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Import 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 is a customs broker?

A customs broker is licensed by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) to customs clear import and export cargo. A customs broker performs customs clearances electronically in most instances and a response is received from Customs to determine if the goods can be collected from the wharf or airline and delivered to the customer.

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 is LCL cargo availability?

LCL means “Less than Container Load” and refers to cargo availability when cargo has arrived at the final destination and has been unpacked from the container and made available for collection/delivery.

What is FCL cargo availability?

FCL means “Full Container Load” and refers to cargo availability when cargo has arrived at the final destination and is available for collection from the terminal.

What is container detention?

When supplies of shipping containers are delayed or running low due to the late return of containers, the entire international cargo supply chain can be impacted. To deter the late return of containers, detention charges are imposed by the shipping lines for containers not returned to the designated location within the allowed ‘free time’ period. ‘Free time periods vary amongst shipping lines but generally range from seven to ten calendar days (including public holidays and weekends) depending on the type of container used. The ‘free time’ period commences from the first day the container is made available on the wharf – not when the importers collect the container. Any time a container spends delayed in border processing (customs and quarantine) is still considered to be part of the ‘free time’ period.

What Customs duties and goods & services taxes are payable on imported cargo?

Most imported goods are subject to Australian Customs duties and 10% goods service tax. There are many different regulations and sometimes complex duty rates applicable to imported cargo. View: Rates on Duty Guide.

Is GST payable on imports?

Goods and services tax (GST) is payable on most goods imported into Australia. GST on a taxable importation is payable by businesses, organisations and private individuals, whether they are registered for GST or not. However, if you are a GST-registered business or organisation and you import goods as part of your activities, you may be able to claim a GST credit for any GST you pay on those goods. The GST payable is 10% of the value of the taxable importation. View: More information at

What is the GST deferral scheme?

The ATO operates a scheme that provides for the deferral of GST on imported goods. Customs duty is still payable before the goods are released from Customs control.

Importers are qualified to apply to the ATO for admission to the scheme if they satisfy certain eligibility criteria including:

  • Having an Australian Business Number;
  • Being registered for GST;
  • Lodging their Business Activity Statement (BAS) monthly, via the internet-based e-commerce system operated by the ATO;
  • Paying their Business Activity Statement (BAS) liabilities electronically;
  • Dealing with the ACBPS electronically; and
  • Not having any debt to or returns outstanding with the ATO, as a general rule.

View: More detailed information about the GST deferral scheme.

What are Tariffs and duties?

Australia has commitments under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on tariffs and tariff quotas, export subsidies and domestic support for agricultural products. Goods imported in Australia require classification. Declaration procedures are based on self-assessment by importers. Declarations must be made to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, which also enforces import restrictions. For further information on current tariffs – View: Customs Working Tariff.

Will goods under AUD $1,000 be stopped by Customs?

Customs will stop your goods if they meet ANY of the below criteria:

  • Have a value over AUD $1,000.
  • Contain Alcohol or Tobacco of ANY quantity or value.
  • Contain goods of Customs Interest.
  • Contain any Customs Prohibited Imports.

Note: The above is a guide only. Even if your goods do not meet any of the above criteria, Customs still maintains the right to hold and inspect any goods at their discretion.

How is the Customs Value (CV) calculated?

The Customs value of goods imported into Australia is based on the value of the goods as determined by the importers commercial invoice. When the goods are valued at more than AUD$1000 threshold, or include alcohol or tobacco products of any value, a Customs value will be determined which is used as the basis for calculating the value of any duty and/or GST. The Customs value is combined with other items (customs duty, international transport and insurance costs and, where applicable, Wine Equalisation Tax) to produce the value of the taxable importation (VoTI). The Customs value is equivalent to the Australian currency purchase price of the goods.

Do I need to provide my ABN if the goods are for my personal use?

No. You only need to provide your ABN if the goods are for use by your business and you wish to claim input tax credits on your BAS for the GST you pay upon importation.

What foreign currency exchange rate is used to calculate the Duty/GST?

We apply one of two possible exchange rates depending on whether the goods have already been paid for or not: Goods over the value of AUD$1,000 and Prohibited and Restricted Goods, as follows:

My goods were a gift, why should I pay anything?

The law requires that all goods, even gifts, over the value of AUD$1000 are subject to the assessment of customs duty and GST and checked for community protection risks. However importations up to a value of AUD$1,000 are exempt from payment of duty and GST (except for alcoholic beverages and tobacco products).

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.

Do Quarantine rules apply to my cargo?

Australia has strict quarantine rules and regulations. Before importing goods into Australia it is important to be aware of how these rules may affect your cargo. The Australian Quarantine Service (AQIS) is the best source of information regarding quarantine regulation; view their website: The basic do’s and don’ts of quarantine and importing are as follows:


  • Find out if you need an import permit for your specific cargo and ensure you meet the import requirements (see AQIS website above)
  • Provide AQIS with a packing declaration that provides details of container cleanliness and the packing materials used. If this information is not provided, the container will have to be opened and inspected by AQIS, leading to delays and extra costs.
  • Ensure your container is free of contaminants such as soil, grain, plant and animal materials. A cleanliness declaration is required for all containerised cargo imported into Australia.
  • Ensure all timber used in packaging has been treated using an AQIS approved method. Offshore treatments may facilitate faster clearance but an AQIS approved provider must perform the treatment.
  • Investigate alternative packing materials such as plastics, synthetic foams, metal frames, inflated dunnage, woodwool and shredded paper.
  • Be aware that thorough inspections for exotic pests and diseases are carried out on consignments from high risk countries.


  • Don't use straw packing – it is prohibited as it can carry insects and diseases. Containers in which straw, rice hulls or similar plant materials have been used for packaging will be unpacked by AQIS and the straw either treated or destroyed at the importer’s expense.
  • Don't pack goods in vegetable, fruit, meat, egg cartons or second-hand bags as these may harbour pests and diseases and will be removed and destroyed by quaratine authorities.
  • Don't use timber with bark attached – bark is prohibited.
What documents are required for Customs Clearance?

A range of documents are required for Customs clearance, dependent on factors such as the type of cargo and the country of origin. Standard importing or exporting generally requires a commercial invoice, quarantine packing declaration, packing list, Bill of Lading and an insurance certificate – depending on your Incoterms.

What are Import regulations?

Businesses in Australia are able to import goods from overseas as part of their activities.

Businesses considering importing should be aware of government regulations, duty taxes, permits, and quarantine and treatments that apply to imported goods. Imports that do not meet these requirements can be seized by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. For more information on import procedures and regulations, see Guide to importing.

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 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.
Basic steps for importing?

The most common reason for importing is for resale, with profit as the ultimate goal. It’s essential that you accurately calculate the landed cost of your cargo, i.e. how much it will cost to have the goods delivered to your warehouse, before placing an order. A product that is incredibly cheap for you to purchase from an overseas supplier may not turn out to be so cheap once on-costs are added on (eg. Freight, insurance, import duty, GST, bank charges, interest etc). You also need to be sure that a market for your product exists in Australia.

The most important step you can take is to seek professional advice from your customs broker, or freight forwarder, or the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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.

Can I bring protein powders to Australia?

An import permit is not required for commercially prepared and packaged protein powders in quantities of no more than 10 kilograms or 10 litres, provided that they are manufactured in one of the countries specified on the DAFF FMD Approved Country List and intended for human consumption only; Commercially prepared and packed protein powders for personal use only are permitted to contain enzymes and/or egg proteins without requiring a permit. Note: For products which contain ingredients sourced and or manufactured in a country NOT listed in the FMD approved country list, please refer to the ICON case for Dairy Products (excluding cheese) from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) - Unapproved Country List for Dairy Products.

Can I bring health supplements into Australia?

Health Supplements (plant based) – An Import Permit is not required, provided that:

  • The article is a human therapeutic dietary supplement or natural medicine containing ingredients of plant origin only (this may be supported by product labelling, an accompanying brochure or internet printout, or a letter from a doctor); and
  • The product is imported into Australia (whether personally or by post) by a person who intends to use it for their own personal use; and
  • The product is imported in a quantity of no more than three months supply. Three months supply can be determined by: - The label dosage advice; or - A letter in English from a medical practitioner, naturopath or alternative health provider; or - A statutory declaration by the importer stating that the product is for personal use only and is less than 3 months supply; and
  • The product is commercially prepared and packaged. The product must be in one of the following forms: capsules, tablets, vials for injection, liquid, powder, ointment.

- Herbs -

Personal consignments of all dried plant parts (including seeds, fruits, herbs, bark and roots) and plant part mixes for human consumption or human therapeutic end use weighing no greater than 1 kg per product type are permitted if they meet the following import conditions:

  • Products weighing more than 1 kg must comply with commercial conditions, or be re-exported or destroyed.
  • All material in the consignment must be thoroughly dried and not capable of propagation.
  • Each consignment will be subject to an inspection to verify that it is free of prohibited seeds, live insects, soil and other quarantine risk material.

If the consignment is not botanically labelled, the dried herbs are not listed on ICON, or the officers cannot identify the plant matter and the consignment does not contain seeds, then the consignment is to be directed for treatment using:

  • Heat treatment (T9569); or
  • Gamma irradiation (T9651); or
  • Export; or
  • Destruction at the importer’s expense.

If seeds are found on inspection the consignment is to be directed for treatment using:

  • Gamma irradiation (T9651);or
  • Export; or
  • Destruction at the importer’s expense.

After inspection and treatment, all consignments that meet the above import conditions will be released from quarantine. For more information on buying medicines online or from overseas please visit: the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website.

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 an LCL tailgate delivery?

An LCL "Less than Container Load" tailgate delivery is a delivery method whereby the trucking company is only required to deliver the cargo to the back of the truck. The receiver is to unload the cargo either by hand or forklift.

What is an LCL tail lift delivery?

An LCL "Less than Container Load" tail lift is a mechanical device permanently fitted to the back of van or truck which is designed to assist in the unloading of goods from ground level or a loading dock to the level of the load bed of the vehicle, or vice versa. The use of a tail lift can obviate the need to use machinery such as a forklift.

What is a side loader container delivery?

A truck will deliver your 20" or 40" container or cargo directly to your site, without the need of a dock or crane. It is an especially helpful mode of delivery when there is limited space either in front of or behind where the container is to be placed. Most side loader trucks can handle both 20 foot and 40 foot containers.

What is a standard container delivery?

A truck will deliver your 20" or 40"container or cargo directly to your site and will leave the container on a trailer on your dock so it can be unloaded.

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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...