The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the department) uses a range of scientific, intelligence and evidence based information when setting the measures for managing the risks associated with arriving goods and cargo. This includes targeting containers that pose greater biosecurity risks or are from known high risk pathways such as Country Action List (CAL) countries, countries with seasonal or emerging pest risks or depending on the location of the final delivery address within Australia.
The department additionally undertakes routine verification activities on arriving cargo as well as surveillance activities at and around wharf areas and empty container parks, to monitor for unwanted or emerging exotic insects and pests.
The on arrival clearance process of sea containers can be helped by ensuring your container is free of biosecurity risk material, correct documentation has been lodged and your goods and any packing materials used meet the department's import conditions. This includes determining whether you may need an import permit before shipping goods to Australia, this information can be obtained from BICON.
The department targets a range of high risk pests and other contaminants (such as soil) on imported sea containers and non-containerised (break bulk) cargo.
All containers from countries listed on the Country Action List (CAL) require full six-sided inspection of external surfaces and the internal surfaces of empty containers prior to release from the terminal.
If your goods are imported from one of the countries listed on the CAL, you must check the CAL status of your goods with the relevant stevedore before arranging collection of the goods from the terminal.
Exporters and shippers are encouraged to ensure that containers are cleaned internally and externally, and that the integrity of the containers is maintained during packing and transport.
Particular attention should be paid to the following areas of the container prior to shipping:
- along bottom rails of containers
- within forklift pockets
- in and around the twist lock fittings
- underside and cross members
- top of the container
The Container Transport Unit (CTU) Code provides advice on the safe packing and transport of sea containers, as well as phytosanitary measures. Annex 6 provides specific information on minimising the risk of recontamination, including measures to remove and manage biosecurity risk material.
Cross contamination can occur at any stage of the pathway where suitable measures are not in place to manage biosecurity risks.
High Level Contamination Management (Tarping of containers)
Sea containers that have been identified as posing a high biosecurity risk due to hitchhiker pests, soil, plant or other contamination must not be moved off the wharf (point of entry) without approval from the department.
Sea containers will be directed for appropriate action to manage the risk, which may also include directions for managing the risk during transit. Where external contamination is likely to dislodge during movement to the cleaning location, the biosecurity officer will direct that the cargo/container must be managed accordingly, for example:
- containerisation of the cargo (if possible)
- part underside tarping if contamination only identified underneath the container
- full envelope tarping if contamination is present on multiple surfaces.
The main types of contaminants found on surfaces of sea containers include:
- Insects – a range of insects can lodge themselves or build nests on shipping containers including ants, wasps, bees, beetles, moths and spiders
- Snails – exotic snails such as the giant African snail and other snail species
- Animals – rodents, geckos and toads are the main vertebrates found in and on shipping containers
- Animal matter – includes animal and bird faeces, bones, skin and hair
- Plants – plants can grow on shipping containers if residual seed has been allowed to germinate with or without contaminating soil. Other plant matter includes leaves and other plant parts
- Soil – soil and soil related contaminants (forklift pockets, the twist lock fittings and underside and cross members)
- Fungi – damp, dark conditions support fungi and other airborne spores can lodge and grow on any soil on container surfaces
The Biosecurity risk treatment guide provides information on the department approved treatment options available to address a specific biosecurity risk.
Industry must be aware of seasonal measures and new and emerging requirements before shipping goods and cargo into Australia.
Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB)
To manage the seasonal risk of BMSB (Halyomorpha Halys), the department implements additional measures each year which apply to targeted goods manufactured in or shipped from target risk countries, and that have been shipped between a set period and to vessels that berth, load, or tranship from target risk countries within the same period. Further information is available on the BMSB Webpage.
Khapra beetle (Trogoderma granarium) is a small but serious pest, as such, the department is implementing urgent actions to address the risk of khapra beetle entering Australia. The urgent actions are being implemented in phases and will result in changes to import conditions for plant products and sea containers. Further information is available on the Urgent actions to protect against khapra beetle webpage.
All sea containers destined to be unpacked in rural areas are subject to a Rural Tailgate inspection (RTG) at the port of discharge. The requirement for an inspection is based on delivery postcode classifications.
- Rural tailgate inspections can be undertaken at a wharf or at an approved metropolitan Approved Arrangement (AA) site. Inspections can be performed by departmental officers or where class 14.4 conditions are met, by an approved Biosecurity Industry Participant (BIP).
Inspection involves the container being directed for an inspection of all external surfaces of the container before opening the doors and checking the doors, seals and floor area close to the door for signs of pests, plant or animal material contaminants and soil.
Rural tailgate inspections consist of an internal and external inspection with exception for the following, which require an external container inspection only:
- consignments containing dangerous goods
- consignments containing hard frozen goods
- Returning Australian meat goods
- Diplomatic consignments
- ISO tanks
Departmental rural tailgate inspection requirements
The initial inspection must be conducted on:
- a truck with a skeletal trailer that allows good visibility under the container, or
- a truck with a flatbed trailer with height extended twist locks where the container is raised above the flatbed platform to allow good visibility under the container, or
- a sea container inspection stand that complies with the specifications for sea freight container inspection stands.
The AA site must have an approved container inspection stand and wash bay in the event that external contamination on the container is detected and cleaning and reinspection are required. Re-inspection of the container must be performed on the inspection stand.
Biosecurity Industry Participant (BIP) rural tailgate inspection
The department has released approved arrangement Class 14.4 Rural tailgate inspection and integrated this arrangement into BICON and associated class 19 systems and policy. Class 14.4 authorises the BIP operating either class 1.1 or class 1.3 (with approved class 4.3 wash bay facilities) sea and air freight depot to perform the rural tailgate inspection, where directed, on certain container types destined for unpack in a rural destination.
Sea containers with a commodity risk are ineligible for this class and will continue to be inspected by a biosecurity officer. Where detection of contamination that is not permitted to be managed by BIPs or where any concerns within the container are found, it must be reported to the department and re inspected by a Biosecurity officer.
Further information on class 14.4 application and conditions can be found on the departments Approved Arrangements webpage.
For questions regarding rural tailgate Inspections performed by the department or a Biosecurity Industry Participant under Class 14.4 contact Sea Cargo Policy.
The department also has joint government-industry initiatives such as the Sea Container Hygiene System (SCHS). The SCHS gives the department a high level of confidence that containers shipped from recognised facilities and load ports, arrive in Australia free from biosecurity risk concerns. The SCHS also provides an opportunity for the department to recognise compliant parties with reduced intervention on arrival, ensuring the timely release of cargo from the wharf and a reduction in associated costs for industry.
The department undertakes regular monitoring, surveillance and response measures such as Cargo Compliance Verification (CCV) inspections at and around wharf areas and empty container parks for unwanted exotic insects and pests. The department also works closely with state and territory agencies and industry during heightened biosecurity periods such as Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) season or where post border detections have been identified.
Clearance of cargo arriving in Australia can often be completed using declarations and information provided by the importer.
It is important that biosecurity incidents are reported as soon as practicable to limit the risk associated with any pest or disease entering, establishing or spreading into Australian territory.
You are required by law to report certain biosecurity incidents if you are:
- a person in charge of goods subject to biosecurity control, or an exposed good order; or
- a person in charge of an aircraft or vessel carrying goods subject to biosecurity control, or an exposed goods order; and
- you become aware of a reportable biosecurity incident in relation to those goods.
A report can be made by calling 1800 798 636 or by completing the Reportable Biosecurity Incident form.
If you see a biosecurity risk that you think may have hitchhiked to Australia, secure the goods to limit the movement where possible, and immediately report it to the department on 1800 798 636 or complete the online form.