Cabotage cargo (fertiliser, grain and stockfeed)

The Department of Agriculture is responsible for managing the risk associated with the movement of all domestic bulk in-ship agricultural commodities (fertiliser, grain and stockfeed) on board international vessels.

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Bulk vessel risk

Bulk carriers that have previously carried actionable cargo, are considered to be a contamination risk, as the vessel may harbour exotic plant diseases such as Karnal bunt.

Actionable cargo

Actionable cargo includes, but is not limited to, the following items:

  • animal material (including feathers, bird excreta)
  • contaminant plant material (including leaves, weed seeds, twigs, woodchips, bark)
  • grains and cereal crops (including wheat, barley, oats, maize, sorghum)
  • leguminous crops (including beans, peas, soybean, lucerne)
  • meals and/or stock feed
  • oilseed crops
  • rice (including raw, unpolished, or with husks on)
  • sand
  • soil
  • sugar cane
  • other biosecurity risk items identified in the Biosecurity Act 2015 and other related legislative and regulative documents.

Vessel risk management

International vessels that will be carrying a cabotage cargo of domestic bulk fertiliser, grain or stockfeed must hold Level 1 vessel status or undertake a verified, in-hold assessment by a marine surveyor prior to loading.

Vessels with Level 1 status

To be classified as a Level 1 vessel, the vessel must have:

  • never carried any actionable cargo, or
  • not carried an actionable cargo since achieving (Level 1) certification.
  • The requirements for obtaining Level 1 vessel status are detailed in the Imported Bulk Cargo Fertiliser Inspection Protocols, administered under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

The vessel retains Level 1 status as long as an actionable cargo is not transported since the issue of Level 1 status.

Vessels without Level 1 vessel status

If your international vessel does not hold Level 1 vessel status and you wish to transport cabotage fertiliser, grain or stockfeed, your vessel will require an in-hold survey (also known as an empty hold assessment) prior to loading.

The assessment must be performed:

  • by a third party marine surveyor
  • with the assistance of man-lift equipment with verification by a department officer
  • at a terminal or wharf during daylight hours
  • on all holds loading cabotage cargo.

Verified in-hold surveys are generally only available in locations permanently manned by department officers. Verification of in-hold vessel surveys in unmanned locations need to be approved by the department before being undertaken and will incur fee for service charges.

Vessel Cleanliness Certificate

The Vessel Cleanliness Certificate can be known by other names including a Certificate of Hold Cleanliness or Certificate of Fitness to Load Grain. It is a certificate issued by a third party marine surveyor to verify that a vessel has passed inspection.

The department will use this certificate to confirm a Level 1 status for the inspected holds of the vessel.

For a Vessel Cleanliness Certificate to be accepted by the department, it must contain the following minimum information:

  • vessel name and IMO number
  • ports of loading and discharge
  • the holds inspected and the result
  • the cargo to be loaded and the tonnage
  • date and time of inspection
  • name, signature and qualification of the Marine Surveyor.

Cargo loaded on a vessel without level 1 status

If cabotage cargo is loaded without a Vessel Cleanliness Certificate, the cargo will require inspection at each port of discharge. A landed cargo inspection will have to be conducted at an Approved Arrangement site, incurring the associated fee for service inspection charges.

In cases of contamination where there is no viable treatment option in Australia, the goods may be ordered to be exported from Australian territory.

Shipping agent / shippers responsibilities

Shipping agents / Shippers are required to notify the department a minimum of 3 working days prior to the vessel’s arrival, of their intention to load dry bulk cabotage agricultural commodities.

This notification must be submitted by completing a Notification of pending movement of bulk in-ship cargo on international vessel within Australia (Cabotage) form and emailing it to the Bulk Commodities National Coordination Centre.

Before arrival of the vessel, you will also need to:

  • make arrangements for inspections on the vessel by a marine surveyor (if required).
  • complete and submit the Notification of inspection of bulk cabotage vessel form to book a verification inspection by the department at the same time as the marine survey is being conducted.
  • advise the department who to charge for the supervision activity.

At the completion of the in-hold inspections, you will need to provide the department with the Vessel Cleanliness Certificate as provided by the marine surveyor.

What the department will do

Before arrival of the vessel, the department will provide a risk rating for the vessel. This will be supplied within 48 hours of receipt of the Notification of pending movement of bulk in-ship cargo on international vessel within Australia (Cabotage) form.

On arrival of the vessel in Australia, the department will:

  • verify the inspection of the vessel holds by the marine surveyor utilising the man-lift to inspect high areas of the vessel holds including the under deck beams.
  • notify all ports of discharge that the vessel has Level 1 status or that landed cargo inspections are required.

The department will also maintain a record of the vessel’s Level 1 status.

Fees and charges

The supervision of a vessel hold survey by department officers is charged at fee for service rates.

Full details of these fees can be found in the department’s charging guidelines.

Further information

For further information regarding cabotage cargo please contact the department on 1800 900 090 or email the Bulk Commodities National Coordination Centre.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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