In this instance, the consensus of the regulatory authorities is that Karratha Spirit was not in a navigable form at the time of the accident and was therefore under NOPSA's jurisdiction according to the OPGGSA. However, the point at which Karratha Spirit became 'navigable' is not clearly defined in the OPGGSA and is open to interpretation. Consequently, during some operations, it is possible that the ship would not come under the jurisdiction of any Australian safety regulatory regime.
Action taken by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority
In response to the ATSB draft report, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority advised the ATSB that:
The ATSB is no doubt also aware of the reports prepared for the Australian Government by Kym Bills and David Agostini in June 2009 concerning Offshore Petroleum Safety Regulation: Better practice and the effectiveness of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority and Marine Issues. The Department of Resources Energy and Tourism has drafted a Response for Consultation, addressing the two reports and including a response to the June 2008 Review of NOPSA Operational Activities. The Government has already acted on some of the recommendations from the reports. Details and links to all the documents are available from the Department's website.
The Safety Authority is actively engaged with the Department on the development of these responses, including several which have some bearing on the safety issue raised in the ATSB report. For instance, consideration is being given to amending the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 to extend the offshore OHS regime boundary 500m from the point of departure and to provide OHS Inspectors with powers appropriate to investigation of OHS incidents that occur on a facility that then becomes a vessel. A previous amendment to the Act has created a warrant that may be issued by a Magistrate and executed by an OHS Inspector to gain entry to, and seize evidential material from, such a vessel.
The OHS laws for vessels that exit the OHS regime are being considered by the Government as part of a complete review of the Navigation Act. The Safety Authority will provide operational relevant input to this review as required.
ATSB safety recommendation
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recommends that the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) should undertake further action to address this safety issue.
In March 2011, the ATSB followed up the issue of jurisdiction with the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA). NOPSA advised the ATSB that the Department of Resources Energy and Tourism (RET) have further considered the issue of jurisdiction between NOPSA and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). NOPSA is aware that RET have been discussing options with both these agencies and that RET are proposing to make clarifying amendments to the relevant legislation as part of a larger reform agenda and are targeting the winter 2011 session of Parliament.
ATSB assessment of response: Based on the information provided by NOPSA on 25 March 2011 with regard to amendment of relevant legislation, the ATSB is satisfied that the proposed actions by NOPSA, AMSA and RET will satisfactorily address this safety issue.