THE Australian Border Force has cancelled PCA Express’ licence, ceasing the company’s ability to handle air and sea cargo under customs control.

The cancellation comes after months of investigation.

The ABF’s investigation into the licensee PCA Express was prompted by concerns that the depot’s processes could be vulnerable to infiltration by organised crime syndicates.

Covert and overt compliance activity by the ABF identified third-party entities operating in the secure customs-controlled area, undertaking activities only the security cleared licence holder is permitted to undertake.

The investigation found that PCA Express had sub-leased its premises to third parties who had not undertaken the required security checks in order to have access to sensitive cargo-controlled area and compromised the integrity of the supply chain.

Goods from overseas make multiple stops from point of origin to the consumer, involving shipping lines, freight forwarders, and depot operators like PCA Express.

The ABF said depots are critical stops in the supply chain, as bulk air and sea cargo are moved from the tarmac and wharves to depots, where the goods are deconsolidated. In many cases, the depot takes receipt of the cargo before the ABF inspects the goods, giving rise to the opportunity for misconduct.

Department of Home Affairs assistant secretary for trade compliance Brett Cox said that service providers such as licensed depot and warehouse operators play an important role in the supply of goods to Australia.

“They occupy a privileged position of trust, which is why they are subject to compliance checks by the ABF to identify malpractice,” Mr Cox said.

“Regardless of whether the gap in security allowing unauthorised players to access restricted cargo is deliberate collusion with criminal organisations, or unintentional, it compromises the integrity of the supply chain.

“For this reason, the ABF monitors the activities of key service providers in the supply chain, both before and after issuing operating licences.”

By law, where a depot licence is cancelled, the ABF is required to ensure public notification of the event.