Vessel monitoring systems help AFMA to monitor vessel position, course and speed, and to make sure Commonwealth fishing vessels are doing the right thing.

All VMS units installed on Commonwealth endorsed fishing vessels must meet AFMA type approved standards. AFMA primarily (but not exclusively) utilises the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) type approval process which sets out the requirement for a specific VMS model to be granted type approval.Further details can be accessed via the FFA website.

AFMA has also type approved additional units which are not approved by the FFA. Operators should be aware that these are only available for use within Australian waters. Boats operating, or permitted to operate, on the high seas on and or in Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO) areas are not permitted to use these units.

Both FFA and/or AFMA type approved VMS requirements include the firmware (software) applicable to each manufacturer make and model. Type approval requirements are updated on the AFMA website from time to time in order to account for changes and advancements in technology, firmware and inclusion of new devices.

What you need to know

  • all VMS units installed must meet AFMA approved standards
  • a VMS unit must be fitted and working on boats nominated to Commonwealth fishing concessions at all times
  • your VMS must stay on at all times – even  if the boat is tied up in port, or out fishing under a state fishing permit/concession, or if you are doing repairs on your boat
  • you can only switch off your VMS if you have prior written approval from AFMA
  • it is your responsibility to fit and maintain a working VMS
  • failure to have a working VMS is an offence.

Make sure you

  • seek approval from AFMA before switching off a VMS
  • check with AFMA if you have any concerns with your VMS unit before you go fishing
  • include your VMS unit in routine maintenance programs.

You must not

  • switch off your unit for any reason without prior approval from AFMA
  • leave port if your VMS is not working.
Vessel must be nominated to a commonwealth concession before activation of VMS unit will commence.

  1. Commission transceiver/VMS Unit – complete Inmarsat Registration form. Fax to an Inmarsat Service Provider for activation of the unit.
  1. Complete the approved AFMA DNID agreement form. Both PDF and Word Document versions are available from contacting AFMA (02) 6225 5542 or via website
  1. Power up transceiver and perform manufacturer and Inmarsat verification tests. Ensure the device is logged into the appropriate satellite region.

Note: Unless located within Western Australia, the default setting will be Pacific Ocean Region (POR).

  1. Fax or email the completed DNID form to AFMA VMS reporting team (contacts provided on application form) and advise the location of the VMS unit (fitted to vessel or with Marine Technician in workshop etc).
  1. Wait for the AFMA Compliance Officer to advise that the transceiver has been successfully programmed and is reporting to the AFMA VMS system. This requires AFMA staff sending a remote activation command (via satellite) to the particular VMS device in order to effectively establish two way communications.  Upon receipt of first positional report, AFMA will then advise either concession holder or marine technician if the unit is operational.

Note: If testing of VMS device has occurred while the unit was not fitted to the assigned vessel, continue with following procedure.

  1. Physically install the VMS transceiver on the nominated vessel in accordance with manufacturer Installation standards. Power unit on and contact AFMA to confirm the VMS is operational.

Marine Technicians should ensure the vessel operator is familiar with the particular VMS device and any associated messaging and transmission procedures to be adopted, including basic fault finding and maintenance.

Modification applications

Concession holders are responsible for making sure the VMS on board a nominated boat is operational at all times (as per Regulation 9D of the Fisheries Management Regulations 1992).

Non compliance with the condition is a breach of section 95(1) of the Fisheries Management Act 1991.

Alternative VMS units may be authorised in circumstances where power supply, space limitations or weather protection make the fitment of an ICVMS impractical – approvals for this will be made by AFMA in writing.

Alternatives that may be considered:

  • an exemption from the requirement to have a personal computer linked to the approved Inmarsat-C Automatic Communication Locator (ALC)

Concession holders must fill out an Application for ICVM Modification (PDF, 40 KB)to be considered for an exemption.

Return completed forms by:

Fax: 02 6225 5440 (Attn:VMS area)


Vessel Monitoring Systems
Australian Fisheries Management Authority
Box 7051
Canberra BC

Questions about the modification application process? Contact AFMA VMS team on 1300 723 621 or