FAQ VMS on Primary and Carrier Boats in the Torres Strait

Note: This information does NOT relate to the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery


What is a Vessel Monitoring System?

A Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) unit is fitted to a boat and uses International Maritime Satellite (INMARSAT) communications to communicate information such as the boat’s location, course and speed. 


How was this decision made?

The Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) has made the decision to implement VMS following consultation with the tropical lobster working group, the hand collectables working group and the finfish working group. All working groups supported the introduction of VMS. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is managing the implementation, monitoring and management of VMS.


What are the benefits of a VMS?

A VMS unit also allows for better management of the marine resources of the Torres Strait by allowing AFMA to monitor the location, speed and course of a boat. Fisheries managers will now be able to tell if a vessel is carrying out actions such as fishing in a closed area, or fishing outside season. 


Who will see my position data?

VMS data is received by AFMA via a secure transmission system. The data is held on a secure server at AFMA. There are stringent processes in place for the release of VMS data. The main uses for the VMS data is for compliance and research purposes. VMS data for individual boats is not made public.


Who needs a VMS?

The licence holder must have an approved VMS unit fitted to the boat if it is conducting commercial fishing in the Torres Strait Protected Zone using a primary boat and/or operating with a Carrier Boat License (Class A, B, or C). Vessels operating for freight shipping are exempt from installing VMS. Exemptions may also be provided for carrier vessels that are six (6) meters or less in length.


When do I have to have the system installed and working by?

A VMS unit must be fitted and operational by 1 July 2017. No primary boat or boat using a Class A, B, or C License will be able to commercially fish or operate after 1 July 2017 if an AFMA approved VMS unit is not installed, operational and signed off by AFMA.


Can I choose any VMS?

Any VMS unit purchased for fitting to a Torres Strait licenced fishing boat must meet AFMA type approved standards. A list of approved units can be found on


How much does it cost and who pays?

The cost of a VMS unit varies based on unit, brand and supplier. Individual licence holders are responsible for the cost of purchasing and fitting a VMS unit.


How do I install it?

AFMA recommends that you engage a qualified marine technician to have your VMS unit correctly installed.


Do dinghies (tender fishing boats) need a VMS if I tow them with my primary boat and they fish too?



Is there any paperwork?

Yes. There are a number of forms you, or your technician must complete and submit to AFMA. These can be downloaded from Hard copies of these forms can also be picked up from the Thursday Island AFMA office


What happens if it breaks down?

AFMA requires VMS units to be operational at all times, even when it is in port. The licence owner MUST contact AFMA immediately if the unit breaks down. AFMA has procedures to allow a boat to continue fishing and report manually when if the VMS unit has broken down. You MUST get written approval from AFMA before you can switch to manual reporting. Should you need to switch off your VMS for any reason you need to apply for a Temporary Switch Off.


Who do I contact to learn more?

If you have any questions about VMS please contact AFMA’s VMS team on (02) 6225 5555 or email More information is available on the  

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