Cargo reporting and import declaration requirements

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This information explains our requirements for the reporting and clearance of cargo. It outlines how these requirements apply to a number of common business models.

The legislation and policy requirements outlined below have been in place since 2005. They do not represent a change in policy.

Read this information in conjunction with:

  • Australian Customs Notice (ACN) 2006/59 – Definition of consignment for the purposes of Section 68 of the Customs Act 1901
  • ACN 2009/47 – Definition of consignor and consignee and Compliance Approach for the purposes of reporting cargo
  • Instructions and Guidelines Instructions and Guidelines - Defining consignment for the purposes of section 68 of the Customs Act 1901 (Customs Act), March 2010.

Cargo reporting

Definition of consignor and consignee

For the purposes of a cargo report, the Customs Act defines:

  • a consignor as a supplier of goods who is located outside Australia who either initiates the sending of goods to a person in Australia or complies with a request from a person in Australia
  • a consignee as the ultimate recipient of the goods that have been sent from outside Australia whether or not the person ordered or paid for the goods.

Reporting the details of a logistics service provider in either the consignor or consignee field of a cargo report does not meet legislative requirements if:

  • the logistics service provider is not the supplier of the goods or the ultimate recipient but is an intermediary or service provider (for example consolidator or freight forwarder)
  • the required information is available to the cargo reporter.

The requirement to report consignor and consignee details does not apply to cargo reporters who have entered into an arrangement for the carriage of the consignment on behalf of another cargo reporter. Where such an arrangement applies, the cargo report (referred to as a ‘parent bill report’ for sea cargo and ‘sub-master air waybill’ for air cargo) should provide details of the overseas logistics service provider as the consignor and the receiving logistics service provider as the consignee.

Legislative requirements

In accordance with the Customs Act, we require a cargo reporter to report all goods that they have arranged to be carried to Australia.

A cargo reporter is required to report a separate cargo report for each consignor/consignee combination.

Information in a cargo report allows us to:

  • achieve cargo control
  • identify and respond to risks at the border
  • ensure that appropriate revenue is collected before the release of cargo.

Incomplete reporting of cargo can result in a delay in the release of the cargo from customs control.

Bills of lading

The house bill number field or the air waybill number field on a cargo report should quote the house bill of lading number issued for the goods to ensure each cargo report lodged in the Integrated Cargo System (ICS) has a corresponding bill of lading.

Where a cargo reporter has been unable to obtain a bill of lading to lodge a cargo report, for example the overseas freight forwarder is unwilling to prepare the necessary bill of lading, the cargo reporter is able to use another commercial document to lodge the cargo report provided that the commercial document contains sufficient information to:

  • identify the consignment
  • lodge the cargo report in the ICS.

Where a cargo reporter has been unable to obtain a bill of lading to lodge a cargo report, evidence of this should be kept for audit purposes.

Cargo reporters

In the Customs Act, a cargo reporter is defined, in relation to a ship or aircraft and in relation to a particular voyage or flight, as one of the following:

  1. the operator or charterer of the ship or aircraft
  2. a slot charterer in respect of the ship
  3. a freight forwarder in respect of the ship or aircraft.

Each cargo reporter is responsible for lodging a cargo report detailing the cargo they have arranged to be carried on the ship or aircraft.

Each cargo reporter is also responsible for notifying us of any cargo carried on behalf of another cargo reporter.

The carrier (shipping line or airline) is required, as the first cargo reporter, to report the full details of cargo which they are directly responsible for. This means the operator of the ship or aircraft is the responsible party for cargo reports at the ocean bill of lading level or master air waybill level respectively.

Where the operator of a ship or aircraft has sold space to another cargo reporter (usually a freight forwarder and, with sea cargo, might include a slot charterer), they are also required to notify us of any cargo carried on behalf of that other cargo reporter. The other cargo reporter will then become the responsible party to supply a further cargo report for that cargo, at the house bill level. ​

Where a cargo report at the house bill level is required but a cargo reporter has not been engaged to lodge that report, a cargo reporter needs to be engaged.

Containerised sea cargo types

The containerised sea cargo types are:

  • FCL – Full Container Load: a container where all the contents are consigned from one consignor to one consignee. There is only one consignment in the container.
  • FCX – Full Container with Multiple House Bills of Lading: a container where all the contents are consigned to one consignee in Australia and where there are two or more consignments within the container.
  • LCL – Less than Container Load: a consignment that does not occupy the full space available in the container. The consignment has been consolidated with one or more consignments in the container. The consignments in this container must be for at least two different consignees in Australia.

Import declarations

For the purposes of an import declaration a consignment is defined as goods that are shipped from one consignor to one consignee which might not be packed in a single package or arrive in Australia at the same time.

Legislative requirements

The Customs Act requires imported goods to be entered for home consumption or for warehousing. An entry for home consumption is made by submitting an import declaration for the imported goods.

An import declaration must be lodged for each consignment (that is, a separate import declaration must be lodged for each consignor/consignee combination).

However, in the case of an FCX container (that is, a full container load made up of multiple consignments for a single importer), it is permissible for one import declaration to be lodged for all of the consignments (including where the shipment includes multiple FCX containers).

Business models

This section outlines a number of common business models along with the respective cargo reporting and clearance requirements.

Model one

One importer submits one order to one supplier. The supplier fills the order and arranges for the goods to be sent to the importer.

​Reportin​g requirements:

  • The consignor is the supplier. The supplier is the consignor because, when the supplier receives the order from the importer, the supplier initiates the sending of the goods to a person in Australia.
  • The consignee is the importer.
  • ​ In this model, there is:
    • ​ one bill of lading
    • one cargo report.

Clearance req​uirements:

  • In this model, there is one import declaration.

Model two

One importer submits multiple orders to one supplier. Where the importer and the supplier have arranged for all orders over a specified period to be filled and paid for together (and there is evidence of this arrangement), the shipment can be considered as one consignment.

Reporting requirement:

  • The consignor is the supplier. The supplier is the consignor because, when the supplier receives the orders from the importer, the supplier initiates the sending of the goods to a person in Australia.
  • The consignee is the importer.
  • In this model, there is:
    • one bill of lading
    • one cargo report.

Clearance requirements:

  • In this model, there is one import declaration.

Model three

One importer submits multiple orders to one supplier. Where the importer and the supplier have arranged for each order to be filled and paid for separately, each order is considered to be one consignment.

Reporting requirements:

  • The consignor is the supplier. The supplier is the consignor because, when the supplier receives the orders from the importer, the supplier initiates the sending of the goods to a person in Australia.
  • The consignee is the importer
  • In this model, there is:
    • multiple bills of lading
    • multiple cargo reports.​

Clearanc​​e requirements:

  • In this model, clearance requirements differ according to cargo type:
    • for FCX sea cargo (multiple bills of lading for one consignee), there is one import declaration
    • for other cargo types (FCL and LCL sea cargo and air cargo), there are multiple import declarations (one for each consignment).

Model four

One importer submits a separate order to multiple suppliers. Each supplier fills its order and arranges for the goods to be sent to the importer separately. There is no consolidation of goods.

Reporting requirements:

  • The consignors are the suppliers. The suppliers are the consignors because, when they each receive an order from the importer, each supplier will initiate the sending of their goods to a person in Australia.
  • The consignee is the importer.
  • In this model, there is:
    • multiple bills of lading
    • multiple cargo reports.

Clearance requirements:

  • In this model, for the cargo types FCL and LCL sea cargo and air cargo, there are multiple import declarations (one for each consignment).

Model five

Multiple importers submit an order to one supplier. The supplier fills the orders and arranges for the goods to be sent to each importer as either LCL sea cargo or air cargo.

Reporting requirements:

  • The consignor is the supplier. The supplier is the consignor because, when the supplier receives the orders from the importers, the supplier initiates the sending of goods to the persons in Australia.
  • The consignees are the importers.
  • In this model, there are:
    • multiple bills of lading
    • multiple cargo reports.

Clearance requ​irements:

  • In this model, there are multiple import declarations (one for each consignment).

Model six

One importer submits a separate order to multiple suppliers. Each supplier fills its order and, on instruction from the importer, arranges for the goods to be sent to a distribution centre located outside Australia for consolidation. The distribution centre consolidates the cargo before sending to the importer.

Reporting requirements:

  • The consignors are the suppliers. The suppliers are the consignors because, when they each receive an order from the importer, each supplier will initiate the sending of their goods to a person in Australia
  • The distribution centre is not the consignor as it does not initiate the sending of the goods to a person in Australia. The distribution centre receives goods from the suppliers and offers a consolidation service before arranging the transport of the goods to the importer.
  • The consignee is the importer.
  • In this model, there are:
    • multiple bills of lading
    • multiple cargo reports.

Note: In this model, the cargo reporting requirements (at the house bill level) are not met by the lodgement of only one cargo report that nominates the distribution centre as the consignor and the importer as the consignee.

Clearance requirements:

In this model, clearance requirements differ according to cargo type:

  • for FCX sea cargo (multiple bills of lading for one consignee), there is one import declaration
  • for other cargo types (FCL and LCL sea cargo and air cargo), there are multiple import declarations (one for each consignment).

​Model seven

One importer submits one order to its distribution centre located outside Australia. The distribution centre, in turn, sends orders to multiple suppliers. The suppliers fill the orders and send the goods to the distribution centre. The distribution centre consolidates the goods and sends them to the importer.

Reporting requirements:

  • The consignors are the suppliers. The suppliers are the consignors because, as a result of each supplier receiving an order from the distribution centre, each supplier will initiate the sending of their goods to a person in Australia through the distribution centre. The distribution centre will consolidate the orders and will arrange transport to Australia.
  • The distribution centre is not the consignor as it does not initiate the sending of goods to a person in Australia. It acts as a conduit for the orders from the importer to the suppliers, receives the goods from the suppliers, offers a consolidation service, and arranges the transport of the goods to the importer.
  • The consignee is the importer
  • In this model, there are:
    • multiple bills of lading
    • multiple cargo reports.​

In this model, the cargo reporting requirements (at the house bill level) are not met by the lodgement of one cargo report that nominates the distribution centre as the consignor and the importer as the consignee.

Clearanc​​e requirements:

  • In this model, clearance requirements differ according to cargo type:
    • for FCX sea cargo (multiple bills of lading for one consignee), there is one import declaration
    • for other cargo types (FCL and LCL sea cargo and air cargo), there are multiple import declarations (one for each consignment).

Model eight

One importer submits one order to a distribution centre located outside Australia. The distribution centre holds stock that it orders and receives from multiple suppliers independently from any orders received from Australia. Upon receiving the order from the importer, the distribution centre fills the order from shelf stock and sends the goods to the importer.

Reporting r​equirements:

The consignor is the distribution centre located outside Australia. The distribution centre is the consignor because it has purchased the goods independently of receiving any orders from the importer and holds those goods in stock. When the distribution centre receives the order from the importer, the distribution centre picks goods from its stock and initiates the sending of those goods to the importer.

In this model, the businesses supplying the distribution centre are not the consignors as they do not initiate the sending of the goods to a person in Australia, nor do they comply with a request from a person in Australia to send goods to the person.

The consignee is the importer.

In this model, there is:

  • one bill of lading
  • one cargo report.

Clearance require​​ments:

  • In this model, there is one import declaration.

Model nine

One importer submits an order to multiple suppliers. The orders are combined into one parcel/box by one of the suppliers or by a consolidator located outside Australia.

Reporting requirements:

  • The consignors are the suppliers. The suppliers are the consignors because, when they each receive an order from the importer, each supplier will initiate the sending of their goods to a person in Australia.
  • In this model, the supplier or consolidator located outside Australia that combines the goods into one parcel/box is not the consignor as it does not initiate the sending of goods to a person in Australia, nor does it comply with a request from a person in Australia to send goods to the person.
  • The consignee is the importer.
  • In this model, there are:
    • multiple bills of lading
    • multiple cargo reports.

Note: In this model, the cargo reporting requirements are not met by the lodgement of one cargo report (at the house bill level) that nominates one supplier or the distribution centre as the consignor and the importer as the consignee.

Clearance requirements:

  • In this model, clearance requirements differ according to cargo type:
    • for FCX sea cargo (multiple bills of lading for one consignee), there is one import declaration
    • for other cargo types (FCL and LCL sea cargo and air cargo), there are multiple import declarations (one for each consignment).

This model could pose difficulties for a depot operator in accounting for each consignment within the one parcel/box and could, therefore, delay the release of the cargo from the depot.

Model ten

A person travels to a place outside Australia and purchases goods for themselves. The goods are packed by a consolidator located outside Australia and sent to the person in Australia.

Reporti​​ng requirements:

  • The consignor is the person who travelled to a place outside Australia and purchased the goods. That person is the consignor because they initiated the sending of the goods to a person (themselves) in Australia.
  • In this model, the consolidator who packs the goods is not the consignor as it does not initiate the sending of goods to a person in Australia, nor does it comply with a request from a person in Australia to send the goods to the person.
  • The consignee is the person who travelled to a place outside Australia and purchased the goods.
  • In this model there is:
    • one bill of lading
    • one cargo report.

Clearance require​​ments:

  • In this model, there is one import declaration.

Compliance approach

We require accurate and timely cargo information to effectively undertake a proper risk assessment, and to facilitate clearance of cargo. To ensure compliance with legislated reporting requirements, we apply an intelligence-led, risk-based approach that ensures our responses are in line with our regulatory philosophy. In a trading environment where participants largely self-regulate, we ensure compliance through pre and post clearance monitoring and intervention activities that are proportionate to the level of risk. Where we detect non-compliance, we have a variety of treatment options. These range from education and warnings, suspension and revocation of licences, and/or the application of infringement notices, through to prosecution.

The Customs Act sets out a number of offences that apply to deficient reporting, including:

  • 243T – false and misleading statements resulting in the loss of duty
  • 243U - false and misleading statements not resulting in the loss of duty
  • 243V - false and misleading statement on a cargo report or outturn report
  • 64AB – failure to meet reporting requirements for the report of cargo.

Further, the Customs and AusCheck Legislation Amendment (Organised Crime and Other Measures) Act 2013 also implemented a range of measures, including increased penalties, intended to encourage greater compliance with cargo reporting requirements. You can find further information on the Organised Crime Act Review page.

Reporting non-compliance

If you become aware of a person who is not complying with legislated cargo reporting requirements, notify us by reporting it though Border Watch using the online form or calling us on 1800 06 1800 (toll free).

Further information

Information on our reporting processes and obligations can be found on our website www.border.gov.au. You can also contact the Cargo Clearance and Support Centre for further information:

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