Air courier fees

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment screens all imported cargo for biosecurity risk material. The department charges fees to cover the expense of providing these biosecurity services. The fee depends on the way the consignment is presented to the department for inspection and the type of service provided.

The department uses a number of methods to assess the biosecurity risk of all imported air consignments. These methods include checking documents, X–ray screening and using detector dogs.

After these assessments, around 98% of imported air consignments are released without requiring a physical inspection or additional costs to the importer.

Frequently asked questions

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My consignment has been inspected by the department but no goods of biosecurity concern were found. Why has the courier charged me a ‘Quarantine/Biosecurity processing Fee’?

Consignments may be inspected when there is potential biosecurity risk material present or where there is insufficient documentation to assess the risk. If no biosecurity risk material is detected, the goods are released without further treatment.

High volume couriers generally book biosecurity officers for a block of time and present multiple consignments for inspections during that period. This is called a bond register arrangement and the importer’s representative, such as the courier, is charged the appropriate fees for the inspection service. These fees are applied in 15 minutes increments for the duration of the booking.

Where goods are inspected under a bond register arrangement, the courier may invoice you to cover the department’s service costs plus their own administration charges. This may often be described on their invoice as a ‘Quarantine/Biosecurity processing fee’. This is a commercial decision of the courier. You may wish to contact your courier for an explanation of any non–departmental fees that have been charged.

If you would like to know more about fees, please see the department's charging guidelines.

My consignment has been inspected by the department and no goods of biosecurity concern were found. Why have I been charged a fee by the department?

The majority of air cargo consignments are processed under bond register arrangements. However, some consignments are required to be processed through the department’s Agriculture Import Management System (AIMS). These consignments generally include goods with a declared value of greater than $1,000 or consignments lodged by low volume couriers that require physical inspection to assess biosecurity risks.

When consignments are processed through AIMS, the appropriate in and out of office service fees are applied for the time taken (minimum 15 minutes) to assess the biosecurity risks per individual AIMS entry. If an assessment takes longer than 15 minutes or subsequent assessment or actions such as inspections are required, the client will be charged for each additional 15 minutes. Service fees apply irrespective of whether goods of biosecurity concern are found.

For consignments that are processed through AIMS, the department issues an invoice to your courier with a breakdown of fees and charges. You may wish to contact your courier for an explanation of any non-departmental fees that have been charged.

My consignment has been inspected by the department and an item/consignment has been treated, destroyed or exported. The courier has invoiced a fee which is unexpectedly high. Why?

Imported goods may need to be treated on arrival for the presence of biosecurity risk material found at inspection. Mandatory on arrival treatments may also be required for certain high risk goods, as stipulated on import permits and/or the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON). Treatments may include gamma irradiation, fumigation, heat, cold, disinfection, devitalization, cleaning, or the goods may need to be destroyed by incineration or deep burial, or exported back to the country of origin.

Before directing the goods for a particular treatment, destruction or export, the department seeks agreement from the importer, or courier on behalf of the importer, for a preferred treatment option.

All treatments, exports and destructions are required to be issued through a biosecurity direction. Departmental staff charge for the time taken in generating the biosecurity direction and associated administrative tasks. This usually involves a $30 charge and is applied separately to document assessment and inspection services fees. The total amount charged by the department depends on the option chosen by the importer/courier and the type of service performed.

Treatments are typically carried out by biosecurity approved third party providers and they apply their own fees independently of the department for the services they provide. You may wish to contact your courier or clearing agent for a full breakdown of departmental and non-departmental fees for your consignment.

My consignment has been delayed, damaged or has an item missing. Why?

Couriers are responsible for:

  • declaring or lodging proper documents to the department
  • transporting, handling and storing held items
  • advising the department about preferred option (for example presenting supporting documentation, inspection, treatment, export or destruction)
  • making an appointment for biosecurity inspection
  • presenting the consignment with a biosecurity concern (including opening and resealing the consignment) to the department for inspection
  • observing inspection of the consignment by the department
  • organising treatment, destruction or export
  • delivering the consignment to the importer after it has been released from biosecurity control.

You may wish to contact your courier in the first instance to seek an explanation of your query. If you are not satisfied with the courier’s explanation or require further clarification, please contact the department on 1800 900 090 (free call within Australia) and you may be referred to a representative from Inspection Services.

Where can I get more information?

Before ordering or importing an item from overseas, please refer to the Mailing goods to Australia web page or the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) for detailed import conditions.

If you’re an international student tell your friends and family overseas about Australia’s biosecurity laws and ask them not to send food, plant material and animal products.

Fees and charges are regularly reviewed.

Last reviewed: 12 November 2020
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