All international vessels intending to arrive in Australia are required to submit pre-arrival reporting to the department prior to arrival for each voyage in Australia. Commercial vessels must report using the Maritime and Aircraft Reporting System (MARS).
MARS is the online portal for commercial vessel masters and shipping agents to submit reports required of all international vessels (conveyances) seeking Australian biosecurity clearance; and request services such as coastal strip, waste removal, ship sanitation certification and crew change. The information informs the department of any potential biosecurity risks associated with human, animal and plant health, waste and ballast water and to determine suitable intervention.
Under the Biosecurity Act 2015, biosecurity officers will assess and manage biosecurity risk associated with conveyances and goods as they automatically become subject to biosecurity control once they enter Australian territory, which is generally when they pass through the 12NM limit. Sections 129 and 203 of the Act.
Release from biosecurity control or exposure
Conveyances can be released from biosecurity control under Section 218 of the Act in the following ways:
- by notice to the person in charge by a biosecurity officer
- when a conveyance is destroyed
- by leaving Australian territory.
If a conveyance is exposed to an exposed conveyance and/or when it re-enters Australian territory, it can become subject to biosecurity control under Section 192 of the Act.
Coastal Stripping for Commercial Vessels
International vessels intending to stay in Australian waters for an extended period may seek coastal status. This means the vessel is released from biosecurity control, however it may still be required to comply with relevant state or territory requirements.
Coastal status is granted after an inspection of the vessel has been completed and all biosecurity risks have been managed in an approved manner.
A coastal status (domestic) vessel that leaves Australia and/or interacts with an installation becomes an ‘exposed conveyance’ (exposed vessel) and is subject to biosecurity control when it returns to Australia in accordance with the Act, Section 193(1) (a) and (b); unless an exception can be met. For the purposes of the Act, exposure results from being in physical contact with, in close proximity to, or being contaminated by an installation.
For more information on vessels exposed to installations also see the Quick Reference Guide QRG06: Vessels Exposed to Installations.
Seeking coastal status
The vessel agent or master may submit a Coastal Strip Service Request through MARS to initiate the process. A service request can only be submitted in MARS if a port visit exits for that voyage. A port visit is created when a PAR or Non-First Point of Entry (NFP) application is submitted using MARS.
Read the Coastal Strip Service Request Quick Reference Guide for a step-by-step guide on applying for coastal status. The guide is available on the MARS communications and training materials webpage.
Coastal strip inspections are completed at designated Australian first points of entry and subsequent ports. Refer to the map of Australian first points of entry from the Vessels webpage to learn about designated first points of entry requirements: Australia's first points of entry for vessels.
Vessels requiring a coastal strip must take appropriate steps to ensure the vessel is prepared for the inspection. Shipping agents should be aware of department requirements and ensure the operator/master of the vessel is prepared for the biosecurity inspection.
To read about, and launch MARS, go to: Vessels.
How to prepare a vessel for coastal status
- Submit a PAR between 96-12 hours (and no less than 12 hours) prior to arrival in Australia.
The agent must:
- Submit a Coastal Strip Service Request using MARS.
- Arrange a suitable time for the inspection to take place with department biosecurity officers.
- Advise the department of the date and time that biosecurity waste is to be collected and transported.
- Arrange the management of biosecurity waste in accordance with department requirements. Waste must be collected, transported and disposed of by a waste provider under an Approved Arrangement with the department or under the supervision of a biosecurity officer.
- Make appropriate arrangements for goods that are identified by biosecurity officers as requiring treatment or destruction.
- Arrange for appropriate cleaning equipment and approved treatments to be conducted for cleaning of fridges, freezers, galley area, galley grinders and waste bins. Cleaning and disinfection can only occur after freezers have been completely emptied of organic material, defrosted, and the surfaces are at or near room temperature.
- Freezers, refrigerated compartments and other storage and preparation areas which may have contained fruit and vegetables should be disinfected with a 2% sodium hypochlorite (chlorine) solution.
- Freezers, refrigerated compartments and other storage areas that contained meats, poultry or food wastes (e.g. galley bins, galley grinders, galley chutes and deck waste bins) must be emptied and disinfected with a suitable dilution of Virkon®S disinfectant.
- Manage and prevent cross contamination between international and local provisions. The vessel stripping process must be completed prior to local provisioning.
Complying with department directions
Masters and shipping agents should be aware of department requirements under the Biosecurity Act 2015 and ensure the master/operator of the vessel has completed all appropriate steps.
- The operator of the vessel is obligated to accurately report information in accordance with section 193 of the Biosecurity Act 2015. Information must be lodged in MARS no later than 12 hours, prior to arrival.
- Where the vessel operator uses a shipping agent, the agent is responsible for reporting and the lodgement of accurate and timely information into MARS. The agent must ensure that this information is a true and correct representation of the reports provided by the vessel operator, and that any changes have been confirmed with the operator.
- The operator must follow department directions including the conditions stated on the Biosecurity Status Documents (BSDs).
The biosecurity inspection
During the inspection any biosecurity risk material, including plants, foodstuffs, and waste must be managed/removed from the vessel and spaces treated in accordance with department requirements. The entire vessel will be inspected including all galleys and food storage areas, cabins, crew quarters, open deck areas, storage lockers and engine room.
A biosecurity officer will:
- Interview the master of the vessel to explain the purpose of the visit and the inspection procedure
- Verify information provided to the department is factual
- Confirm all documentation required for biosecurity clearance is available on board
- The vessel details will be verified against a copy of the Ship’s Particulars and other vessel documentation such as import permits, vessel schematics, and ballast water records.
- Confirm at inspection that the master has the opportunity to verbally declare anything that may have changed or that has been previously overlooked.
- Secure any relevant goods under a biosecurity control notice (on a case by case basis if required).
- Identify any food items that may be cross-contaminated for removal.
- Identify any treatments or removal of items from the vessel for goods infested with insects in accordance with department guidelines.
- Inspect dry provisions for infestation and hygiene standards.
- Record inspection results and finalise any outstanding actions to complete the inspection.
- There may be additional follow up inspection/s in subsequent ports.
The officer must also be satisfied that all ballast water tanks have been appropriately managed to address any biosecurity risks. If the vessel is unable to meet any of these requirements, the vessel may not be released from biosecurity control. Refer to the Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements: Ballast water.
Types of biosecurity risk materials
Risk materials include but are not limited to:
- Potted plants, cut flowers and foliage and deck gardens
- Hitchhiker pests such as insects, rodents or birds
- Standing water
- Food containers such as hessian bags previously used to carry or store raw produce or meat such as fruit and vegetables, rice, grains, coffee beans, grains
- Ships waste (galley and cargo waste, including spilt food residuals)
- Fresh produce
- Foodstuffs, including dry stores (grains, rice, nuts or seeds), meat, poultry, dairy products and other animal products
- Items made from animal (hides, skins) or plant material (wooded or straw items)
- Untreated timber dunnage (timber used for packing cargo)
- Ballast water is managed in accordance with the Australian Ballast Water Management Requirements
- Any goods that are to be landed
- Sporting equipment.
Biosecurity risk foodstuffs
Foodstuffs include but are not limited to:
- Personal food items
- All dairy products such as fresh milk, ice cream, yoghurt, butter, and cheeses including packaging
- All poultry products and packaging fresh, cooked or frozen including packaging e.g. eggs and egg products noodles and mayonnaise containing greater than 10% egg
- All meat products and packaging including fresh, frozen, dried and cured (sheep, beef and pork etc)
- Raw nuts
- Fresh fruit and vegetables including packaging.
For additional information on the types of goods that can be brought into Australia and needs to be declared for inspection can be found at Declare It: Arriving in Australia – Declare it.
Ship’s pets or animals on board
Vessels cannot gain coastal status with ship’s pets or animals on board.
For information on confining and controlling ship’s pets or animals (as part of a strip to coastal), refer to the department’s Animals on vessels webpage: Animals on vessels.
Only dogs and cats may be eligible for import as pets. Owners must apply for an import permit and meet all import conditions (including health certification) to be eligible, and generally require a mandatory period of quarantine in an Australian post entry quarantine facility. Planning to import animals to Australia, see Importing live animals and reproductive material.
Gaining coastal status
Coastal status is granted after a biosecurity officer conducts the inspection and all biosecurity risk material has been managed (stripped) in an approved manner.
Where to find information about specific goods import conditions
The department provides a range of online services and lodgement systems to help streamline document and reporting requirements for importers and vessel operators using MARS: Online services and systems .
The Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) is an online application that provides searchable information on conditions for goods allowed into Australia: Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON).
It is your responsibility to comply with the department’s import conditions when arriving or importing goods into Australia.