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Australian Quarantine Inspections for household goods moves

Posted by By Bournes International Moves - November 20, 2014

When you ship your household goods to Australia one part of the process you cannot avoid is the Australian Quarantine examination. Here is our guide to the process of Australian Quarantine Examinations and customs clearance to import your household goods.

The protection of Australia's biosecurity system is the number one priority when dealing with imported goods. Anything that may threaten, harm or bring disease to the country is strictly banned, therefore quarantine examinations for certain items are standard procedure when importing goods to Australia.

All household goods shipments, whether air freight or sea freight, that enter Australia will be assessed and potentially inspected by the Department of Agriculture and Water resources before they are released for delivery.

You must provide an inventory of goods within your shipment and identify any specific items that may be of concern. If they have concerns they may undertake inspection and they may also request items be treated before release if treatment is not possible they may seize and destroy any prohibited items or ask that they are re-exported. As the shipper, you are responsible for any associated costs so it's important to know how to protect yourself from any unexpected charges.

Below we’ve summarised some of the key information provided by the Department of Agriculture and Water resources which we hope will be of use when relocating to Australia.

Common items of biosecurity concern when importing household goods into Australia

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has two main areas of concern - any item that originated from an animal or a plant (including timber) or contains part of an animal or a plant AND any item that has been in contact with animals, plants, water, food or soil.

With regard to specific items, the Australian government website provides a list of common items of biosecurity concern.

Prohibited goods:

You will not be allowed to import the following items as personal effects for international shipping when shipping to Australia:

  • fresh fruit and vegetables
  • live plants and bulbs
  • prohibited and restricted seeds
  • unidentified seeds, which can include some foods, including spices
  • live animals (including pets) that require an import permit
  • biological products including some plant-based, herbal medications
  • unprocessed goods of plant or animal origin
  • soiled items, or items containing organic residues
  • items knowingly infested with pests or a disease

If you are in doubt of an item and want to determine if the item is prohibited by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources check the Biosecurity import conditions database - BICON. BICON identifies if an item is permitted entry, any treatment/permits required and any additional concerns.

What should I do when packing or deciding what to take?

Preparation is extremely important when packing up your household goods ready for your move to Australia. You must take the extra time and care to thoroughly prepare household goods for inspection upon arrival. Using a professional international removals company to pack your belongings will reduce the risk of any problems during your inspection and your crew should be trained to identify and rectify any potential issues. As a rule, you should always:

1 - Check the items you want to ship against the list of common items of biosecurity concern and make sure you arent' planning to ship any restricted or prohibited items as listed above. 

2 - Clean your belongings. Any items that have been in contact with food, soil, plants, animals, or their products, are thoroughly cleaned and free from any contamination. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • all used equipment and machinery—drain all standing water, and ensure the equipment is free from contamination
  • garden furniture, tools and implements—make sure all soil, animal and plant debris are removed and all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned
  • animal bedding and grooming equipment—wash and vacuum animal bedding, and clean grooming equipment to ensure all residual pet hair has been removed
  • waste bins, brooms, vacuum cleaners—make sure all waste is removed and the equipment is thoroughly cleaned
  • freshwater sporting equipment—make sure reservoirs are completely drained and dry, and that equipment is dry on arrival, including wetsuits, gumboots and fishing tackle.

Other tips:

  • Check surfaces of your timber items for any signs of insect infestation (sawdust-like powder, fresh holes, chewed timber or tunnels).
  • If you find signs of insect infestation, consider either leaving the item behind or thoroughly treating it for timber pests prior to shipment.
  • Kitchen goods—do not pack half-opened packages of dry foods, herbs and spices that may be harbouring insect pests that are difficult to see.
  • Consider whether you really need to ship any natural plant or animal product that has not undergone some form of a manufacturing process. These items may need expensive treatments, at your own cost, to mitigate quarantine risks on arrival in Australia. Cheap tourist souvenirs made of untreated plant or animal products can end up costing more than you would expect when they end up being treated by Customs in Australia.

Packing list

You will be required to provide a detailed inventory of your shipment including clear labelling. If your removals company are providing packing services they will complete this on your behalf and provide you with a copy.

If you are doing this yourself ensure you label your boxes and reference these on the inventory with a list of items contained in each box.

If you have identified any items that the department may be interested in it is a good idea to pack these items together and separately from the rest of your items that are not of concern. This way the inspectors do not need to unload/unpack your entire shipment to perform their inspection.

If you are using your own packing boxes be sure that these do not pose a concern on their own – for example, used food packaging that may have been in contact with organic substances and do not use straw/sawdust or wood products for packing or filler.

Ensure any previous labelling on boxes is removed or covered if you are using second-hand boxes to avoid misunderstandings or confusion during an inspection.

The Process

On arrival of your belongings in Australia, your removals company will handle the process of clearing customs and quarantine inspections on your behalf, using all the correctly completed paperwork. Once this is complete your goods can be delivered to your new home.

Quarantine fees and charges

Many international removals companies may inform you that this charge is not included in your quotation and that this is payable locally, the reason for this is that it is not a fixed fee and can vary depending on your individual shipment and department decisions.

More information on Quarantine fees associated with the clearance of personal effects can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website - Department of Agriculture and Water Resources fees

Quarantine fees that you will be required to pay upfront include the creation of a manual quarantine entry and documentation screening charges.

Quarantine inspection fees are based on inspection time. Your final quarantine inspection fee will be dependent on the time it takes for a department officer to inspect your goods. Additional charges will apply if your goods require treatment prior to release.

How can I keep costs down?

Quarantine inspection charges are based on the amount of time it takes to inspect your consignment. You can keep costs to a minimum by:

  • following the advice on the Department for Agriculture and Water Resources website
  • not packing anything that is prohibited entry into Australia
  • not packing anything that will require a treatment of some kind, unless that item is of particular significance and you are willing to pay treatment fees
  • ensuring your packing list is accurate and clearly identifies contents and matches the numbered boxes
  • packing items subject to quarantine inspection in the same box
  • clearly identifying boxes that may contain items of quarantine concern
  • ensuring that items that have been in contact with animals, plants and soil are thoroughly cleaned and free of quarantine risk material before they are packed. AQIS officers will still be required to have a look at them to check them for any quarantine risk material and subsequent treatment.

Should I use an international removal company for my move to Australia?

As an expert international removal company, Bournes will guide you through the process of preparing to move to Australia, including guidance on what you can and can't take with you and how to prepare for quarantine examinations and importing household goods.

Using moving companies or a specialist international removal company will significantly reduce the risks involved when importing goods to Australia as you will be given all the advice needed with an online quote to guide you through the packing and preparation process.

You’ll also be given help to fill in all the essential paperwork and documentation.

Check out the Ultimate Guide On How To Move Your Belongings Overseas to find out everything you need to know about finding and using a professional overseas mover.


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Topics: Australia, Preparing to Move

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