The SCHS is a voluntary biosecurity agreement developed by industry in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment (the department) and New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (NZMPI). The agreement seeks to manage biosecurity risk associated with sea containers imported from Country Action list (CAL) countries at the port of loading.
Participants in the SCHS that meet sea container hygiene requirements as set out by the department can benefit from a reduced intervention rate on external container inspections on arrival in Australia. With ongoing compliance, external sea container inspections on arrival can reduce to as low as five percent, delivering cost-savings to participants through reduced inspections, cleaning and treatment fees, as well as reduced container dwell-times on wharf.
The SCHS is a performance based system with the level of onshore intervention/inspection rate determined by the department based on the ongoing compliance history and assessment of containers arriving into Australia from that facility.
Under an SCHS agreement, sea containers will be cleaned offshore by the participant prior to loading, in accordance with the department's minimum hygiene requirements. Containers must be cleaned externally and internally at the port of loading and treated externally with an insecticide for pests. The effective offshore biosecurity risk management of sea containers and appropriate maintenance of hygiene standards during transportation will reduce biosecurity risk and reduce the need for additional onshore biosecurity risk management on arrival in Australia.
For a participant to qualify for ongoing reduced intervention rates the biosecurity contamination thresholds must not be exceeded for a designated quarterly period. Where this is achieved the on-arrival inspection rate for the SCHS load port will decrease to the next lowest increment for the following quarter.
If contamination thresholds over a quarterly period are exceeded, the on-arrival inspection rate for the SCHS load port will increase to the next highest increment for the following quarter. Where a significant biosecurity risk with the thresholds is apparent or where biosecurity risk factors are determined to have changed; the department may immediately apply an assurance period or a greater ongoing inspection rate at its discretion.
New participants initial shipments will be subject to the standard inspection rate on arrival in Australia as a part of a required assurance period to verify the system’s effectiveness. The assurance period will be undertaken for a minimum of three months (one quarter) and will inform any reduction in container intervention levels for the following quarter, based on demonstrated compliance.
The methods for determining the appropriate on-arrival inspection rate, roles and responsibilities of participating parties and the use of biosecurity risk analysis in applying appropriate actions relating to the SCHS are outlined in the SCHS Assessment and Management Policy.
Arrangements under the SCHS may be reviewed at the department’s discretion and are subject to risk reviews as determined by the department. As such SCHS arrangements may require additional measures to be implemented to incorporate management strategies that address emerging pests.
Under the SCHS only the cleanliness of container is considered. Individual goods and commodities on or within sea containers remain subject to relevant individual biosecurity import conditions on arrival in Australia. Import conditions for goods arriving in Australia can be found using Biosecurity Import Conditions (BICON). This may include the requirement for further inspection.
The department would encourage any country identified as being on the Country Action List (CAL) to consider the benefits of implementing an SCHS. Countries not listed on the CAL but may benefit from being under a SCHS agreement can also apply.
Agreements can operate between the Australian Government and the entity (E.g. shipping lines, container processing facilities, port authorities). Agreements can also be entered into at a Government-to-Government level allowing for recognition of the SCHS status of a whole of country or port in line with International Standards of Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM).
Under the SCHS Assessment and Management Policy, interested entities are responsible for the costs associated with the establishment of the SCHS facilities, including departmental review of application forms and supporting materials as well as annual departmental onsite audits.
Interested participants wishing to establish an SCHS arrangement, will need to demonstrate to the department that the minimum standards for an offshore hygiene system are in place at the proposed port and facility.
The interested party will then need to submit an application to the department comprised of Code of Practice (CPO) and/or Quality Manual, in addition to any other informative supporting documentation, to assist the department with assessing suitability of the proposed hygiene system entity.
If the department confirms the interested party meets the minimum requirements, the department will progress an onsite pre-approval audit to confirm compliance against the submitted documentation, processes and procedures. Following the pre-approval audit, if deemed compliant, the recognised offshore hygiene system will enter into a three month (one quarter) assurance period.
Governments who express interest in implementing an offshore hygiene system will be required to demonstrate port compliance with the relevant International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM).
Timeframes governing recognition of SCHS application are based on the submission and assessment of initial desk audit application and the successful outcome of the scoping audit and department audit. Participants will also have to show demonstrated compliance with meeting contamination thresholds and reporting requirements for the first three months.
The SCHS can be considered and applied to all types of containers imported through the sea cargo pathway, providing the SCHS facility demonstrates establishment and compliance against the department’s minimum offshore hygiene requirements.
Containers include but are not limited to general containers, refrigerated (reefer) containers, flat racks, empty containers and full container loads. The SCHS may also apply to transhipped containers originating from non SCHS ports, that are shipped and cleaned via approved SCHS facilities prior to arrival in Australia.
If on arrival, biosecurity risk material including actionable snails, ants or soil are found on a SCHS container, the department will place a mandatory hold and standard inspection direction on the remaining cargo.
The approved entity or Government system participant will be informed of the non-compliance, hold actions taken by the department and that for one month from the date of detection, standard full six-sided inspections of all containers for future consignments will apply. Further Information on inspection and clearance of goods, including fees and charges can be found on the department’s website.
The department will provide each participant in the system with an initial monthly report during the establishment period and a compliance report every quarter which outlines the contamination history, next intervention level and any other relevant issues. SCHS contamination thresholds and intervention level adjustments are not negotiable as they are based on historical compliance data.
The department has developed document SCHS Offshore Hygiene Requirements – Industry Guide which outlines procedures that industry can implement to meet the minimum standards of the system. This document serves as a guide only, they are not intended to be prescriptive.
The interested party is invited to demonstrate the minimum requirements with alternative cleaning and treatment processes, and these will be considered by the department for assessment. Further information or procedures may be required depending on the identified pest risks associated with a particular country or port.
An offshore hygiene system recognition is held and applied only to the departmentally recognised participant. However, should a recognised entity make a commercial decision to allow another operator to import containers under their hygiene system, they may do so at their own discretion.
It is possible to use an existing hygiene system if it meets the department’s minimum standards as outlined in the offshore hygiene requirements guide. If the existing system does not meet all minimum standards, adjustments must be made before an application can be lodged by the interested party for the department to assess system suitability.
For further information on the Sea Container Hygiene System, please contact the department via email: SCHS Cargo Policy or phone 1300 900 090 or if from outside Australia (61 3) 8318 6700.
Additional guidance material
- The IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code), includes comprehensive information and references on all aspects of the loading and securing of cargo in containers. Annex 6: Minimising the risk of recontamination, is recommended to assist with management of the hygiene system.
- The IPPC Sea Container Task Force also provides material aimed to facilitate and support the reduction of pest risks associated with the movement of sea containers.
To ensure all required information can be provided to the department in a consistent method, guides and templates have been developed for industry. Completed applications and required supporting documentation can be emailed to the department via: SCHS Cargo Policy.
|SCHS Assessment and Management Policy PDF||21||847 KB|
|SCHS Assessment and Management Policy Word||21||1,274 KB|
|SCHS Entity Application Template PDF||7||334 KB|
|SCHS Entity Application Template Word||7||69 KB|
|SCHS Offshore Hygiene Requirements – Industry Guide PDF||9||481 KB|
|SCHS Offshore Hygiene Requirements – Industry Guide Word||9||1,063 KB|
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 of Agriculture and Water Resources on 1800 798 636 or complete the online form.