Sunday 21st Oct, 2018

INDUSTRY OPINION: Co-design is required to manage border controls and to facilitate legitimate trade

Photo: Ian Ackerman
Photo: Ian Ackerman

FURTHER to our commentary published by Daily Cargo News titled “It’s time to reform border holds”, Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) and Commonwealth Ombudsman representatives met in Canberra on September 19, 2017.

The meeting discussed border inspection methodologies of containerised sea cargo with a focus on examples of duplication of government department processing and other instances of excessive delays in cargo release.

Of interest, the Ombudsman’s office also sought specific feedback in terms of the annual import processing charges (IPC) and industry complaints received in relation to the lack of notification of releases.

Import processing charge

Reference was made to recent Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) container stevedoring reports which states that non-stevedoring remains high in an environment where there has been a significant decrease in the number of containers remaining in terminals beyond the fee-free period.

We suggested investigation into whether stevedores are “compensated” by the Australian Border Force (ABF) for delays in release for Cargo Examination Facility (CEF) targeted containers and if so, whether this is an appropriate use of IPC fees.

If nothing else, stevedores should not receive additional revenue at Port Botany as they are regulated to give extended storage as a part of the PBLIS Mandatory Standards.

Specifically, Clause 17 of the PBLIS Mandatory Standards states “the stevedore must not require the payment of any charge in respect of the storage of that container for the day the container is returned to the stevedore’s terminal and for the next 2 working days after that day “.

Notification of release

The Ombudsman advised that some industry complaints have been that notice is not given when a hold on cargo is released.

While notification of release is automated via the Integrated Cargo System (ICS), we reinforced concerns that it does not assist industry in managing an efficient transport schedule as it is impossible to predict in advance when a CEF hold will be released.

The Ombudsman suggested an “Australia Post” model that deploys a text message system for its parcel post. The system sends two texts per delivery. One to advise that a parcel is on its way, and one to confirm delivery or return to the depot. Australia Post currently delivers 11.5 million parcels per week and the system has the capacity to service this amount of deliveries. Considering that the ABF inspects 101,500 TEU per year, an opportunity exists to expand the ICS, or develop an alternate alert system in line with service standards established by other government agencies.

There are distinct differences from the postal environment to that of sea cargo border holds.

While we await with interest the outcome from the Ombudsman’s review, we clearly need a revised and co-designed process between industry and ABF representatives addressing sensitivities to safeguard border controls while facilitating legitimate international trade.

Further information

Further source reference material is available via our “Feature Article” at

Please share any information, views or examples that will assist the investigation on how regulatory powers are being exercised at the border and how it impacts on the supply chain – please send your feedback to

Paul Zalai is director at Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) and an advocate of the freight and trade sectors.

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