Know your VMS requirements

Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) help the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to monitor vessel position, course and speed of all 300+ Commonwealth fishing vessels. This helps to ensure that operators are complying with the rules and regulations for fishing in Australian waters.

AFMA would like to remind operators of their obligations in regards to VMS requirements.

All boats nominated to Commonwealth fishing concessions are required to have an approved VMS fitted and fully functioning at all times. The VMS must remain switched on at all times even when the boat is in port, or fishing under a State or Territory concession unless you have been granted approval to temporarily turn it off.

Failure to have a fully functional VMS including, failing to seek approval for switching your unit off, is a breach of your fishing concessions. Breaches to VMS requirements may result in compliance action being taken which may include your boat being ordered to return to port, receiving an infringement notice, suspension of your fishing concession and/or prosecution.

Changes to the list of approved VMS units in Commonwealth fisheries

AFMA has amended the list of approved Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) unit types for use on Commonwealth nominated fishing vessels.

Changes have been made to the approved list of VMS units to ensure they remain current and in line with the technology available in the market.

These changes take effect 1 December 2020 and include the “grandfathering” of all Inmarsat C based VMS units. Find more information on the AFMA website.

Temporary Switch Off (TSO) Approval

You must not switch off your VMS unit unless you have prior written approval from AFMA to do so.  If you would like to switch off your VMS, for example where the boat is going on the slip for maintenance or repairs, you can make an application for a Temporary Switch Off (TSO) approval.  For more details on TSOs refer to the Temporary Switch Off’ Fact Sheet.  To apply for a TSO you will need to complete a VMS Temporary Switch Off (TSO) Application Form and send it to

Manual Reporting

In some exceptional circumstances AFMA may allow operators to manually report their positions on a short term/temporary basis. Manual reporting will generally only be permitted where;

  • A unit has failed “at-sea” as the result of a mechanical failure, and

  • Where AFMA considers the level of risk is low, and

  • only until the completion of the current trip.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your VMS is working at all times. However,  AFMA may contact you when a unit is not reporting, and will advise you if manual reporting is permissible. If you want to make an application directly you must contact AFMA during business hours either by phone 02 6225 5542) or email

For more information on manual reporting requirements refer to the Manual Reporting Fact Sheet.

For more information on your VMS requirements, view the Vessel Monitoring Systems Requirements page on the AFMA website or contact the Vessel Monitoring team at or call 02 6225 5555 and follow the prompts.

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