What's changed for airlines and aircraft operators

​​Important changes to Australia’s biosecurity system came into effect on 16 June 2016 with commencement of the Biosecurity Act 2015.

The Biosecurity Act 2015 (Biosecurity Act) replaces the Quarantine Act 1908, allowing for modernisation of the biosecurity system. The Biosecurity Act introduces new requirements that affect how the department manages the biosecurity risks associated with goods, people and conveyances entering Australia.

We aim to make compliance with the new laws easy for you and your business. The information on this page provides a view of how the Biosecurity Act affects airlines and aircraft operators by outlining key changes.

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Pre-arrival reporting for aircraft

For most aircraft operators the requirements for pre-arrival reporting remain largely the same as under the Quarantine Act 1908. Operators of aircraft who intend to enter Australian territory are required to report prescribed information before landing. This report must be made:
  • as close to top of descent as is operationally practicable before arrival
  • at least 30 minutes before the aircraft is on chocks (at a complete standstill), or
  • at the time specified by a biosecurity officer.

The aircraft operator may issue the report by radio communication or telecommunication.

For scheduled aircraft, information requirements will not change. For all other aircraft you are now required to confirm:

  • details or any person on the aircraft who has signs or symptoms of a listed human disease
  • details of any person on the aircraft who died during the flight
  • the presence of any animals carried in the aircraft cabin and whether any such animals have died during the flight
  • whether disinsection procedures have been followed.

Separate notice is required for all goods that are or are intended to be ‘unloaded’ in Australian territory. Air freight operators should check out the information about what’s changed for importers or view section 11 of the Biosecurity Regulation 2016 for more detail.

Biosecurity control

The jurisdiction of the Biosecurity Act is 12 Nautical Miles (NM) from Australia’s coastal baseline, a change from 200 NM from the baseline under the Quarantine Act 1908. Airspace is also included in the definition of Australian territory. Goods and conveyances from overseas are automatically subject to biosecurity control once they enter Australian territory, usually by passing through the 12NM limit including the airspace above Australian territory. It is important that airline operators, pilots and aircraft operators understand their responsibilities under the Biosecurity Act.

Human biosecurity

The human health provisions in the Act are administered by the Department of Health and further details about managing human biosecurity under the Act can be found on the Department of Health website.

Arriving in Australian territory

The requirements for airline and aircraft operators upon arrival in Australian territory are largely the same as those under the Quarantine Act 1908. Aircraft operators are still required to:

  • issue an inflight passenger announcement about biosecurity requirements under the laws of the Commonwealth
  • report any illness or death on-board
  • manage biosecurity waste
  • perform appropriate disinsection of the aircraft.

One of the more noticeable changes under the Biosecurity Act is the introduction of new terminology including, conveyance, first point of entry, biosecurity industry participant and person in charge. View the Understand the Biosecurity Act page to learn more about some of the language that has been retired and the new terms that are being used.


The pratique requirements for aircraft remain largely the same as under the QuarantineAct 1908. Aircraft will automatically be granted pratique unless there is illness or death on-board, or if the aircraft has not completed disinsection requirements. In those situations, the aircraft does not have pratique until it is granted by a biosecurity officer.

Pratique ensures risks to human health can be identified and managed before the vessel or aircraft is unloaded or disembarked. The International Health Regulations define pratique as:

  • permission for an aircraft, after landing, to embark or disembark, discharge or load cargo or stores, and
  • permission for a ground transport vehicle, upon arrival, to embark or disembark, discharge or load cargo or stores.

Arriving at a First Point of Entry

Under the Biosecurity Act all aircraft are required to arrive at a First Point of Entry, unless permission has been granted by the department in advance of the arrival at a non-first point of entry. This reflects current ‘first ports’ arrangements under the Quarantine Act 1908.

The Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2015 enables existing ‘first ports’ to be declared as First Points of Entry upon commencement of the Biosecurity Act and provides an additional three years for the First Points of Entry to meet new legislated requirements.

First Points of Entry need to meet minimum standards with regard to facilities and processes required to manage biosecurity and human biosecurity risks.

Exceptions to arriving at a First Point of Entry

An application can be made in writing to arrive at a landing place that is not a First Point of Entry. These applications are assessed on a case by case basis. Approval is not guaranteed, and may be subject to conditions designed to manage the biosecurity risk associated with the request. Additional costs may apply.

The process for applying to arrive at a non-First Point of Entry is not changing with the introduction of the Biosecurity Act. Information on how to apply for approval to land at a non-First Point of Entry is available for aircraft operators on the department’s website.

Biosecurity entry points

The first point of entry determination may designate a specified area of the landing place as a biosecurity entry point, within the physical boundary of the airport. A biosecurity entry point is a physical location which has the appropriate facilities required to address biosecurity risks. Specific classes of conveyances or goods may need to go to a designated biosecurity entry point on arrival. For example, aircraft arriving from overseas that carry live horses would be directed to a specific area of the airport equipped to manage the biosecurity risks associated with horses and to support animal welfare.

Aircraft disinsection

Disinsection is a procedure whereby health measures are taken to control or kill the insect vectors of human diseases present in a conveyances. The department administers disinsection requirements on behalf of the Australian Department of Health and the arrangements and procedures remain consistent with those under the Quarantine Act 1908.

Biosecurity waste

The department will continue to regulate the collection, transportation and disposal of waste from aircraft. Industry members who perform these functions are now referred to as a biosecurity industry participant.

Airport operators are responsible for managing biosecurity waste by using biosecurity industry participants operating under an approved arrangement for the collection, transport and disposal of waste. In locations where biosecurity industry participants are not available the biosecurity officers may directly supervise the collection, transport and disposal of biosecurity waste.

Unloading goods

Because all goods arriving from overseas are subject to biosecurity control, notice is required for all goods that are or are intended to be brought into and ‘unloaded’ in Australian territory. This is different from practices under the Quarantine Act 1908, where notice was required for proposed importation of goods, or within a certain period after the landing or receipt of the goods if no advance notice was given.

There are revised processes for the abandonment and forfeiture of goods in the cargo, passenger and mail pathways.

Reporting biosecurity incidents

The Biosecurity Act introduces a new requirement for clients to report biosecurity incidents. The person in charge of goods that are subject to biosecurity control, or a conveyance carrying such goods, must report any reportable biosecurity incident in relation to the goods, as soon as practicable.

Incidents must be reported whether or not the person is in Australian territory when they become aware of the biosecurity incident.

Reportable incidents

The events that are reportable biosecurity incidents are defined in the Biosecurity (Reportable Biosecurity Incidents) Determination 2016. They are incidents that have the potential to increase biosecurity risk.

Events relating to prohibited goods, conditionally non-prohibited goods or suspended goods include:

  • the goods in a container, conveyance or other premises are not as described on a manifest or an import permit relating to the goods
  • the goods are in a container, conveyance or other premises that is damaged and the goods are no longer secure
  • the goods have been lost or stolen
  • the goods have been destroyed in circumstances other than in compliance with a direction given by a biosecurity officer.

Events relating specifically to conditionally non‑prohibited goods include:

  • a change to the intended use of conditionally non‑prohibited goods.

Events relating to goods generally include:

  • the goods or a container, conveyance or premises in which the goods are being held, have been, or are likely to have been, exposed to contamination, infestation or infection from prohibited goods, conditionally non‑prohibited goods or suspended goods
  • the goods are infested with a live pest, for example, an insect, invertebrate or other animal
  • biosecurity measures that have been required to be taken in relation to the goods have not been taken. For example, goods are to be left at a specified place for a specified period of time and have been moved; or a shipping container was directed to a wash bay for treatment and wasn’t. This applies even if it was not possible for the measures to be taken.

Assessing and managing biosecurity risk

Biosecurity officers have additional powers and options to assess and manage the level of biosecurity risk associated with goods and conveyances subject to biosecurity control including the power to:

  • require a person to answer questions in relation to the goods or conveyance
  • require a person to produce documents in relation to the goods or conveyance
  • give directions about the movement or non-movement of goods or a conveyance
  • secure goods or conveyance
  • isolate goods
  • inspect the goods or conveyance.

Specific assessment and management powers relating to goods

In relation to the assessment and management of goods, a biosecurity officer is able to:

  • take samples
  • affix a biosecurity control notice
  • give an exposed goods order.

Specific assessment and management powers relating to a conveyance

A biosecurity officer can direct that a conveyance (aircraft) be moved to a specified place or be subject to other biosecurity measures.

Powers extend to conveyances that are exposed to another conveyance that is subject to biosecurity control, as they also become subject to biosecurity control as a result of this exposure. Certain exclusions have been created in draft regulations.

More information on the assessment and management powers available under the Biosecurity Act.

Treatment and destruction of goods and conveyances

Where goods or conveyances require treatment that is likely to cause damage to those goods or conveyances, the biosecurity officer must request that the person in charge agree to treatment prior to undertaking the treatment. If the goods or conveyance cannot be effectively treated, then the biosecurity officer may issue a destruction order.

There is a revised process for the treatment of high value goods and conveyances, to ensure the least adverse business and operational impact.

High value

High value has been defined in the regulations. If the goods are high value, and treatment or destruction is required, the decision must be approved by the Director of Biosecurity or their delegate before taking action.

High-value conveyances are conveyances of a value greater than $999.99.

For goods other than live animals or animal reproductive material, high-value goods are goods of a value greater than:

    • $999 999.99 for goods to be treated in a manner likely to cause damage
    • $9 999.99 for goods that are to be destroyed.

For goods that are live animals or animal reproductive material, high-value goods are goods of a value greater than $9 999.99.

Decisions relating to high value goods and conveyances, as well as a range of other provisions of the Biosecurity Act, require officers to take certain principles into account. The aim of the principles is to ensure that any direction given or action undertaken is necessary, appropriate and adapted and does not impact on the person or their rights any more than is necessary to manage the level of biosecurity risk posed by the goods or conveyance.

A person can request review of a decision to give approval to destroy high value goods or a conveyance.

Interacting with installations

Offshore petroleum installations outside of 12NM are located outside of Australian territory for the purposes of the Biosecurity Act. While these installations are not subject to biosecurity control, aircraft (not subject to biosecurity control) that leave Australian territory and are exposed to the installations are subject to biosecurity control when returning to Australian territory. View the what’s changed for installations page for more information about how the Biosecurity Act affects offshore petroleum operators.

The department recognises that there are many low risk exposures between conveyances and installations. As a result, in certain circumstances where a conveyance meets certain conditions, the conveyance can be exempt from being subject to biosecurity control when returning to Australian territory. These exceptions are detailed in the Biosecurity (Exposed conveyances – exceptions from biosecurity control) Determination 2016.

Release from biosecurity control

Goods will be released from biosecurity control in a number of ways including:
  • verbally,
  • in writing,
  • electronically
  • for certain types of goods, automatically, when they leave certain control areas. For example, passengers’ goods will be released from biosecurity control when they leave the first point of entry. Cargo will generally be cleared electronically as it currently is.

Conveyances will be released from biosecurity control in the following ways:

  • notice given by a biosecurity officer or biosecurity industry participant
  • when a conveyance is destroyed
  • when the conveyance leaves Australian territory.

Compliance and enforcement

The department uses a differentiated approach to compliance management. This approach focuses on promoting voluntary compliance, and responding to non-compliance in a way that corresponds with the behaviours of those involved. Find out more about our approach to compliance and the specific compliance posture that will be adopted from commencement to support existing clients to transition to the new laws.

Failure to comply with a requirement under the Biosecurity Act may result in penalties, including infringement notices, civil penalties or criminal prosecutions.