I remember from my earliest days of having Quarantine files processed face-to-face with a quarantine officer at Rosebery NSW, that we would receive a Quarantine paper direction for each shipment that was presented and at the end of the direction there would be notes and comments from the quarantine officer listing the reasons why a shipment was released or listing the reasons why a shipment was not released and then further stating what information is required to receive a final release.

Fast forward to the years of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment creation of employee work and communication centralisation; where sitting in front of a document processing quarantine officer is now a time gone by memory which requires industry to upload all quarantine files to the Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS) and wait in a queue to have the files processed. In times gone by the quarantine officers name would be printed on the direction, now the Quarantine officers name is a thirteen alpha-numeric code (which no-one can decode except DAWE).

Even with the advent of COLS, the notes and comments have continued and industry is still required to pay Quarantine a minimum of $30 to have the paperwork assessed. If the goods need to be inspected, customs brokers would email the direction to the depot where the goods are located and then that depot would present the direction with say a packing list to the quarantine officer at the time of inspection. The direction would advise the inspecting officer what the original quarantine officer was presented with at the time of the original document assessment and would list the concerns that the inspecting officer needs to verify, such as the packaging or the commodity or both.

Fast forward to 1 February this year, when Quarantine (especially in NSW) sent out emails to all of the depots advising the depots that “prior to conducting an inspection, the Biosecurity Officer must review all consignment-related documents/information” and “there is the expectation that documentation is available and the officer will conduct an electronic search through our departmental systems in the first instance, this will incur additional service fees” (emphasis added).

The depots need to make sure that at the time of inspection that they have in their possession the same paperwork that was originally uploaded into COLS otherwise the officer “may cost-recover and apply relevant service fees … and … the inspection will need to rebooked or re-presented once documentation is available”.

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that in some instances it can take up to 14 days to receive an inspection date.

Importing is a commercial practice and providing commercially sensitive information to Quarantine via COLS is an accepted practice but why should importers via their brokers need to email the same information that was uploaded to COLS and then again to the depots to print and to show the quarantine officer?

The quarantine officer should have a device with internet connectivity and be able to view the documents that have been submitted to COLS or to be quite honest should be relying upon the notes and comments listed on the direction from the original document assessment officer (and also the non-visible notes and comments on the entry which even the customs broker cannot see).

The Cargo Operations (NSW) and Regulatory Assurance team even had a great idea on 1 February to create the longest and unnecessary email address for depots to use: cargoopsandregassurance-inspectionsdepotandportteamleadersnsw@agriculture.gov.au

Why a simple email address could not be created bewilders me.

I would be interested to hear if other states have also received the same or similar email from their regional quarantine cargo operations team leaders and also if fees have been charged when the paperwork was not presented for a second time at the time of inspection.