FOC shipping refers to those vessels that travel internationally, but are not registered to the state it is most closely associated with. Regardless of where a ship may be operating, the national registration determines the applicable laws governing all the activities on the ship.

It is often argued that FOC registration is used by shipping owners to maintain anonymity, and avoid the employment, tax and environmental requirements and restrictions in place at what would normally be considered the ship's country of origin.

The report reveals that in 2016, there were 27.516 ship arrivals in Australian ports, by 5.719 foreign‑flagged vessels. Port Hedland was the busiest Australian port for foreign vessels, accounting for a total of 10.3 per cent of nationwide ship arrivals.

On the arrival of foreign-flagged and other vessels, Port State control (PSC) activities are undertaken by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), including vessel inspections. In 2016, PSC undertook 3675 inspections of foreign‑flagged vessels, at 54 Australian ports, and detained 246 vessels. Intervention and detention occurs if a ship does not adhere to the applicable maritime conventions, and is not allowed to sail until it no longer presents a danger to the vessel, its crew, or the environment, regardless of scheduled departures.

Of all inspections, five flag states accounted for 65 per cent of the vessels inspected:

  • Panama – 942 vessels;
  • Hong Kong – 426 vessels;
  • Singapore – 368 vessels;
  • Liberia – 360 vessels; and
  • Marshall Islands – 358 vessels.


The committee recommends that:

  • the Fair Work Ombudsman implement a program of inspection for ships with foreign seafarers, to verify that the wages paid on board accord with Australian legal requirements.
  • the Australian Government provide adequate funding to the Fair Work Ombudsman to implement an inspection program of ships with foreign crews, to assess the payment of wages.
  • the Australian Government implement clear guidelines and procedures to direct authorities on how to respond to deaths that occur on shipping vessels travelling in or to Australian waters, including how to engage with a vessel's flag state in a timely manner to progress appropriate investigations.
  • the Australian Government consider any possible amendments to legislation governing federal investigative authorities, to provide clarity on jurisdictional responsibility for investigating deaths at sea, when they occur on shipping vessels travelling in Australian waters. The Australian Government should progress jurisdictional issues with the states and the Northern Territory at COAG to ensure satisfactory outcomes.
  • the re-establishment of the Maritime Workforce Development Forum, or a similar advisory body. The advisory group would comprise a variety of key maritime industry stakeholders and provide advice to government on new Australian shipping policies and workforce development and training opportunities.
  • the Australian Government undertake a focussed and targeted review of the Australian maritime industry, with a view to growing and supporting the Australian maritime industry and developing policies that appropriately manage the operation of flag of convenience vessels in Australian waters.
  • the Australian Government undertake a comprehensive whole‑of‑government review into the potential economic, security and environmental risks presented by flag of convenience vessels and foreign crews.

Further details may be found by reading the full report: