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Australian Trade Permits: All you need to know

Australia is stringent on the movement of animals, plants, and their derivatives in and out of the country. In order to enable legitimate travel and trade that serves the national interest, import and export permits may be a legal requirement.

As an importer, you do not require an import license; however, you may be required to obtain permits or certificates so that your goods can be cleared through customs. Therefore, ensuring you have the correct documentation, the goods are correctly labelled, and complying with Australian trade laws is critical. Failure to do so may result in significant penalties.

What do you need a permit for?

Permit requirements are all based on commodities. Because the rules and conditions enforced by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service change regularly in response to threats to the human, animal, environmental, and plant health status in Australia, it is your responsibility as the importer/exporter that you satisfy all of the relevant trade conditions.

Some commodities, such as perishable goods, require specific authorisation. Types of permits and the corresponding commodities include:

  • Quarantine Import Permits
    • Foods, cigarettes, coffee beans, some protein powders, etc.
  • Transport Permits
    • For vehicles that are for the purpose of driving on roads
  • Export Licensing
    • Dairy, meat, grain, fruit, vegetables, eggs, and any other consumable goods
  • Fumigation certification
    • Goods containing wood

The purpose of certification and permits is to help Australia keep track of where goods are moving to and from the country to protect our population from harmful commodities.

For example, export licensing is required for tracking the movement of agriculture so that in an event where disease is detected, for example, mad cow disease, authorities can trace the disease back to the source and intervene before it spreads out of control.

Some prohibited goods may be prohibited entirely or require granted permission by an authorised person or body. For example:

  • Drugs, medicines and therapeutic substances
  • Hazardous goods
  • Intellectual property and cultural items 
  • Weapons 

Whether you need a permit/certificate or not depends entirely on the commodity you are importing or exporting and its contents. If this is your first time importing or exporting goods, it’s always best to speak to a licensed customs broker so they can advise you on whether your goods require documentation.

The consequences of importing goods without a permit

If your goods require a permit and have not acquired the correct documentation, you may be liable for additional costs such as storage whilst your request processes which can take up to 20 days, and in some cases, much longer.

If your request is denied, you may be required to export your goods back out of the country or destroy them at your own expense. 

How to apply for a permit

When applying for a permit, you should first determine whether one is required and which type of permit or certification applies to your situation. Because the laws governing importing and exporting goods are complex, and mistakes associated can be costly, it’s always encouraged that you approach a licensed customs broker

At Stockwells, our customs brokers help importers and exporters navigate the legal requirements involved in moving goods between countries. This includes determining the commodity’s contents, whether a permit or certification is required, and directing you to the authorising body to complete your application. To speak to a licensed broker, contact Stockwells International today.

Case Study: Why a good Customs Broker is essential

Customer Overview

A customer approached Stockwell’s for a CIF quote request (the ship had already sailed) and asked us to provide our quote for customs brokerage accordingly; this particular customer seemed to have a very good grasp of CIF’s concept and what is involved.

Stockwells Input

As is standard, we supplied the quote, less the unknown port charges, and the client accepted the quote. When forwarded all of the paperwork, we noticed the commodity was lamps. For classification purposes, we asked what the lamps were made of and were informed by the supplier that they were made from wood. 

We then asked for the treatment certificate (all wood imported into Australia requires treatment). The supplier informed us that the goods were treated ‘specially’ in China and did not require fumigation. We further queried the supplier to ascertain what was included in the ‘special treatment’ to later be informed that they were only painted and lacquered and never actually treated. 

The Outcome

The difficulty with this is that when you leave the arrangements to the supplier you have no control over what happens in the country of origin. If this were FOB, this may have been picked up at a local level and rectified accordingly. 

Unfortunately, when the lamps arrived, DAFF rejected them, and they had to be moved to a treatment facility. The treatment for painted and lacquered goods is one of the most expensive treatments because it needs to be strong enough to permeate the paint/lacquer. 

At the end of the day, this shipment cost the client an additional AU$3,500 in transport moves and treatment. You should also take into consideration that this was 14 cbm, and if it were up to us, should have been sent in a container. Failure to do so cost the client an additional AU$932

If the client had approached Stockwell to advise them on the best way to move their freight and ensure clearance, they would have saved a lot of time and over AU$4,000 in incurred costs.

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