Biosecurity priorities and impact for cargo clearance delays

26 Aug 2022

What has changed?

Earlier this year, the department advised of delays in inspection services in Victoria and New South Wales, largely due to higher overall cargo volumes (11.7 per cent higher in FY 2021/22) of incoming cargo and a changing biosecurity risk profile.

In recent months, several biosecurity threats have emerged, both onshore and amongst Australia’s neighbours, which have placed further demand on biosecurity resources.

  1. February 2022, Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) detected for the first time in southern Australia
  2. March 2022, Lumpy skin disease (LSD) was reported in Indonesia
  3. May 2022, an outbreak of the Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) was reported in cattle in Indonesia, and more recently Bali
  4. June 2022, Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) detected in Port of Newcastle (NSW) hives.

At the same time, and like industry, the department is competing for scarce resources in a challenging labour market while also dealing with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 (and further Omicron strains), including staff being offline due to illness or having to isolate with families.

The department is aware of the impact that the delays in inspection services is having and that this is compounded by current shipping, logistics and workforce disruptions. These factors are beyond the department’s control but are adding pressure to border clearance processes and the scheduling of biosecurity officer activities.

Imported cargo subject to inspection has a non-compliance rate of 15 per cent on average during August 2022, adding to delays. Examples of non-compliance include dirty machinery, soil or risk material found inside or on external sides of containers and vehicles, risk material such as exotic pests and seeds in imported goods and, mis declared or mislabelled goods.

Containers and goods that are inspected, and found to be clean and free from dirt, soil and risk/exotic material are released from biosecurity control generally without further intervention or re-inspection.

What are we doing to manage the increased workloads?

The department continues to allocate its resources to areas of highest priority and implement COVID safe practices to minimise impacts to staff and industry. We are also working to address inspection delays where we can, while we manage ever-increasing biosecurity risks. Changes and improvements include:

  • introduced a new online booking capability, the Biosecurity Portal, and a virtual inspection option for imported food label inspections. The portal enables industry to book, cancel and view their inspection bookings and check the status of their appointments online at any time in a centralised online location. It also brings efficiencies in how our biosecurity officers are booked – maximising officer utilisation and minimising travel time
  • released a new class of approved arrangement, Class 14.4 which authorises approved biosecurity industry participants to perform certain rural tailgate inspections, where directed
  • designing new green lane arrangements for highly compliant importers following a successful trial
  • reviewing the inspection procedures for some commodities, such as bulk fertiliser, and pathway risks, such as Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB)
  • considering where the virtual inspection model can be expanded to other suitable inspection types
  • ongoing recruitment of additional biosecurity officers
  • working to publish a regular cargo operations snapshot that details volumes of cargo declarations, assessment volumes and timeframes, inspections pending completion and requests awaiting scheduling. It also includes information on industry behaviour and provides key pest and disease detections.

Collectively, these will assist the department to reduce assessment, booking and inspection delays by drawing on industry capability to create biosecurity capacity, noting that the benefits will be challenged by cargoes that are not compliant with biosecurity requirements.

How can you contribute to the efficient management of biosecurity?

  1. Importing goods – Pre arrival
  1. Ensure you have checked that the goods being imported meet biosecurity import conditions. Ensure all import documentation is provided to meet minimum documentary requirements:
  1. The department’s Import home page provides general information about biosecurity and imported food requirements.
  2. BICON is the departments import conditions database and will provide you with the relevant pre and post border requirements.
  3. A daily average of 4.9 per cent of import document assessments require further information. The Documentary requirements for import web page provides information about the departments minimum documentary and import declaration requirements policy.
  1. Ensure containers and imported goods and food are compliant, clean and risk free, as this will minimise intervention and potential delays onshore.

2. Importing goods – On arrival

  1. Book a Biosecurity Inspection via the Biosecurity Portal or through the Client Contact Group.
    1. It is not acceptable to contact a Biosecurity Officer directly to arrange an appointment.
    2. The inspection appointment provided is the next available at the time of processing your booking request.
    3. Please do not repeatedly call or email the department checking on the status of your request for inspection as this adds to the volumes being addressed by diverting officers who are otherwise focused on scheduling bookings.
    4. Ensure you send all requests to the correct email address and utilise appropriate subject key words to direct your email to the correct request for inspection queue.
    5. Please do not submit the same booking request via both the Biosecurity Portal and email.
  1. Ensure that all documentation, imported goods and any additional labour required is available on the day of inspection.
    • The department aims for a ’single inspection and clearance service’ of compliant cargo where possible, however this relies on the preparation and pre planning by importers prior to Biosecurity officers attending any booked inspection.
    • Not being ready when an officer arrives onsite to conduct an inspection can add to delays and may cause the inspection to be rescheduled.
  1. Consider the implementation of strong biosecurity practices into supply chain/s to provide assurance in meeting import requirements and minimise compliance failure rate. Cargo that is complaint with biosecurity requirements eases pressure within the biosecurity system.


Taken from the Department’s website, see original link here 157-2022: Biosecurity priorities and impact for cargo clearance delays – DAFF (