14 April 2022
Who does this notice affect?
All Customs Brokers, Importers, Biosecurity Industry Participants, and food importers who have premises that departmental officers may attend (for inspections, surveillance, or other purposes).
What has changed?
The department continues to experience high volumes of inspection requests and services across Victoria and New South Wales; the department's ability to meet service standards for inspection bookings, in these states, will be impacted over the coming weeks, and possibly beyond.
Imported cargo declarations for 1 July 2021 to 28 February 2022 have increased by 17% compared with the same period last year; while high value cargo has increased by 4%; and low value cargo has increased by 18%.
Since January 2022, the department facilitated over 20,000 client-initiated inspection bookings in Victoria and New South Wales.
The department acknowledges clients are currently experiencing delays. All efforts are being made to manage increased workloads to meet service standards, while we also manage an ever-increasing biosecurity risk profile.
What is driving this?
A combination of high volumes of incoming cargo, our borders reopening to passengers and cruise vessels, a changing biosecurity risk profile, as well as the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, both across the department's workforce and at third party premises. As a result, inspection appointments are experiencing delays and in some cases are needing to be rescheduled, often at short notice.
During this period of enormous trade and global pandemic disruption, we have continued to detect and manage many biosecurity risks. Australia is lucky to be free from many of the world’s most damaging pests and diseases however, serious biosecurity risks such as khapra beetle, invasive ants, giant African snail and brown marmorated stink bug are being detected at the border and in some cases post biosecurity and require active management to prevent establishment. Exotic plant pests are capable of damaging our natural environment, destroying our food production and agriculture industries, and some could change our way of life. Serious animal biosecurity risks threats have emerged at the same time, such as Japanese encephalitis which has now been identified in more than 60 piggeries in four states of Australia. We also continue to manage the escalating threat of some significant animal diseases that remain exotic to Australia but are moving ever closer to our shores. For instance, lumpy skin disease continues to spread in our region, with 18 countries officially reporting outbreaks of the disease for the first time and 3 countries including Indonesia reporting their first outbreak since the start of 2022. An outbreak in Australia would have significant impacts on cattle health and production and present a serious and immediate risk to Australia's live and boxed beef and dairy trade.
In 2021, the department responded to over 2,000 post border biosecurity detections and to date in 2022 we have had 480 detections. Some of these have required redirection of significant resources to investigate and manage.
How is the department responding?
Resources are being diverted from other areas to assist with surge capacity where possible, particularly across the inspection and booking functions. New recruits are being deployed where we can.
As industry would be aware, the department is also offering to inspect cargos on weekend and after normal business hours, with priority given to inspection requests for highly perishable airfreight consignments and live animal imports. The department is actively working to bring forward delayed appointments for other cargo.
We acknowledge these are challenging and frustrating times for all. But we do expect these delays to continue for some time, although we will monitor and adapt as we can to the prevailing situation.
The department continues to implement new initiatives and technologies to streamline the way we work. This includes changes to our IT systems as outlined in Import Advice Notice 36-2022, the phased deployment of the Biosecurity Portal to automate the booking process, and automation of our assessment and workload management systems. These initiatives have and will continue to deliver efficiencies in the biosecurity system including time and cost savings to industry.
How industry can help
The department would like to advise clients of information that may assist in avoiding delays in processing your requests for inspection:
- Many LRNs are not able to be finalised at initial assessment because a lack of information from the client. These initial assessments are taking up time and do get put back into the queuing system pending the information being supplied. We encourage you to check LRNs for completeness and accuracy prior to submission.
- The inspection appointment provided is the next available at the time of processing your booking request. Please do not repeatedly call or email the department checking on the status of your request for inspection as this compounds delays.
- Ready Now: If your goods are ready at short notice, notify the department by selecting this option on your booking request and you will be placed on a priority list to gain an appointment should cancellations occur. It is important to note that this is for short notice availability, and you would need to be able to present the goods with 30 minutes.
- Extended hours: As indicated, the department offers out of hours inspections. If you would like to select this option, please nominate your goods availability and preferred day and time. Note overtime is subject to inspector availability and additional charges may apply if the inspection takes place before 6:30am or after 6:30pm, Monday to Friday, on the weekend or on Public Holidays. Late submission may not be able to be accommodated.
- Ensure any specific additional information is included in the ‘additional information’ field in your request for inspection and consider adequate notice when requesting your inspection appointment.
Thank you for your understanding, and for your ongoing patience and cooperation.
For further general information about this Import Industry Advice Notice, please contact the department on 1800 900 090.