Vessel Monitoring Systems

Implementing VMS in Victorian Commercial Fisheries

Under Fisheries Regulations 2019, vessel monitoring system (VMS) are required in several commercial fisheries. The VMS implementation schedule is shown in the following table.

Having VMS devices on commercial fishing vessels will contribute to ensuring the sustainability of Victoria’s marine resources and make the VFA a more efficient and effective fisheries management agency.

The VFA will work collaboratively with industry to implement this important change. This will involve a focus for the first six months on education and facilitation for fishers who have an approved VMS installed on their boat.


Implementation date

Ocean and dive scallop (already have VMS)

1 February 2020


1 July 2020

Rock lobster

1 July 2020

Giant crab

1 July 2020

Corner Inlet

1 August 2020

Inshore trawl

1 November 2020

Western Port/Port Phillip Bay

1 November 2020

Sea urchin

1 November 2020

Octopus (new fishery)

1 November 2020

Banded morwong (new fishery)

1 November 2020

What VMS data will the VFA collect? Is VMS a vessel safety system?

VMS devices will be used for the purpose of providing the VFA with information on vessel position, bearing and speed.

These devices are not designed to be a safety device and are not monitored for this purpose by the VFA or by any maritime safety agency.

What VMS devices can be used and what is the cost?

The VFA has selected the Orbcomm ST6100 as its approved vessel monitoring device and has entered into a supply agreement with Design9 Pty Ltd to supply these units. Only ST6100 units purchased from Design9 are approved by the VFA.

Fishers can use devices that are currently authorised by AFMA for operating in Commonwealth fisheries if they are already installed on the vessel operating in the Rock Lobster, Giant Crab, Scallop (Ocean) or Trawl (Inshore) fisheries.

The VFA has provided provisional authorisation for the following VMS units:

  • Succorfish (abalone and sea urchin fisheries only and in the banded morwong fishery if the vessel is also used in the abalone or sea urchin fishery)
  • SkyWave IDP690 (Scallop Dive (Port Phillip Bay) only or as a spare if it is provided by the VFA)

No other VMS units can be used in Victorian-licenced fisheries.

The VFA will recover the airtime and AFMA service costs it incurs through annual licence levies.

A list of approved VMS devices and the conditions of their approval are found in the Approved Vessel Monitoring Devices Order:

Approved Vessel Monitoring Devices Order (PDF - 146.8 KB) .

Who can install a VMS unit on a vessel?

VMS units must be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements and the VFA Installation and Maintenance Standard. Fishers may install the VMS devices themselves but the VFA recommends that they engage a professional marine electrician.

The Orbcomm ST6100 VMS devices will be preregistered when provided to fishers and will begin operating when power is applied to it.

Contact the Commercial Licencing Unit before installing and turning your VMS unit on for the first time (contact details below).

Orbcomm instructions  (PDF - 648.6 KB)

Installation and Maintenance Standard (PDF - 1.5 MB)

How can I tell if my VMS unit is working?

The Orbcomm ST6100 has an external LED that flashes when power is applied:

  • twice every 30 seconds while the device is connecting to the satellite
  • four times when the connection is established
  • once every 30 seconds when the device is working

Position of LED on ST6100 device indicated by arrow. Note that some devices have the black cable connector on the bottom

  • An external LED can be installed if the in-built LED is not visible from the wheelhouse or vessel working area. This LED will:
  • begin flashing about five seconds after power is connected
  • flash once per second while the device is connecting to the satellite
  • be lit continuously once the satellite connection is established.

What if my VMS is not working?

The VFA has prepared regulatory guidelines to assist fishers to understand how it will enforce the VMS regulations.

The VFA will work collaboratively with industry to implement this important change. This will involve a focus - for the first six months after VMS is required in a fishery - on education and facilitation for fishers who have an approved VMS installed on their boat.

Regulatory Guideline 4: Vessel Monitoring Requirement (PDF - 394.3 KB)

VMS unit is not operating before leaving port

Fishers whose VMS units are not working while in port should contact the Operations Duty Officer (contact details below).

The Operations Duty Officer will authorise the operator to undertake a fishing trip if the installed VMS unit is not fully operational if satisfied that there are special circumstances to justify the authorisation. The Operations Duty Officer will consider special circumstances apply if satisfied that:

  • a replacement unit is not available and or the replacement unit is not able to be registered with VFA Licensing Commercial Licencing during business hours;
  • the unit was installed correctly;
  • the fisher has taken reasonable steps to have the device repaired or replaced at the next opportunity; and
  • the operator is low risk (i.e. has a history of compliance).

Detailed information is found in the Regulatory Guidelines.

The VFA will maintain spare VMS units that can be used as backups to allow fishers to get up and running as quickly as possible in the event their VMS device fails.

VMS stops working while I am at sea

If the fisher becomes aware that the VMS unit has ceased working during a fishing trip, they must immediately contact the Operations Duty Officer.

The Operations Duty Officer will grant approval to continue fishing if satisfied there are special circumstances justifying the granting the approval. The duty officer will consider special circumstances apply if satisfied that:

  • the unit was operating prior to the boat leaving port; and
  • the operator is low risk (has a history of compliance).

Detailed information is found in the Regulatory Guidelines.

Conditions of authorisation to operate without a fully operational VMS

Where the Operations Duty Officer grants an authorisation to engage in fishing activities with a VMS unit that is not fully operational, they will impose conditions on the authorisation, including that:

  • the operator only undertakes fishing activities within areas specified;
  • the fisher manually reports their position by SMS on specified timeframes; and
  • the fisher provides a pre-landing notification by SMS.

Detailed information is found in the Regulatory Guidelines.

Requirement to specify and maintain method of communication on board a vessel

The Fisheries Regulations require that fishers have onboard the vessel a mobile phone that the VFA can call at any time that it needs to communicate with the operator when they are on the boat and acting under the licence.

Communication order (PDF - 426.1 KB)

After the VMS unit is installed, and at least 5 business days before the boat is used for fishing, the licence holder must inform the VFA in writing of that telephone number.

The notification can be via email to or by letter to:

Licensing & Quota Services
Victorian Fisheries Authority
PO Box 4509
Melbourne VIC 3001

The notification must include the name of the responsible person (operator), registration number of the boat that the VMS system is installed on, and the telephone number of the approved communication method.

The nominated operator must make all reasonable efforts to respond in a timely manner to communications from the VFA. When the nominated operator is engaged in dive fishing, they must ensure the mobile phone is monitored by a deckhand.

Can I move VMS units between boats?

Fishers must provide the VFA with the name and registration details of the new vessel that the VMS unit will be installed on. This information must be provided to the Commercial Licensing Unit during business hours and at least 24 hours before the next fishing trip commences.

What if I want to use my boat for other purpose such as recreational fishing?

The regulations require VMS units to be operating when the boat is operating in a fishery for which VMS is required.

An operating VMS is not required when the vessel is being used for other activities, such as maintenance or recreational fishing.

How will the privacy of my data be protected?

The VFA respects the privacy of commercial fisher’s data and treats this information as confidential. Individuals' information collected is used for compliance and fisheries management purposes and is shared only with external agencies under strict conditions and in accordance with the Fisheries Act 1995.

There are strong legal protections under the Fisheries Act 1995 to prevent unauthorised access to or divulging of this information.

AFMA follows and implements measures to counter cyber security threats as directed by the Australian Cyber Security Centre, a division of the Australian Signals Directorate, and has regular independent security audits to ensure its cyber security stays strong and up to date.

All VMS data is stored in Australia at a facility which meets strict Commonwealth government security standards.

VFA Contact details

If you have any questions about the VMS system or administration including registering a VMS unit on a vessel

Commercial Licensing Unit (business hours)

03 8392 6860

If your VMS is not working and you are seeking approval to manually report during your fishing trip

Operations Duty Officer (24 hours)

0419 844 781