DAWR Imported Foods Notice – Understanding the Food Control Certificate

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (“DAWR”) released an Imported Foods Notice this week reminding importers of food products about the importer’s responsibilities when a Food Control Certificate (“FCC”) is issued.

The Notice, IFN 08-19, can be found here.

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Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) Update

The 2018-2019 seasonal measures for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (“BMSB”) will draw to a close today, April 30, 2019.

However, readers should bear in mind that Australia’s Biosecurity authority, a division of the Australian government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (“DAWR”), has in place “run-off” plans for imported cargo departing overseas ports at or near the end of the seasonal measures.  For example, containers departing overseas ports over the next few days are most likely to have been packed with their cargo prior to the close of the seasonal measures and, therefore, they will still be affected by the seasonal measures even though the container won’t arrive in Australia for at least 3 weeks and possibly up to 6-8 weeks.  DAWR will monitor such shipments closely to ensure appropriate Biosecurity measures have been undertaken prior to shipment, or can be undertaken prior to release of the cargo from the relevant Australian port area.

While those involved with imports from the affected countries of origin will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief that the Biosecurity restrictions will, over the coming months, ease back in respect of this pest, sadly, such relief will be short-lived.

In light of the logistical issues (or nightmares for many) the seasonal measures have created in seasons 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, there has been an on-going inquiry initiated by the relevant Australian Government Minister pursuant to the many representations to Government about the problems faced by the importing community due to DAWR not having sufficient resources to cope with their own requirements.  DAWR acknowledge they are under-resourced and have resorted to extended overtime for Departmental officers as well as re-engaging with recently retired officers to come back into the work force to assist with the volume of work.

Despite this there have been significant delays in some instances and many thousands of dollars in additional costs for importers, and not just in fees charged by DAWR.  Delayed containers often incur storage charges at container terminals (the wharves) or special storage facilities, additional transport costs for containers moved off the wharf to special storage, and shipping line charges for return of empty containers outside the free period allowed by that line.  Shipping lines have shown little interest in appeals from importers for extended free time, using the situation to make extra profit at the expense of importers caught up in a delay not of their making.  The shipping lines seem to take the position that the importer should have made proper arrangements for their cargo prior to shipment to ensure it wasn’t delayed on arrival. This stance by the shipping lines completely (conveniently?) ignores the fact that the delay is not because the importer didn’t have their goods correctly treated overseas, rather it is because DAWR are taking so long to process clearances.  DAWR have steadfastly refused to entertain claims from importers for any compensation, hiding behind the fact there is no requirement within the legislation for them to process clearances within a set time frame.  Clearly, these processing delays demonstrate the importance for importers to provide documents to their Customs and accredited Biosecurity broker as early as possible to allow for the extended time frame it takes DAWR to process the clearance during BMSB season.

In an effort to find a better way of dealing with the issues, DAWR have already been working on plans for the 2019-2020 seasonal measures.  They have hosted public seminars around Australia to advise industry of their proposed measures and to seek feedback in relation to those measures.  From that feedback, they hope to have their final measures settled well in advance of the commencement of the 2019-202 season, unlike 2018-2019 when industry didn’t receive advice of the final measures until a few days prior to the beginning of the season.  On top of that, the system and measures were re-shaped seemingly “on the fly”  during the season as it became apparent DAWR had badly miscalculated the impact of their requirements, and immense pressure was brought to bear from importers and their service providers.

Yesterday, 29 April 2019, saw the first draft release on the DAWR dedicated BMSB webpages of their proposed measures for the 2019-2020 season.  The BMSB, a native of northern Asia, is spreading rapidly through the European and North American continents where it is not yet defined as a “reportable pest” despite it being a major nuisance.  Of note, the number of countries now on the DAWR list of “target risk countries” has increased from 9 in 2018-2019 (10 if you include Japan, but Japan is only on a heightened vessel surveillance regime at this stage) to 32 countries (as at the time of writing, with other countries under scrutiny) for 2019-2020 (plus Japan which remains on a heightened vessel surveillance regime for now).

There is a considerable amount of information on the webpages, and I recommend readers review the information here to start preparing their import arrangements for the 2019-2020 season.  You can also learn about the BMSB itself on the DAWR website by checking this DAWR page.

Should you require assistance to determine if your imports are likely to be affected and, if so, what measures will possibly apply, please Contact Us to discuss.

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DoA Biosecurity impose mandatory inspections on break-bulk cargo

Advice has been received this afternoon that the Department of Agriculture Biosecurity division (DoA Biosecurity) has instituted a system of mandatory inspections on ALL break-bulk cargo (motor vehicles, machinery, etc.) loaded at the US ports of Savannah or Baltimore.

This action is effective immediately and will affect all such cargo discharging from today onwards at ANY Australian port, until further notice.

The reason for this action by DoA Biosecurity is due to recent significant interception of hitchhiker pests, Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs and Asian Lady Beetles. All cargo will be subject to full inspection and treatment where necessary. Fees for service will be charged in acordance with normal DoA Biosecurity charging guidelines.

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Department of Agriculture undertakes verification inspections for certain commodities from China

In a previous article, I referred readers to the Department of Agriculture Biosecurity advice of increased surveillance of timber packaging materials originating in China.

The Department of Agriculture Biosecurity division released Notice to Industry 63/2014 advising they are now undertaking a short term verification inspection programme targeting commercial goods falling under Harmonised tariff headings 2514, 2515, 2516, 6801, 6802 and 6809.

The Department recently intercepted some pallets that were found to be infested with Asian longhorn beetle, the brown mulberry longhorn beetle, and the Japanese sawyer beetle. All of these are considered significant pests of living trees. The concern is that the pallets were all marked with the treatment identification code ISPM15 HT and supporting documents were provided which confirmed treatment had occurred.

The programme will run for 3 weeks from late June 2014.

In order to minimise the impact on importers:
– Inspections will take place at the importers premises or a location nominated by the importer.
– Goods may be removed from shipping containers; however all goods and packaging must be isolated awaiting inspection.
– No inspection fees will be issued, however normal document processing fees will apply.

The Department is particularly interested in identifying wooden packaging material displaying signs of insect damage or ineffective treatment.

In addition, importers that discover any suspect materials (even materials already imported and in the importer’s premises) should immediately notify the Department via 1800 19 55 43

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Department of Agriculture Biosecurity fee review finalised

In a previous article, I notified readers of the Department of Agriculture, Biosecurity Division, review of its fees with any increases to become effective from 1 July, 2014.

The review is now complete and the Department has published a list of the new charges to take effect from 1 July, 2014. The increases relating to import declarations and container inspections are modest, with the largest increase being only AU$6.00. Increases for permit applications and related assessments are significant, being generally between 45% and 50% (for example, the base application fee for an import permit lodged electronically will increase from AU$85.00 to AU$125.00).

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Department of Agriculture Biosecurity increases surveillance of timber packaging materials from China

The Department of Agriculture Biosecurity division today released Notice to Industry 59/2014 advising they are increasing surveillance of timber packaging materials originating in China.

The Department recently intercepted some pallets that were found to be infested with Asian longhorn beetle, the brown mulberry longhorn beetle, and the Japanese sawyer beetle. All of these are considered significant pests of living trees. The concern is that the pallets were all marked with the treatment identification code ISPM15 HT and supporting documents were provided which confirmed treatment had occurred.

The Department has determined that the treatment was not effective and is asking for the assistance of everyone involved in the importing chain to be on the lookout for timber packaging materials that are showing signs of insect damage or ineffective treatment, and to inspect all timber packaging or dunnage as it arrives at their premises, or already received. Such signs include holes and piles of frass (fine sawdust), large pieces of bark or the presence of mould or fungus.

Any suspect materials should be immediately notified to the Department via 1800 19 55 43

© Lighthouse Agencies Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

Department of Agriculture – Biosecurity fee review

The Department of Agriculture (“DoA”) has announced it is undertaking a review of the fees it charges for the various services it provides. Fees have not been changed since 2009, so it’s fair to say that a review is overdue. DoA advise they are seeking a total increase across all fee revenues of 15%, although this does not mean that all fees will rise by that margin. In consultation with industry, DoA has identified 14 of 32 areas that it believes require increases to meet its charter under the Federal Government cost recovery program.

DoA expect to announce and publish details in early April of the extent of fee increases to be applied from 1 July, 2014.

The announcement can be viewed on the DoA Biosecurity website at Biosecurity Fee Review, with further information on the 14 fee types under review at Import Clearance Fee Review.

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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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Integrated Cargo System Current State of Play

In October, 2005, the Australian Customs Service (“Customs”) bludgeoned the import and export community with the introduction of the Integrated Cargo System (“ICS”). Anyone that was importing or exporting at that time will be still licking their wounds over the enormous dramas the introduction of the system caused.

As we approach the February, 2007 cut-off of any of the remaining legacy systems that the ICS replaced (e.g., COMPILE), it is perhaps timely that a quick review of the current state of play is considered. There has been an enormous amount of work carried out since the introduction of the ICS, especially in regard to workarounds to some issues that the ICS just couldn’t deliver on, or was too inflexible to cope with the reality of the import or export process from a commercial perspective. This modification of the system that was alleged by Customs to be the ultimate reporting system available at the time continues to this day, with a number of diagnostic functions that were available to the commercial users of COMPILE not available under the ICS. To be fair, there are some other diagnostic functions in the ICS that weren’t available to the users of COMPILE, and some of these have proven to be very useful in providing transparency of the reporting regime. Nevertheless, there are some annoying inadequacies in the diagnostic functions of the ICS.

By this, I mean that all parties in, for example, the import reporting regime, are able to interrogate and access data that will tell them where problems or delays in electronic clearance are occurring and, therefore, who should be responsible for correcting the error that is causing the delay. However, getting the responsible party to correct their error in a timely fashion is often a frustrating exercise for other users down the line from that reporter. And then there are the compulsory “screening” times built into the system. Changes aren’t always immediately effective – depending on the nature of the amendment made there is a delay of between 2 hours and 24 hours until the change is processed and flows down the line.

From a Customs brokers perspective, we are finding that there are many things in the chain that are causing much angst to brokers, and these problems and issues have even forced a lot of skilled players out of the industry in sheer frustration at the extra workload they have been expected to undertake for no increase in remuneration. These frustrations stem right from the importer through to the transport operator delivering the goods from the wharf to the importer. Importers just do not seem to understand their place in the scheme of things – there is a general shift by importers to avoid accepting the inherent risks that being an import trader involves and they try to push these risks to third parties, in particular on to their Customs broker. Freight forwarders, and in some cases, shipping lines, seem to think that the 48 hour reporting cut-off means they don’t have to lodge their reports with Customs until 48 hours before the vessel arrives, irrespective of the fact that they had the documents some 1 or 2 weeks prior to the vessel arrival. Whilst the wharves are generally up to speed with electronic releases, many of the lcl depots are not, and they continue to insist on receiving a piece of paper that shows that the goods are clear of any Customs and AQIS impediments, rather than them interrogating their computer systems to check for the electronic release status that the ICS transmits to the depot on final clearance of the shipment. Similarly, transport companies quite often want that piece of paper, although most of them are vastly improved now they have learnt how the ICS works.

Out of all these frustrations, it seems to me the most infuriating come from the importers and the freight forwarders. Many importers continue to think they can give the broker the clearance papers on the day the vessel arrives, or maybe only 1 or 2 days before. This of course places great pressure on the brokers as they are continually having to rush clearances through due to late paperwork from importers. If there happens to be a problem with the paperwork, then these importers complain about the delay as if it’s the broker’s fault, when in fact if the importer had sent in the documents early enough the problem could have been resolved before arrival of the cargo. In regard to freight forwarders, they exacerbate the problems by reporting as late as possible, and only then do they issue arrival notices and the like to advise brokers and importers of certain essential details of the impending shipment. So, not only do brokers have to cope with documents being given to them at the last minute by the importer, the broker also has to cope with freight forwarders not having reported the cargo, and therefore there is insufficient information available for the broker to prepare the Customs and AQIS clearances. Further aggravating the freight forwarder issue is that it is not uncommon for the importer to send documents to the broker and when the broker contacts the forwarder for information about the shipment, the forwarder has not yet received any documents from his overseas agent!

Note that if the shipment is selected for a random inspection by Customs or AQIS, this is NOT the broker’s fault – brokers can do nothing about these random selections as they are generated by the Customs and AQIS internal computer systems.

There have been many stories over the last 15 months or so of importers walking away from accepting the risk of being an import trader and foisting the costs back onto the broker. For example, I heard of one broker whose client received a container that was missing about $12,000 worth of material. The container was packed by the importer’s supplier at the suppliers factory, sealed by the supplier at the factory, and had the same seal on it (still intact) when it arrived at the importer’s warehouse. The importer deducted the $12,000 from the broker’s account, as if it was all the broker’s fault!! The importer’s reasoning? “I didn’t receive my goods, so why should I pay you”  This is outrageous!!

Importers complain about additional costs incurred as a result of inadequate documentation from their supplier, or perhaps because AQIS have placed an overseas fumigation company on their unacceptable list and the container has to fumigated again on arrival. They think the broker is somehow responsible and deduct the charges from the broker’s account. How can the broker be considered responsible for such occurrences? These events are completely beyond his control, yet importers seem to think they can force the financial cost back onto the broker when the broker is simply the medium acting on behalf of the importer to get goods cleared and delivered. It would be a different story if the expense arose due to some negligence on the part of the broker, however, in circumstances such as those mentioned above, it is clearly not the broker’s fault and therefore the broker should not be expected to bear the financial burden.

Customs brokers these days seem to spend an inordinate amount of time using their considerable expertise on behalf of their clients to resolve problems caused by other parties in the transport chain, yet brokers are quite often expected to carry the costs of these problems until they are resolved, rather than the importer bearing the cost and receiving a refund should one be forthcoming. In the same vein, brokers very, very rarely receive remuneration that truly reflects the effort they expend on behalf of their clients.

If you are an importer reading this, then I urge you to sit down with your broker and get to understand what he has to go through on your behalf. He has done his best to understand your business and works to help you achieve your aims. Remember also that the arrangement between an importer and his broker is one that falls under the general laws of “Principal & Agent”. The basic tenet of these laws is that the Principal is responsible for everything the Agent does on behalf of the Principal, and this includes bearing the burden of the costs incurred by the Agent on behalf of the Principal. Help your broker to help you – make his life a little easier and be prepared to carry the burden of the costs of being an import trader, and give your broker a “fair days pay for a fair days work” – he bloody deserves it, I can assure you!

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