Asbestos – not just in car parts

In a post on June 7, 2016 I alerted readers to a case where imported, counterfeit, car parts were found to contain asbestos. Asbestos is, under Australian law, a strictly prohibited import and export and requires special permission from the Australian Government for anyone wishing to deal in this deadly product.

When processing import declarations on behalf of importers, Customs brokers are required to answer a series of community protection questions designed to filter out items that might contain asbestos. The Australian Border Force (“ABF”) have expanded the range of tariff classifications (HS codes) to which questions relating to asbestos content are linked. In recent discussions between the ABF and the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia (“CBFCA”), the ABF re-iterated their position when it comes to asbestos.

In a nutshell, the OWNER of the goods must be CERTAIN that the goods do not contain ANY asbestos – there must be ZERO asbestos content. How can an owner be certain? By having the goods tested by a testing authority recognised by the National Association of Testing Authorities (“NATA”) in Australia (for goods intended for export) or by a testing authority recognised by an overseas body of similar standing to NATA. Further information about testing authorities can be found on the NATA website.

There is also a wealth of information on the ABF website here, which includes a list of those items considered high risk of containing asbestos.

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Customs Information for Australians Travelling Overseas This Holiday Season

Customs have released their annual warning for Australians heading overseas during the 2013/2014 Christmas/New Year holiday season.

The Media Release advises all Australian residents to “Know Before You Go” and is provided as an advisory about what items are prohibited imports so that travellers can check before they leave Australia.

Customs have published a brochure under the title Know Before You Go. The brochure is a DL sized document extending to 32 pages of advice and information. UPDATE: The information is now available online and can be found here on the Australian Border Force website

The text of the Media Release is repeated hereunder for ease of reference by our readers:

Customs and Border Protection is reminding holiday-goers to learn the do’s and don’ts before travelling overseas during the Christmas and holiday period.

During 2012/13, Customs and Border Protection officers seized a range of prohibited goods in airports across Australia including:
•performance and image enhancing drugs;
• dangerous weapons such as firearms and knives; and
• goods that are legal in some countries, but prohibited in Australia, such as electric shock devices, knuckle dusters and BB guns.

“People may think that items such as laser pointers, flick knives, and shock devices make inexpensive novelty gifts, but they could end up costing you more than you bargained for,” Regional Director NSW, Tim Fitzgerald, said.

“While these goods may be legal in some countries, they are restricted to import under Australian law. If we catch you trying to bring goods into the country illegally, you could be charged or face serious fines.”

The easiest way for travellers to check what can and can’t be brought back into Australia, is to go online to and read the ‘Know Before You Go’ brochure.

The ‘Know Before You Go’ brochure is a guide for anyone planning to travel internationally over the summer, and covers:
• what goods are prohibited to bring back into Australia;
• how to declare;
• travelling with medication;
• duty and tax; and
• the Tourist Refund Scheme.

“So that your gifts make it home for Christmas, and to avoid unnecessary penalties, don’t waste your money – know the rules before you go overseas,” Officer Fitzgerald said.

Enquiries should be directed to the Customs Information Support Centre on 1300 363 263 or

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Customs Media Release – High School Students Beware!

In a Media Release issued today, 25th November, 2013, the Australian Customs & Border Protection Service (“ACBPS”) issued a warning to high school students, their parents and teachers, and the community in general, to beware of accepting parcels on behalf of other people whom they don’t know or are only very casually acquainted with.

ACBPS have discovered instances of students allegedly being offered a few hundred dollars to accept a package, on behalf of another person, sent from overseas through the post and then pass the package on to the person(s) responsible for the importation.

The scheme came to light when ACBPS officers were executing search warrants on a number of premises in N.S.W. with the assistance of N.S.W. Police.

The recruiting of the “mules” may have come about through social media channels, and it is alleged the people behind the scheme may have allayed any fears the students had about doing something illegal by telling them they were under adult age so they couldn’t be charged with drug importation offences. This is not correct and the ramifications for young people caught up in such schemes are far-reaching. If they are charged and convicted, they face fines of up to AUD 850,000.00 and 25 years imprisonment. Even if not imprisoned they will still carry a criminal record and this can affect future job prospects and overseas travel (many countries will not issue entry visas to people with a criminal record).

The principals of the schools attended by the 2 students so far identified have been advised of the situation by ACBPS and Police so they can alert other students not to fall for the same scam.

It is hoped that by putting this article on our web page, more people will be aware of it and so they can warn their children, friends, family, their children’s school principals of the danger.

UPDATE: ABC News Coverage

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Customs Import Processing Charges – Update 2

In an article published on 22nd November, 2013, I reported the legislation to implement the planned increase to the Customs IPC did not pass through Parliament before the Federal election in 2013 and the measures must now be reconsidered by the current Government.

As predicted in that previous article, the legislation will be tabled, unaltered, by the current Government with a planned implementation date of 1st January, 2014.

© Lighthouse Agencies Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

Customs Import Processing Charges – Update 1

In a previous article I reported the intention of the Federal Government to increase the Customs Import Processing Charge (“IPC”) effective from 1 January, 2014.

However, the legislation to implement this increase did not pass through Parliament before the Federal election in 2013. The measures must now be reconsidered by the current Government.

It’s probably fairly safe to say that, due to the budget deficit issues facing the current Government, the measures can be expected to go ahead as planned. Whether or not the legislation will be able to be tabled and passed in time for implementation of the new charges on 1 January, 2014, remains to be seen.

This one remains a watching brief.

© Lighthouse Agencies Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

Documents Required by Australian Customs & Border Protection Service

The Australian Customs & Border Protection Service (“ACBPS”) has provided guidance for cargo reporters, suppliers, importers and exporters, and their licensed customs brokers or other agents about acceptable standards of commercial documentation and evidence of money price paid (“EMPP”). These documents are required to support statements made in declarations to the ACBPS.

Further details are provided in ACBPS Notice 2013/46. The Notice includes an attachment listing the types of documentary evidence required.

If you have any questions regarding the guidance provided in ACBPS Notice 2013/46, please Contact Us to discuss.

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Are you importing to, or exporting from, Australia?  Are you thinking about importing or exporting and looking for advice about the procedures and costs? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Our services cover a wide range of import and export related activities (such as customs and quarantine clearances, ocean or air freight, local transport, permit or licence applications, etc.) and we can provide assistance at or up to any point, from the start during your initial planning stages all the way through to final delivery of the goods on arrival. No matter whether your import or export is big or small, Lighthouse Agencies Pty Ltd is here to help.

Information and articles on this site are now in the form of blog posts which enable readers to post comments (for security purposes and to prevent spammers, you will need to register and be approved before you can post). Current articles can be selected by clicking on an underlined date in the calendar on the right.  All the articles that were in the previous website archives have been brought across. To view them, simply scroll down this page and either use the search box, or flick back through the calendar, or select from the list of “Recent Posts”, or select from the dropdown box under “Archives”. If you experience any difficulties with posting a comment, or with any other facet of our website, please Contact Us.

There are a variety of links to web sites related to our area of commerce, under Business Links. This list is by no means comprehensive – our aim is to incorporate links to the main sites that our clients and other visitors to this site might find helpful. We are happy to consider linking requests from service providers and suppliers of information services to the Customs and freight forwarding industries. Please contact the Webmaster (go to our Contact Us page for details) for further information.

The link Resources & Documents will take you to a page where there are documents or other resources our clients may find useful, such as sample Department of Agriculture (“DA”) Biosecurity packaging declarations.

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Customs Import Processing Charges To Increase By More Than 200% From 1 January, 2014

Tucked away in the Australian Government’s 2013 Budget papers is a small section advising that the Import Processing Charge (“IPC”) levied by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (“Customs”) for the “processing” of import declarations for consignments arriving by sea will increase by AU$ 102.60 per consignment. The current IPC is AU$ 50.00, so the new charge will bring this to AU$ 152.60. For consignments arriving by air the IPC will increase by AU$ 81.90. The current IPC is AU$ 40.20, so the new charge will bring this to AU$ 122.10 per consignment.

It should be noted that this increase will only be applied to consignments valued over AU$ 10,000.00. Consignments valued between AU$ 1,000.00 and AU$ 10,000.00 will remain at their current levels, and shipments with a value of less than AU$ 1,000.00 will continue to remain free of any IPC.

The rationale behind such significant increases is the Government’s desire to fully recover all the costs of import related cargo and trade functions undertaken by Customs. Currently only a portion of these functions is cost recovered. The increase to the IPC will result in additional revenue of $674.3 million over four years and will be implemented in accordance with the Australian Government’s cost recovery policy.

It is quite obvious the Government have taken the easy path in respect to this dramatic increase by choosing to impose the burden on those who can do nothing about it – the importing community. If the IPC isn’t paid then an import consignment isn’t released. To be fair, the IPC hasn’t changed for some years so it’s overdue for a review. Furthermore, there are many import related and trade functions where there is no fee currently levied by Customs to access those services, such as applying for a Tariff Advice, or a Valuation Advice, or applying for a Tariff Concession Order.

Is it fair, however, to place the increased burden of cost recovery for these services broadly across the entire importing community when a significant number of them never need to make use of those services? Would it not be a fairer proposition to apply a properly costed processing charge to each service on a user pays basis? No, that would be far too hard (or perhaps the costs for some services would be so high they would be untenable?), so let’s just take the simple option because it can be quickly and very easily instituted with a minimal cost. After all, it’s just a relatively simple re-write of the part of the computer program that calculates the IPC.

Another area where the Government should be looking is the current system for import shipments with a value of less than AU$ 1,000.00. To the best of my knowledge, Australia is the only country that allows such a generous concession. Currently there are some 9 million such consignments flowing into Australia annually, and this is increasing rapidly as consumers become more comfortable with online purchasing. To put it in a nutshell, if you could purchase something and have it delivered to your door within 10 days for, say, AU$ 800.00 whereas going to a local store and paying considerably more (because the price includes import duty and GST) for the same item where the only benefit is delivery within 3 days, why wouldn’t you consider the online purchase?

If the Government took steps to reduce this concession (and there is actually a review underway at the moment) to a more sensible level then they would be have more import declarations against which to levy the IPC. For such low value consignments a concessional IPC could be levied, say AU$ 30.00 per consignment. If the concessional value level was reduced to, say, AU$ 250.00 per consignment (which is on par with many other countries) and that resulted in an additional, say, 8 million IPC charges, the government would receive AU$ 240 million in IPC revenue, plus the bonus of additional import duty and GST currently being foregone.

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Customs Brokers Recognised As A Valuable Profession

In a previous article, Increased Security Arrangements For Ports And Airports, I pointed to the new Conditions being added to the Licences of individual Customs Brokers.

One of these requirements is that Customs Brokers must undertake a program of Continuing Professional Development (“CPD”) in between their licence renewal dates (licences are renewed every 3 years). The requirement is that a Customs Broker must attain 30 CPD points each year during the triennium that their licence is valid for. Training courses must be submitted to Customs for assessment and approval before the course will be accredited for the purposes of counting towards a Customs Brokers’ CPD points. Once accredited the course is given a “Course Number” and points allocation. However, because of the short lead time given by Customs for the introduction of this new requirement, Customs allowed a grace period to enable various training organisations to set up their training courses and have them accredited by Customs. So, the accumulation of CPD points commenced on 1 April, 2013, and in the period to 31 March, 2014, Customs Brokers only need to acquire 15 CPD points. However, from 1 April, 2014, to 31 March, 2015, they will need to accumulate the full 30 CPD points for that year. Customs recognise that one hour of accredited training will equate to 3 CPD points meaning a Customs Broker must attend a minimum of 10 hours of approved training during each 12 month period. Further, the points are required to be accumulated in 3 specified “streams” of study covering Customs Broker obligations, risks and ethics, professional brokerage skills, and Customs brokerage management. Customs require that Customs Brokers retain a written record of the courses attended and the points achieved for successful completion of each course, and Customs Brokers might be asked at any time by Customs to produce the record(s) of CPD points achievements.

In the lead up to the commencement date of the new CPD requirements for Customs Brokers, Customs publicly acknowledged (in Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Notice 2012/37) that Customs Brokers are considered as practitioners in “a distinct and valuable profession.” Customs Brokers are now viewed by Government in a similar light as other professions such as the accounting and legal professions. It has taken many years to reach this point, and it is gratifying that the efforts of the industry as a whole have contributed to this recognition of how professional the industry has become. Just as importantly, the efforts of those in the industry that have tirelessly worked towards this recognition must be applauded. No longer are Customs Brokers considered a collective of blue-collar types simply processing bits of paper and organising cargo deliveries. It is to be hoped that this new recognition of the status of a Customs Broker becomes more widely known throughout the community so we can attract more high calibre young people prepared to undertake the training to become Customs Brokers. It is also hoped that this recognition will lead to importers and exporters placing more value on their Customs Brokers services and reward them accordingly.

The outcome of this new scheme is that the Government and private sectors with whom Customs Brokers deal can be confident the Customs Broker is suitably qualified and experienced to undertake the work required of them.

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Customs Issue Public Alert – “Know Who You Are Talking To”

Customs and Border Protection is warning our industry members and the public of fake calls and emails from scammers posing as Customs and Border Protection officers.

Recently, Customs and Border Protection officers have recorded more than 50 calls to the 1800 06 1800 Customs Watch hotline, regarding claims of people imitating a Customs and Border Protection Officer. Scammers are contacting importers requesting payments and documentation to be supplied before goods and consignments are released.

There have also been an increasing number of calls to people requesting payments and documentation to update their address and personal details.

Scammers stated that failure to complete this payment would mean people are staying in Australia illegally. Customs and Border Protection will never call or email you to ask for your credit card or banking details or to request that you transfer money. Customs Watch would like to warn members of the public to be wary of making online purchases from any unknown sources or anyone seeking financial details or payments.

If you have reason to doubt the validity of a caller or an email, ask for their name and contact details, then check these details with the Customs and Border Protection switchboard by calling 1300 558 287.

Please report any fake calls or emails to the Australian Government’s ScamWatch website at or call 1300 302 502.

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