Browse through our most commonly asked questions below. If your question still isn’t answered, please feel free to contact us.

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Importing Procedures
Documentation for Imports
Quarantine Requirements
Marking & Packaging of Imports
Motor Vehicles


Q. I have an enquiry to export my goods by ship – how do I go about it?

We can look after all your sea freight export needs from any Australian port to any destination in the world. We need to ascertain whether you have an FCL or LCL load and we will competitively arrange the appropriate quote for you. We have good working relationships with all the major shipping lines and consolidators. We can arrange pick up and packing if needed. We will prepare and lodge your EDN (declaration for customs) and the Bill of Lading, as well as advise you regarding the documentation and import requirements for the country you are shipping to.

Q. Can you assist me in booking an airfreight export?

For export air cargo, we can collect and despatch your cargo on any of the major airline services, according to your instructions regarding transit-time and budget. We can advise you on the requirements of the country you are exporting to as well as any restrictions applying to your cargo, such as Dangerous Goods specifications. We will prepare and lodge your EDN (declaration for customs) and the Air Waybill.

We can uplift cargo ex all major Australian airports, so don’t hesitate to contact us, no matter where in the country you are located.

Importing Procedures

Q. How can my Freight Forwarder assist in planning my import orders?

Once you have chosen your overseas supplier and decided on the items to be ordered, consult us as your Forwarding Agent to assist in calculating freight and other costs associated with the import transaction. As a Licenced Customs Broker, Colless Young is qualified to provide opinion on tariff classification, import duty rates, GST, import restrictions, tariff concessions and quarantine requirements. In addition to advising on the best method of transport and transit times, we can provide you with a projected landed cost report once you have a proforma invoice from your supplier.

Q. At what stage should I advise my Broker when placing orders?

Notify us as soon as you place your order on an overseas supplier.  We then open a file and notify our agent at the place of shipment.  We will supply you with their details and ask that you advise your supplier that we are authorised to act on your behalf.  From there on, we attend to bookings with the appropriate shipping company or airline and monitor your shipment all along the way until it is ready for delivery to you here at destination.

Q. What do I do if my goods are shipped through another forwarder?

We can still look after customs clearance and delivery of your cargo, even if it is shipped through another forwarder, or direct with a shipping company or airline.  It is best to advise us as soon as you receive confirmation from your supplier that the consignment is being despatched.  In cases where a shipment arrives without prior warning, simply contact us and send us copies of any arrival notices or commercial documents as soon as you get them.  We will then take over and act on your behalf in promptly clearing and delivering your goods.

Documentation for imports

Q. What documents are required for shipping and clearance?

For imports, as a general rule, you will need the following:

  • A Commercial Invoice from your supplier.
  • A Packing List, also issued by your supplier.
  • A Packing Declaration for sea freight shipments; this is different from a packing list and is required for Quarantine purposes. We can provide you with a template to send to the shipper, if they are unfamiliar with it.
  • A Bill of Lading in the case of sea freight shipments.
  • An Air Waybill for airfreight shipments.
  • An Insurance certificate in cases where your supplier has arranged insurance.

Please refer to our FAQs on motor vehicles if you are importing cars, bikes, boats or trailers.

Q. In what ways can my Freight Forwarder assist with documents?

When we handle your cargo from the point of shipment, we not only take care of the Bill of Lading or Airway Bill, we also liaise with the shipper to make sure they have fulfilled their obligations in issuing commercial invoices, packing lists, packing declarations and any other requirements. At this end we check your documentation to ensure it is completed correctly and the appropriate procedures are followed. Our system is electronically linked to the Australian Customs and Quarantine services and we deal directly on-line with shipping companies and airlines. This gives us instant access to duty rates, duty concessions, cargo impediments and shipping movements, allowing us to look after your interests every step of the way.

Quarantine Requirements

Q. What kinds of goods require quarantine clearance?

The most common items that attract quarantine attention are:

Timber, bamboo & straw articles.
Foodstuff, including stock feed for animals.
Household and personal effects.
Motor vehicles.
Boats and goods that have been used for fishing.
Agricultural and mining equipment.

Q. Is outside packaging subject to quarantine?

Outside packaging is subject to quarantine when timber or straw is used.  Be sure that your supplier does not use straw packing as it is prohibited.  Timber with bark attached must also be avoided as bark is prohibited.  In the case of full containers, they must be clean and free of soil outside.

Q. What steps must be taken to clear though quarantine?

As your appointed agent we will take care of quarantine formalities on your behalf. We are linked electronically to DAFF (the Quarantine Department) and will process permits, arrange inspections and also treatments when necessary.
In the case of LCL cargo, please ask your supplier to complete the appropriate Packing Declaration. If your cargo has been fumigated overseas, we will obtain a certificate and present it to DAFF at this end.

Marking and Packaging of imports

Q. What are the requirements for commerce marking & labelling?

Certain products, especially goods for retail sale in Australia, must be correctly labelled with their country of origin and, for clothing in particular, will need to indicate their composition. If you are considering the importation of products for the first time, please talk to us so we can give you guidance as to the corresponding Commerce Regulations.

Q. Are there regulations governing description of goods?

The Australian Government is always alert to goods bearing false trade descriptions or making false claims. The country you are purchasing from may not have such strict guidelines so, if you are in any doubt about descriptions being genuine and acceptable in Australia, please talk to us before placing orders. Fake goods bearing unauthorised trademarks cannot be imported (watches are a typical example).

Q. Are there rules regarding types of packing used?

Aside from using straw or bark, which are prohibited by quarantine, there are no packaging standards set down by the authorities here in Australia. However, you need to be aware that in some countries there are suppliers who use sub-standard packing materials to save costs. We suggest you see a sample of the packing to be used before ordering from a new supplier for the first time. Shipping companies and airlines have very limited liability for damaged cargo and, if the outer packages are not considered ‘seaworthy’ or ‘airworthy’, insurance companies are likely to reject claims too.


Q. Can import and export cargo be insured?

Cargo Insurance, which is a sub-branch of Marine insurance, can be taken out on most cargo being moved by sea, air or road. It will cover damage and total or partial loss of your cargo, within the conditions of your policy, usually available from your supplier’s premises to your door.

Q. Is insurance really necessary, especially for low-value shipments?

We recommend insurance for all cargo transported by sea or air. Shippers often choose to carry the risk themselves when they feel the value is not too high. However, you need to be aware that goods shipped by sea can, in the event the ship is damaged or grounded, become subject to what is called an ‘Average,’ (either General or Particular). When that happens, all parties having an interest in the event, which includes anyone who has cargo on board, shares a portion of the ship-owner’s expenses and losses. It is definitely worth having insurance in such cases.

Q. Who is responsible for insuring the cargo?

If your supplier’s terms are ‘CIF’ (Cost, Insurance and Freight), it is their responsibility to insure the cargo and provide you with a certificate to that effect. In all other cases, it is up to you to take steps to protect your own interests. We are not able to assist in arranging this for you as it falls in the sphere of a Licensed Insurance Company or Broker. There are several who advertise their services in this field. A good place to start is by consulting whoever handles your normal Home and Business Insurance arrangements.


Q. Are Imported Goods subject to GST?

Generally speaking, GST applies to the same goods when they are imported commercially, as would apply if they were purchased locally in Australia. The GST is paid in the same manner that Duty is paid, to the Customs Department prior to release of the cargo. To calculate GST on imports, add the value of the goods, plus freight and insurance, plus any Duty (CIF plus Duty value). The usual rate of 10% applies.

Q. Can payment of GST be deferred for Registered Businesses?

If you are registered for GST, you may be eligible to defer payment of the GST until the first activity statement (BAS) due after importation. Please note this does not apply to Customs entries lodged manually, however we at Colless Young lodge your entries electronically so that will not be a problem. An application form for approval to defer GST is available on the ATO website.

Q. Are there any exemptions to GST on imports?

If you are importing goods that would normally be exempt if purchased in Australia, such as basic food items or certain medical supplies, they will also be exempt as imports.
Low value goods, under A$1,000.00 and having less than A$50.00 payable in both Duty and Tax, may be exempt from GST when imported.
Goods that qualify for certain Customs Duty concessions may also become non-taxable for GST. This requires expert opinion and will be discussed with you by our team members if applicable.
Goods carried by overseas travellers are subject to allowances for duty & GST.

Motor Vehicles

Q. What kind of vehicles require import approval?

Vehicle Import Approvals (VIA) are required for most types of conveyances used on roads or waterways, including:
Cars, Trucks and Motorcycles;
Caravans, Trailers and Horse Floats;
All kinds of Boats and Water-craft, including Boat Trailers.

Q. How do I apply for a permit?

You will need to apply for the approval (VIA) here before your arrange shipment from the port of loading. You can obtain the forms, together with more information about the scheme, from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport. We recommend you start by visiting their website: http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/vehicles/imports/

Q. Will the VIA cover all the extras in my vehicle?

Many vehicles, particularly campervans, caravans and boats, have extra appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners, and also gas cylinders or fire extinguishers. If these operate on ozone depleting substances such as CFCs, they will require import licences. For more information, go to this website: http://www.environment.gov.au/atmosphere/ozone/licences/vehicle-import.html

Q. What is required for customs clearance of vehicles?

People who visit Australia on a temporary basis may import their own vehicle, if it is to be re-exported again. For this you must apply for a Carnet at the place of origin. Carnets have varying lengths of validity, but are generally taken out for 12 month periods. Also see the question on quarantine requirements below as all second-hand vehicles require inspection.

If you are permanently importing a vehicle, a customs entry must be lodged, accompanied by your VIA, order confirmation and evidence of payment, Bill of Lading and a Greenhouse Gas Statement. For calculation of any Duty & GST, please discuss with one of our team members.

If you have shipped any personal effects or parts with your vehicle, which is often the case with containerised cargo, please ensure they are included on the packing list and declared to Australian Customs.

Q. What quarantine procedures apply to imported vehicles?

All vehicles require clearance by DAFF (Quarantine) who will perform an inspection before release in the case of used vehicles. Of particular concern are soil and plant matter which can often be present on wheels, in engine bays and underneath. If found to be clean, the vehicle will be released but, if not, it will be sent for cleaning at an approved facility. Many importers have vehicles cleaned prior to shipment and, while this is helpful, it does not exempt it from inspection on arrival.