Protecting Australia

The department manages biosecurity risks at the Australian border. We ensure international vessels arriving in Australian territory comply with International Health Regulations (IHR) and manage biosecurity risks for arrival.

Maritime conveyances (vessels) entering Australia could unknowingly carry unwanted pests and diseases, threatening our unique flora and fauna, aquaculture and agricultural industries as well as our human health.

Biosecurity risk of vessels is managed through pre-arrival reporting, assessment and inspection of international vessels arriving in Australia. For the entire time the vessel is in Australian waters, vessels must report:

  • the human health of travellers
  • crew changes
  • animals on board
  • hitchhiking animals and birds
  • plant and insect pests
  • ballast water and biofouling.

Biosecurity reporting obligations

Vessel Operator Responsibilities

The operator of a vessel is obligated to accurately report information in accordance with Section 193 of the Biosecurity Act 2015.

Shipping Agent Responsibilities

Where a vessel operator uses a shipping agent, the agent is responsible for lodgment of accurate and timely pre-arrival reporting (PAR).

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.

Pre-arrival information, and changes, for vessels must be reported in a method approved by the Director of Biosecurity.

For commercials, reporting obligations are met once vessel pre-arrival information has been submitted in the Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS). Electronic offline forms can be used where there is limited internet connectivity, but they do not constitute the approved form until the PAR has been  submitted in MARS.

Pre-arrival reporting must be reported 96 to 12 hours prior to arrival in Australian waters.

Pre-arrival reporting ensures that the biosecurity risk of each vessel entering Australian waters is assessed and managed. Where vessel reporting does not meet the department‘s standards additional directions or corrective actions will be issued by a biosecurity officer.

Any changes in circumstances during the voyage in Australian waters must also be reported to the department as soon as practicable.

In addition to department requirements, Australian state and territory governments also have biosecurity requirements.

Biosecurity legislation and the Australian Territory

The range of the Australian territory and its external territories.

Where in Australia can you arrive?

Vessels can only arrive at Australian ports approved by the department.

Commercial vessels

Commercial vessel types that must report using MARS on pre-arrival to Australia.

Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS)

How to access MARS to report commercial vessel pre-arrival and receive biosecurity directions for arrival.

Non-commercial vessels

What are your pre-arrival reporting obligations and what to expect for your non-commercial vessel (yacht) arrival in Australia.

Australian registered vessels

Are you an Australian vessel travelling within Australian territories?

Offshore installations

What are your reporting obligations for vessels or aircraft that move between an installation and Australian ports

Need help with vessel reporting?

Contact us for help, 7 days a week.

Military vessel pre-arrival reporting

Information for visiting foreign military forces and the Australian Defence Force when entering or returning to Australia.

Fees and charges

The department charges for activities it undertakes to protect Australia’s biosecurity. A full list of fees associated with vessel biosecurity services are set out in the department’s charging guidelines.

Compliance and Enforcement

Under section 532 of the Biosecurity Act, a person is liable to a civil penalty for false or misleading information, or omission of any matter, or thing, without which the information is misleading. 

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

See also Reportable biosecurity incidents.

Need help with vessel reporting?

The department’s National Maritime Centre (NMC) provides national support.

The NMC’s operating hours are Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST): Weekdays (Monday-Friday): 0700-1900 hours and Weekends (Saturday & Sunday): 0700-1900 hours

Contact details: 1300 004 605 (free call in Australia) or outside Australia + 61 8 8201 6185.

The NMC’s operating hours are supplemented with an additional on-call arrangement for urgent assessments and biosecurity incidents: Weekdays (Monday-Friday): 1900-2030 hours and weekends (Saturday & Sunday): 1900-2030 hours.​

See Vessel Contacts for the key biosecurity offices, and on-call contact arrangements at each port location across Australia.

Learn about Seasonal Pests (SP) and ongoing heightened biosecurity measures and surveillance

Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM) – increased seasonal risk from January to May each year

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) – increased seasonal risk between September and May each year

Burnt Pine Longicorn (BPL) – increased seasonal risk between November and May each year

Join the Vessel Seasonal Pest Scheme (VSPS) - for shipping lines 

African swine fever – travellers must not remove jerky, biltong and other pork products from the vessel

Last reviewed: 13 August 2021
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