Tuesday 17th Jul, 2018

INDUSTRY OPINION: It’s time to reform border holds

Photo: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
Photo: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

DEPLOYMENT of modern x-ray solutions at the border is essential if we are serious about community protection and facilitating the movement of legitimate international trade.

As a part of the Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) and Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) combined submission to the Federal Inquiry into Freight & Supply Chain Priorities, it was recommended that:

  • Container Examination Facility (CEF) targeted containers have storage arrangements prescribed in Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle ports to meet the benchmark established in Sydney under the Port Botany Landside Improvement Strategy (PBLIS) Mandatory Standards; and
  • Extended container detention periods be provided by shipping lines whereby cargo has been reported in terms of statutory requirements with evidence that delayed release from the stevedore is due to CEF intervention.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) has stated approximately 90% of containers selected for examination are x-rayed, released within 30 minutes and immediately returned to the stevedore. The remaining 10% may incur some further form of delay as they are selected for more detailed physical examination.

In the event a container is subject to further ABF CEF assessment, storage fees are administered by stevedores despite the fact the container may not be physically available for collection. To be eligible for the extended storage arrangements, the cargo report has to be provided to the ABF in line with statutory provisions and the Import Declaration has to be lodged at least 24 hours prior to the vessel arrival at the port of discharge.

How do operations differ at Port Botany as against other ports?
Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle – assuming the above reporting / declaration requirements have been satisfied, containers selected for CEF intervention will receive 24 hours free storage from when they are returned from the CEF.

Sydney – PBLIS Mandatory Standards states that stevedores must provide free storage for the day the container is returned from the CEF and for the next two days after that. Again, these extended storage arrangements are contingent on the above reporting / declaration requirements being satisfied.

While the ABF has in place procedures with stevedores, to date there are no similar arrangements in place with shipping lines.

Whether or not reporting has been completed within prescribed timelines, shipping lines commonly charge a fee if containers are not de-hired (returned) to an empty container park within agreed terms. Unfortunately, the ABF has declined our requests to assist our advocacy with individual shipping lines to challenge the rationale of starting the container detention clock from discharge instead of availability after CEF processing.

Our next step has led us to meet with the Commonwealth Ombudsman in Canberra on 19 September 2017 to provide further evidence on the need for reform.

In preparation for Canberra, we are questioning whether we should continue our advocacy to patch up current processes, which in effect would add layers of regulation and complexity, or do we look towards setting a global best practice benchmark with new and innovative solutions?

As part of our ongoing engagement with Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT), Webb Dock East, Melbourne, we understand that practical and cost-efficient technological solutions have been presented by VICT that could provide high quality x-ray imaging of the contents of up to 100% of containers at the point of discharge without the need to physically transport containers off-site to a CEF.

While we appreciate that the government has invested a lot of money into the current CEF arrangements, it may be a case that these assets have they met their useful life cycle and it is time to re-engineer systems and processes at the border.

Please share your views publicly by responding to this blog or feel free to contact me direct at pzalai@FTAlliance.com.au or 02 99751878

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

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