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Export Q & A

What is a freight forwarder?

A freight forwarder arranges physical cargo movement for both imports and exports to / from the place of manufacture to the designated delivery address. We liaise with the airline, courier and shipping line services that are available to us to ensure that your freight is moving the most cost effective way according to your time delivery needs.

What are personal effects?

Personal effects are household and personal items that you personally have owned while you resided overseas. You must be a citizen, temporary or permanent resident returning to take up residency in Australia, or an approved migrant coming to Australia to live. You must have personally owned and used the items overseas for a period of at least twelve months prior to entry into Australia.

What is a courier service?

A courier service delivers messages, packages and mail. As a premium service, couriers are usually more expensive than standard mail services, and their use is typically restricted to packages that are considered important enough to warrant the cost.

What is an air freight service?

Air freight delivery is the transfer and shipment of goods via an air carrier, which may be charter or commercial. Such shipments travel out of commercial and passenger aviation gateways to anywhere planes can fly and land.

What is an LCL shipment?

LCL means "Less than Container Load". This shipping term is commonly used to describe an international ocean freight service that designed for shipping boxed, crated or palletised cargo from or to Australia that cannot fill an entire 20 or 40 foot sea freight container.

What is an FCL shipment?

FCL is the abbreviation for “Full Container Load” used in the International Ocean Freight Industry for Exporting and Importing cargo to and from the USA. This term is commonly used to describe an international sea freight service that is designed for ocean freight shipments of cargo where shipper has exclusive use of sea freight multimodal container. As a rule, ocean freight containers are loaded and sealed by the shipper at the shipper’s facility. Then it’s transported by ocean, rail and/or truck directly to the point of final destination.

What are Incoterms?

Incoterms are international rules that are accepted by governments, legal authorities and practitioners worldwide for the interpretation of the most commonly used terms in international trade. They either reduce or remove altogether uncertainties arising from differing interpretations of such terms in different countries. View: the full list of the terms and what they mean.

What are the dimensions of shipping containers?

Shipping containers come in a range of sizes. View: container dimension specifications.

What are Prohibited and Restricted Goods?

Certain goods brought into Australia require an import permit or approval. Customs and Border Protection may seize or detain such goods pending presentation of the permit. Alternatively, the goods may be a prohibited import and not allowed into the country under any circumstance. Some goods bought over the internet are prohibited or could contain substances that are restricted in Australia, even if they are legal overseas. Items that may be detained or seized by Customs and Border Protection include, but are not limited to:

  • Performance and image enhancing drugs containing restricted substances
  • Laser pointers
  • Medications, including herbal preparations
  • Videos, DVDs, CDs and books/publications with objectionable or offensive content
  • Protrusion dog collars
  • Tablet presses
  • Animal products made from protected species or with cat or dog fur.

Before you buy goods on the internet, Customs and Border Protection recommends you seek information to determine whether you require an import permit or approval. For more information on goods that may be prohibited or restricted and permit requirements, view: Prohibited and Restricted Imports.

What are free trade agreements?

Australia has six Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with other countries in force and another eight under negotiation.The FTAs contain legally binding commitments by each member to liberalise access to their markets for goods and services as well as investment.For further information on Australia’s Free Trade Agreements, see DFAT: Australia's Trade Agreements.

What is Marine Cargo insurance?

Marine Cargo insurance is required for loss and /or damage of goods while in transit. It is important to ensure your infrastructure, vessels and stock is protected with the highest level of risk advisory and insurance placement services. Marine cargo insurance covers the transportation of goods from one place to another. The mode of conveyance can be by sea, air, rail, road, parcel post or courier sending.

What is a bill of lading?

A bill of lading (sometimes abbreviated as B/L or BOL) is a key document used in the transport of goods. It has a variety of purposes in international trade aside from the main purpose of providing a record of shipment for goods. It is also a receipt for cargo accepted for transportation and must be presented to take delivery at the final destination.

What is a telex release?

A process by which a shipper/Supplier may electronically authorize release of goods to a consignee without presentation of the Bill of Lading.

What is a letter of credit?

A letter of credit is a letter issued by a bank to another bank (typically in a different country) to serve as a guarantee for payment to be made to the seller of goods.

What is a seaway bill?

Shipping companies issue sea waybills as proof or evidence that there is a contract of carriage between the shipper in question and the shipping company. In order words, the sea waybill is a document that serves as proof that the shipper actually received the goods from the shipper and agreed to carry it to a stated destination. In a sense, the sea waybill is similar toe bill of lading, which is the main shipping document.

What is a shipping line?

A shipping line is a business that operates ships.

What is a commercial invoice?

Document required by customs to determine true value of the imported goods, for assessment of duties and taxes.

What is a packing declaration?

A Packing Declaration is a document which is an essential tool for sourcing barrier information in relation to imported containerised cargo consignments.

What is ISPM15?

International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM 15) is an International Phytosanitary Measure developed by the Internatioinal Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) that directly addresses the need to treat wood materials of a thickness greater than 6mm, used to ship products between countries. Its main purpose is to prevent the international transport and spread of disease and insects that could negatively affect plants or ecosystems. ISPM 15 affects all wood packaging material (pallets, crates, dunnages, etc.) requiring that they be debarked and then heat treated or fumigated and stamped or branded, with a mark of compliance.

What are the Importing & exporting Labelling requirements?

You may need to label your imported goods in a certain way, in addition to the general labelling regulations set out by the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA), there are two specific requirements for imported goods that you should consider: Commerce (Trade Descriptions) and Country of Origin labelling, as follows:

What are Commerce (Trade Descriptions)?

The Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905 states that some goods can’t be imported unless they are correctly labelled with the required trade description. To find out whether the goods you’re importing need a trade description and the guidelines around them, see Customs information on commerce markings.

What is Country of Origin labelling?

The CCA prohibits you from making false or misleading claims about the place of origin of goods. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) country of origin webpage tells you how to use country of origin labelling and the regulations governing the Australian Made logo.

What is an ATA Carnet?

The ATA Carnet is an international customs document that permits duty-free and tax-free temporary import of goods for up to one year. A Carnet disposes of the need for raising bonds or depositing duty at customs posts.

The Carnet contains two vouchers from each foreign country you wish to visit. You hand one voucher to the foreign Customs people when you enter the country and the other when you leave.

ATA Carnets cover:

  • Commercial samples
  • Professional equipment
  • Goods for presentation or use at trade fairs, shows, exhibitions, etc.

Note: ATA Carnets do not cover perishable or consumable items or goods for processing or repair.

What is a Certificate of Origin?

The Certificate of Origin (CO) is a document to certify the place of growth, production or manufacture of goods. It is required when exporting to specific countries, when requested by the consignee for customs clearance, or when it's stipulated in a letter of credit.

The CO identifies goods and contains an express certification by a government authority, or other empowered body, that the goods in question originate in a specific country.

Many overseas importers insist upon a CO when dealing with Australian exporters.

Although obtaining a CO is straightforward, it's important that specific procedures are followed:

  • You must include an Exporters Information Form Update. This form has to be completed and forwarded to the appropriate Chamber in your State/Territory, together with a list of signatories authorised to sign the certificates on behalf of your company.
  • Evidence of origin (ie. copies of the invoice, a bill of lading, a letter of credit, or a statutory declaration) must be supplied prior to stamping.
  • Exporters must provide a copy of the documents being stamped for Chamber records.
  • Before submission for authentication, the exporter must sign all export documents on the bottom left-hand side under the exporter’s declaration.
  • Importantly, Certificate of Australian Origin forms can't be used for any other origin, other than Australian.
  • Certificates of Origin must always be typed.
Do I need an export licence?

With the exception of certain goods prohibited either absolutely or conditionally, export licences are no longer required.

Those goods that DO require export licences include the following:

  • Orderly marketing of primary products and commitments under marketing agreements, eg. meat, wheat and wine.
  • International agreements, eg. atomic materials and drugs of dependence.
  • Control of quality.
  • Conservation of Australian fauna and items of historical or cultural significance such as Aboriginal artefacts.
  • Utilisation of Australian resources such as mineral ores and merino sheep.

Listed in the ‘Australian Customs Service Manual - Export Control’ are details of goods which are conditionally prohibited from export and/or which require export permits (or similar export authorisations), and the government departments and agencies issuing the permits.

How can I use the 'Australian Made' logo on my products?

The Australian Made green and gold logo was launched by the Federal Government in 1986. Since 1999 it has been administered by Australian Made Campaign Limited (AMCL), a not-for-profit public company established by the Australian and state and territory chambers of commerce. It is the most widely recognised and trusted product symbol for Australian products.

To qualify to use the logo, products must comply with the country of origin provisions of the Trade Practices Act, i.e. products must be substantially transformed in Australia, with at least 50 per cent of the cost of production being incurred in Australia.

To use the logo, you must apply to AMCL for a licence for your products. For more information, visit:

What is an RFP [Request For Permit]?

If you are registered with EXDOC as an Exporter you can organize for an agent to lodge RFPs with EXDOC on your behalf. The RFP is provided by the exporter and describes product, when and where it was processed, its overseas destination, and other details (for example describing consignor, consignee and transport). When authorized by AQIS the RFP receives an Export Permit Number [EPN] which allows export of the goods.

What is a SEW [Single Entry Window RFP]?

A SEW [Single Electronic Window style of RFP] is a combination of an RFP and an EDN where AQIS acts as an agent to obtain the EDN from Customs when the SEW is submitted to EXDOC. Some additional information that is required by Customs, like FOB value and AHECC classification, is also required when a SEW is submitted.

Many of our clients use this facility as it saves both time and money for all their export requirements. Because our agency is registered to use SEWs it can submit one on your behalf if you are registered with AQIS as an exporter and also your company and ABN number is registered for exports with Customs.

What is an EDN [Export Declaration Number]?

EDNs provide Customs with details about goods intended for export. The Australian Customs Service's Integrated Cargo System (ICS) processes the information provided and issues an Export Declaration Number (EDN) upon acceptance. An EDN consists of nine alphanumeric characters. Export declarations can be lodged up to six months in advance of the date the goods are being exported.

Export declarations consist of a header section and then a line section. Each export declaration has one header describing the export shipment, but can have multiple lines that each describe a separate part of the shipment.

What is a PRA [Pre Receival Advice]?

The PRA is the electronic replacement for the paper document, known as an Export Receival Advice (ERA), which informs a shipping terminal that a container for export is about to arrive at the terminal. Mandatory from 1 August 2004, exporters are required to pre-advise export container cargo details, and receive an acceptance from the terminal, for terminals operated by both Patrick and DP World Australia – wide — before the container arrives at the terminal.

How long does it take to obtain my export documents?

The time to obtain approved export documents via the Syscob EDI Agency Service primarily depends on the completeness and accuracy of the information provided by the exporter. If the information is both complete and accurate then the delay is minimal, but repeated cycles of submission (due to incomplete, incorrect or self-contradictory information on submissions) to correct errors or omissions can extend the time required. If all data is correct and valid:

  • An EDN can be produced within 10 to 15 minutes.
  • A PRA could be produced within 25 to 30 mins.
  • An RFP with 1 line item takes from 15 to 20 minutes (to Order, INIT or Final status), but slightly longer if a large number of line items are present.

An RFP will naturally take additional time to reach Complete status because the goods have to be inspected and the RFP validated before the certificate can be printed. Depending on the inspection and authorization process, which the exporter must arrange with AQIS or an AQIS authorized establishment, the delay for validation could vary from under 1 day to many days.

What happens if my shipment gets delayed or re-shipped at a later date?

If the shipment is delayed or needs reshipping, just contact us by facsimile notifying us of the amendment(s) to the original information, and we will then amend the documentation to reflect the changes. But be aware that AQIS, Customs and the terminal operators do have rules which limit what information may be changed at particular points in the documentation process (i.e. after reaching a given status it may no longer be possible to amend the existing document; in such a case Syscob will have to withdraw the original and submit a replacement that has the amended export information).

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Helpful Resources

  • Act of God - A legal term referring to events beyond human control, e.g. flood or earthquake.
  • Air Waybill - A document between two parties providing a forwarding agreement or carrying agreement.
  • Arrival Notice - An advice that the carrier or forwarder sends to the consignee advising of goods...