@awe.gov.au

The MNCC’s operating hours are:

  • Monday to Friday 07:00 - 19:00 (06:30 - 18:30 Adelaide time) AEST.
  • Saturday to Sunday 09:00 - 17:00 (08:30 - 16:30 Adelaide time) AEST.

Emergency only on-call phone assistance after MNCC operating hours is available as listed on the Vessel Contacts page.

Vessel reporting requirements and the Biosecurity Act 2015

Under Section 193 of the Biosecurity Act 2015, the master or representative must provide information to allow the department to fully assess the biosecurity risk of the vessel.

Vessel masters and shipping agents are reminded:

  • We are all working together to keep our agriculture industries strong and safeguard Australia’s environment and heritage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • To read and understand the Biosecurity Status Document (BSD) directions and conditions, and keep a copy of the current document on board the vessel for the duration of the voyage in Australia.
  • Any changes in circumstances during the voyage in Australian waters, particularly changes to the human health of crew and passengers on board, must be submitted via MARS or reported to the MNCC as soon as practicable.
  • That reporting in MARS must be accurate, truthful and timely.
  • A failure to report accurately or comply with a requirement under the Biosecurity Act 2015 may result in penalties, including infringement notices, civil penalties or criminal prosecutions. Providing false or misleading information to a Commonwealth entity is a serious offence under the Criminal Code Act 1995.

Further information

Vessel arrival information and MARS supporting materials can be found on the department’s website under Vessels.​​

See the Department of Health website: www.health.gov.au for the latest key contact information, travel advice and the collection of factsheets for industry and the general public (Resources) on COVID-19.

Last reviewed: 8 April 2021
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