ABF industrial action threatens cargo delays and increased fees

Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) were joined by other industry representatives in a briefing by the Australian Border Force (ABF) on Friday 30 October 2015 to discuss the upcoming Protected Industrial Action (PIA) which will include 24 hour bans impacting on national Container Examination Facility (CEF) operations.

Usual practice is that up to 100 containers per day pass through each CEF - most containers are x-rayed, risk assessed  and returned to the terminal for delivery with minimal delay.

This may all change in coming days with “holds” on all CEF selected containers to remain in place for the duration of the PIA on 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 November. 

The ABF are looking at ways and means to overcome this outcome and to minimise the impact on industry ... but the initial indications of a resolution are far from encouraging.

What are the likely impacts for importers?

Should your container be selected for the CEF, you may experience several days of delay in cargo release from the terminal. Less than ideal for those who require stock in the lead up to the festive season.

Adding salt to the wound is the likelihood of stevedore storage charges and shipping line container detention fees for delayed return (dehire) of empty containers.

We trust that shipping lines will show some leniency in these circumstances especially if notified early that cargo has been held.

Stevedores tend to stick rigidly to the “rules” around extended free storage.

What are the “rules”?

To be eligible for the extended storage arrangements, two criteria must exist:

  • cargo reports by shipping lines and freight forwarders must be transmitted at least 48 hours prior to the importing vessel’s arrival at the first Australian port; AND
  • in accordance with recommendations outlined in Australian Customs Cargo Advice (ACCA) 2012/18, the Import Declaration has to be lodged at least 24 hours prior to the vessel arrival at the port of discharge.

Note - varying stevedore arrangements exist at Australian container ports however all only provide extended storage arrangements pending compliance with the above criteria. 

Where to from here?

FTA will continue its liaison with the ABF and all other industry stakeholders to facilitate ongoing information dissemination and improved operational outcomes.
If you believe that you have satisfied the above criteria and have still been stung with storage or container detention fees, do not hesitate to contact FTA for support in the fee recovery process.