The idea of maritime border protection has been prominent in recent Australian political discourse because of its coincidence with asylum seekers arriving at Australian territories by boat. Yet this construct is misleading. There is no maritime “border” and asylum boats, although the current challenge are not necessarily the most difficult problem faced in managing Australia's maritime domain. This task is shaped by the geographic, legislative and administrative environment, which governs how this management occurs and how emerging challenges are tackled. The resulting arrangements have benefits but also inherent weaknesses at the points of intersection in a system of co-operation and coordination. The influx of asylum boats into Australia's north western waters since 2009 has greatly stressed these arrangements and may have brought them close to breaking point.