The border control
The health risks posed by exposure to asbestos are well known. An Australia-wide ban on the manufacture and use of all forms of asbestos took effect on 31 December 2003 to protect the Australian community.
A border control for asbestos was enacted at the same time to prevent the unlawful importation of asbestos, and goods containing asbestos.
The importer of a vehicle (the ‘owner’ for the purposes of importation) must know the history of that vehicle to ensure it does not contain any asbestos before it is shipped. This applies whether the importation is for commercial or private purposes, or of a temporary or permanent nature.
Owners should be aware that many countries have tolerances in vehicle parts and components if the asbestos content is:
- below a certain level, or
- present as trace amounts in raw materials used for producing those parts or Tolerance levels for asbestos set by other countries will not be accepted at the Australian border.
All imported vehicles must comply
The import prohibition applies to all vehicles of any type, age or value. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Used road vehicles that require a Vehicle Import Approval (VIA), granted by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development, before shipment
- Vehicles temporarily imported under a Carnet de Passages en Douane (CPD carnet).
Assurance from the owner
When the Australian Border Force (ABF) identifies an imported vehicle as at-risk of containing asbestos, the owner will be required to provide sufficient assurance that the vehicle, including all parts and components, does not contain asbestos.
Owners declaring “no” to asbestos content in their vehicle, and all parts/components, must only do so if they are certain that it does not contain asbestos. This includes the presence of asbestos by design, or by the use of naturally contaminated ingredients during manufacture, whether original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or aftermarket in type.
Owners must obtain sufficient information and take necessary action to ensure asbestos is not present in the goods before shipment. Claims of OEM parts containing no level of asbestos content should be supported by technical evidence sourced from the relevant manufacturer. A ‘face value’ letter from the supplier, or the supplier’s mechanic, merely stating there is no asbestos content is unlikely to provide sufficient assurance.
When at-risk parts and components containing asbestos are identified and removed before shipping, the owner should retain all work records. When replacement parts and components are installed, evidence of the make, model and structural content of those new parts and components, which proves no asbestos content, should also be retained. These records should be available to provide to the ABF as required.
If sampling and testing is undertaken overseas, the owner should ensure that the process is carried out to meet Australian requirements for laboratory reporting. Refer to the ABF website (www.abf.gov.au/asbestos) for more information.
The owner is advised to carry out due diligence, including knowing the materials used in the manufacture and maintenance of the vehicle they are importing. If this matter is not taken seriously by the owner, and sufficient assurance is not provided, the owner will face delays and be responsible for costs incurred if the vehicle is held at the border for sampling and testing. If this occurs, the owner will be required to engage a qualified, independent competent person1 to undertake identification of suspect parts and the removal of samples for testing. The ABF are not qualified asbestos professionals and may only supervise the collection of samples while the goods are under customs control. The ABF cannot undertake or assist in this work.
Sampling and testing at the border can be avoided if owners provide sufficient assurance that their vehicle does not contain any asbestos. Unlawfully imported asbestos may result in prosecution action and/or fines.
Vehicle parts that might contain asbestos
The most common vehicle parts and components found to contain asbestos at the border are in brakes and gaskets in locations designed to resist heat. Other parts and components of risk can include: