A COUPLE recently received visas to enter Australia and to relocate to Melbourne, and they shipped their personal effects via air from Canada. Their effects included a Canadian Inuit carving with a value of close to $3000. They learned the hard way how the Australian Border Force get border control wrong.

The air-freight shipment travelled with Air Canada, departed in the first week of September, arrived into Sydney before being on-forwarded to the Menzies Aviation air cargo terminal in Melbourne.

A customs declaration was lodged on 20 September, the declaration was placed under ABF border hold and the ABF released the goods on 28 September.

A detail of drill damage on the carving. Image: Peter McRae

We moved the goods from Menzies Aviation to a Quarantine depot for the mandatory Quarantine inspection. The goods were inspected by DAFF on 13 October and then delivered to the importer on 14 October.

When the importer received the package, they were horrified, shocked and angry that the statue inside the package had been drilled, broken and left in pieces wrapped in plastic bubble wrap.

The ABF obviously realised it was a fruitless exercise, but before releasing the shipment wrapped the pieces back within its bubble wrap and then sealed the box. When the package arrived at the Quarantine inspection, DAFF found the same pieces and again re-wrapped the contents back within the bubble wrap. No doubt DAFF would have thought “what’s happened here?”

The ABF never communicated with us as the customs broker nor the importer to say that “we’ve made a mistake”; it was only after pursuing the matter to the top of the ABF that we received answers.

Considering that the couple were assessed as a low risk at the time of granting their visas, one would have thought that this risk assessment would have been applied to the person’s name on the air waybill and at the air cargo automation level.  The importer is now seeking compensation from the ABF.

I would be interested to hear from fellow readers has this occurred with your own shipments?

The carving as it was before the journey. Image: Peter McRae