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Safety management systems

MNZ’s offices will be closed from midday Thursday 24 December 2015 and will reopen on Tuesday 5 January 2016.

During this period, operator certification services will not be available. There will also be a reduced number of staff available for processing applications until 31 January 2016.

Any applications for vessel related certificates (including deemed MTOC extensions) will need to be received by MNZ no later than 5:00pm Friday 11th December 2015. Applications received after this date may not be issued before MNZ closes. Standard timescales will continue to apply for MOSS applications.

Operators need to comply with the new MOSS rules from 1 July 2014

Read more about moving from SSM to MOSS


Safety management systems are implemented to ensure that commercial vessels are maintained and operated safely to prevent maritime accidents and protect the marine environment.

Introduction to safety management systems

Non-SOLAS safety management systems

SOLAS safety management systems

Applying for an exemption

Change of vessel status or ownership

Maritime Transport Operator Certificate (MTOC) and operator plan

Surveyor resources

Contact for further information

Introduction to safety management systems

Safety management systems are administered by Maritime New Zealand. These systems make ship owners and operators responsible for the daily safe operation of their vessels. This ensures that the safety of a vessel and its crew, and protection of the marine environment, is maintained throughout the year instead of just on an annual 'survey day'.

The introduction of safety management systems in New Zealand is in line with a global move to put ongoing safety measures in place to prevent maritime accidents and place the responsibility of this on vessel owners and operators.

Safety management systems cover safe operating parameters, the qualifications and training of the vessel’s crew, vessel maintenance, emergency procedures, health and safety considerations and continuous improvement.

All commercial vessels are categorised as either SOLAS or non-SOLAS. SOLAS refers to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention.

Non-SOLAS safety management systems

Non-SOLAS ships are essentially all commercial vessels that don't fit within the definition of a SOLAS ship. There are some exceptions - see the section above for further details.

Non-SOLAS ships are subject to Maritime Rule Parts 19 and 44. These rules apply to restricted limit ships, fishing ships and ships of less than 45 metres that go beyond restricted limits but are not SOLAS ships.

The safety management system for Non-SOLAS ships is broken into the following separate categories:

  • Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS), which covers most New Zealand-owned commercial vessels
  • Safe Operational Plans, which cover smaller commercially-operated specialist vessels and their operations
  • Safety Case, which covers specialised operations or operations that don't fit under existing Maritime Rules.
  • Specified Limits Permit, which covers a commercial operation within a restricted area.

Learn more about each of these categories by using the links below:


Safe Operational Plans

Safety Case

Specified Limits Permit


Sister ship provision for ships operating under MOSS

Under rule 40A, there is a provision that could save you the cost of undertaking an inclining experiment. This provision applies to certain types of ships.

A sister ship of a new single-hull ship that is 15m or longer, carries more than 50 passengers or operates beyond restricted limits is not required to conduct an inclining experiment, provided that the lightship displacement measurement is within a limit of that of the lead sister ship that is satisfactory to the naval architect.

In order to take advantage of this provision, the owner of a sister ship must measure the lightship displacement of his ship and compare it with the lightship displacement of the lead sister ship. If the naval architect is satisfied that the two measurements are close enough, then the inclining experiment need not be undertaken.

The owner must therefore:

  • work collaboratively with their naval architect and determine their ship’s lightship
  • obtain the lightship displacement value from the owner of the lead sister ship and provide this to the naval architect to make a comparison.

If the naval architect is satisfied that the numbers are within an acceptable limit, they will take the next step of developing the stability book; if they are not satisfied that the lightship measurement of the two ships are within the satisfactory limit or if the owner is unable to obtain the lightship displacement of the lead sister ship, the owner will have to pay for an inclining experiment.
From 1998 to 2008 30 June 2014, all stability and inclining experiment results have been required by law to be held by the ship owner and the SSM company. MNZ holds very limited survey records on behalf of a vessel owner.

Whether the SSM company or MNZ holds the record, these ship records are the property of the ship owner. Should another vessel owner or surveyor wish to access such records, they must obtain the permission of the owner of the vessel they relate to.

The owner (and/or their surveyor) wishing to use survey records for comparison purposes is responsible for obtaining the appropriate documents and approvals.


SOLAS safety management systems

A SOLAS ship (as defined in Maritime Rule Part 21) is any ship to which the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 applies; namely:

  • a passenger ship engaged on an international voyage, or
  • a non-passenger ship of 500 tons gross tonnage or more engaged on an international voyage

There are some exceptions where certain commercial vessels are required to meet the safety standards of a SOLAS ship. These vessels are required to be in Class and have an International Safety Management system in place (ISM Code).

These exceptions are:

  • a passenger ship of 45 metres or more in length that proceeds beyond restricted limits
  • a non-passenger ship of 45 metres or more in length that proceeds beyond restricted limits
  • a self-propelled mobile offshore drilling unit of 500 tons gross tonnage or more.

SOLAS ships (including those non-SOLAS vessels that meet the exceptions above) are subject to Maritime Rule Part 21, section 1 and Maritime Rule Part 40B.

The safety management system for SOLAS ships is provided under the International Safety Management Code. This Code covers SOLAS vessels that are either both New Zealand-owned or , and foreign flagged vessels that are visiting New Zealand.

International Safety Management Code (SOLAS)

Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention

Maritime Rule Part 21 - safe ship management

Maritime Rule Part 40B - design, construction and equipment - SOLAS ships


ILM exemption to operate in inshore fishing limits

Skippers with an Inshore Launch Master (ILM) certificate are allowed to operate their vessels within their certified inshore fishing limits out to 12 nautical miles off the coast of New Zealand, including crossing Cook Strait.

ILM exemptions - for fishing vessels within inshore fishing limits


Applying for an exemption

The Director of Maritime New Zealand may exempt a ship from complying with a maritime rule under certain special circumstances.

Applying for an exemption from a maritime rule


Change of vessel status or ownership

Use this form to notify Maritime New Zealand if a vessel in your operation is no longer operating commercially (either permanently or for a short time) or has been sold.


Maritime Transport Operator Certificate (MTOC) and operator plan

Every commercial operation must have and display at the operator’s place of business, or make available on request, a copy of the Maritime Transport Operator Certificate.

Every commercial vessel that operates under MOSS must have and display a valid certificate of survey.

Fit and proper person

The holder of the Safe Ship Management Certificate must themselves have passed a fit and proper person assessment. The Maritime Transport Act 1994 requires the Director of Maritime New Zealand to undertake a fit and proper person assessment for everyone who wishes to hold a maritime document.

Learn more about the fit and proper person assessment



In the Surveyors section you will find information about MOSS, seminars, and links to resources for surveyors.


Contact for further information

If you require any further information about safety management systems, please contact your local Maritime Officer.

If you require any further information about MOSS, please contact operator certification at Maritime New Zealand