Australia’s Zero Tolerance for Asbestos – What it means for Classic Vehicle Owners

Australia’s Zero Tolerance for Asbestos – What it means for Classic Vehicle Owners

In the past few years, Australia has stepped up its crackdown on asbestos-containing imports, a ban which initially took force in 2003. Particularly causing a headache for classic car owners and buyers with vehicles ranging from Mustangs to Jaguars being seized on the yearly. A majority of vehicles caught originating from the U.S.  

What Asbestos is:

Asbestos is a natural-occurring mineral fibre which was once considered to be a very useful mineral that could insulate against heat and electricity. Car manufacturers had used asbestos as it was a flexible, strong and affordable solution.

According to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Australia was one of the biggest users of Asbestos with the mineral being mined up until 1984 and up to 1.5 million tonnes imported between 1930 and 1983.

The full ban on asbestos and asbestos-containing materials in 2003 came as a result of the findings that exposure to the fibres can cause life-threatening illnesses.

The main risk in handling asbestos is that the fibers can become airborne, and some types of asbestos are a known carcinogen in the lungs.

Importing a Classic Vehicle containing Asbestos in Australia:

Individual importers may be fined more than $3000 per offence, but the biggest expense will be getting car parts tested and replaced.

Importers must pay for testing of the suspected car parts and if there are traces of asbestos, they must replace the particular parts before it can clear Customs – a process which could cost them an additional $20,000 depending on the vehicle.

Ensuring the Vehicle is Asbestos-Free:

The most common high-risk parts and components containing asbestos include gaskets, brake pads, seals and clutch linings in some classic vehicles.

The Australian Border Force will need assurances that high-risk parts do not contain any asbestos, meaning you are responsible for ensuring that your vehicle does not contain any Asbestos before you or your supplier ship it into Australia.  

Certain testing certificates, laboratory reports or supply chain documentation can provide assurance that asbestos is not present in imported goods.

It is highly recommended to have the vehicle tested and cleaned in a specialized facility prior to shipping, to avoid hidden quarantine costs, potential damage to your vehicle, lost time and heavy penalties on arrival.

If you are interested in purchasing a car in the United States, the UK or elsewhere in the world and are unsure if you will face any issues regarding asbestos, get in touch.

What if my vehicle is sent for Asbestos Testing?

You may have heard a few stories of vehicles being sent for Asbestos testing once arriving into Australia, even after an Asbestos Declaration has been provided.

Customs are well within their right to send any vehicle for further testing, even if you can prove there is no Asbestos present.

There are some horror stories of customs getting into vehicles and ripping out headliners and completely ruining vehicles once arrived at the port.

While we have never had this with any of our shipments, a few have been flagged for further testing. In these cases, Dolphin Shipping employs a qualified mechanic to go to the port with a customs office and a customs approved hygienist. The only person who touches the vehicle is our mechanic, who at the direction of the customs officer removes samples from the vehicle and provides them to the Hygienist, who provides results to Customs and us within 24 hours.

At all times the vehicles in question shipped through Dolphin Shipping have cleared with no asbestos being present. Should Asbestos be found, we then have the mechanic return and remove the offending parts to be destroyed at the importer's expense.