Airports and Seaports

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The Australian Border Force plays a vital role at our airports and seaports in protecting Australia's border from the entry of illegal and harmful goods and those intending to commit immigration fraud or threaten the national interest.

The Australian Border Force achieves effective border management through minimal disruption to legitimate trade and travel while preventing illegal movement of people and goods across the border. We work with other Australian and international agencies on counter-terrorism and the fight against organised crime and work together to identify possible travellers and goods of interest prior to, and at the border.

Australian Border Force officers are positioned at all eight international airports and over 60 international seaports around Australia. We also process travellers and goods arriving in Australia outside of major metropolitan airports and seaports, such as sea vessels arriving at remote mining ports, and small aircraft or yachts arriving at small airstrips and seaports.

Border Force Counter Terrorism Unit

The Border Force Counter Terrorism Unit was established in 2014 as a new capability to deal with national security threats at the border.

The Australian Border Force has Counter Terrorism Unit teams stationed across the eight major airports.  These proactive, well-equipped and multi-disciplinary specialist teams exercise the full suite of legislative powers available to officers in the Australian Border Force and provide a visible and active demonstration of the Government’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of the Australian borders and Australian law. 

The Counter Terrorism Unit teams increase our capability to deal with both inbound and outbound national security threats by intervening in suspicious situations and intercepting suspicious persons of national security interest.

Already, these teams have successfully intercepted a number of people of national security concern. They have also found evidence of movements or attempted movements of large sums of cash, and images and material of an extremist nature. Some cases have resulted in the imposition of infringement notices, while others are the subject of ongoing investigations.

Declared area offence

The Government is concerned about Australians who travel to conflict zones and return to Australia with skills and intentions acquired from fighting or training with terrorist groups. The 'declared area' offence is aimed at deterring people from travelling to these dangerous areas.

This will make it an offence for Australians to enter, or remain in, an area in a foreign country which has been declared by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, as an area where a listed terrorist organisation is engaged in a hostile activity.

More information is available on the National Security Declared area offence page.

Travellers

The role of Australian Border Force officers is to detect the illegal movement of people across Australia's border and the unlawful movement of prohibited, restricted or regulated goods into Australia.

Undertaking a variety of roles at airports and seaports, Australian Border Force officers:  

  • check passports and other documents as travellers arrive and depart Australia
  • assist travellers to use automated systems such as SmartGate and e-Gates
  • question and search arriving and departing travellers and their baggage for prohibited or restricted goods and to assist with assessment of bona fides
  • search aircraft or vessels for prohibited or restricted goods and documents that may assist with the assessment of bona fides of travellers
  • seize prohibited items including weapons, offensive pornography, wildlife, products made from endangered species, commercial quantities of counterfeit goods prohibited or restricted goods
  • patrol the tarmac, wharf and baggage handling areas to detect and deter criminal activity using detector dogs to search people's baggage for drugs and other prohibited or restricted goods
  • collect duty and tax on imported goods such as alcohol and cigarettes when travellers exceed duty free allowances.
  • analyse advance passenger information to identify travellers who may be of interest to border agencies.
  • administer the Tourist Refund Scheme which enables travellers to claim a refund of GST paid on single purchase over $300

In some cases we assist people to correct errors made on their documents.  In others, our checks can lead to visa cancellation decisions.  Regardless of the range of checks conducted on travellers before their arrival in Australia, arriving travellers may still be refused entry to Australia at the border. Airlines must remove passengers they brought to Australia who are refused entry.

We work together with other agencies to ensure effective border management and protection.  We undertake border controls and tasks on behalf of more than 50 Commonwealth, State and Territory organisations.  The Incoming Passenger Card, for example, collects a range of information that may assist in the identification of communicable diseases, quarantine and money laundering issues and issues with character assessment. 

Goods

The role of Australian Border Force officers is to detect the unlawful movement of prohibited, restricted or regulated goods into Australia through airports, seaports and international mail.

At airports and seaports travellers' baggage is x-rayed or examined by Australian Border Force or Department of Agriculture Biosecurity officers who work together to detect prohibited, restricted or dutiable goods and biosecurity risk items such as animal and plant material. This is an essential part of our role in protecting the integrity of Australia's security, economy, environment, health and cultural heritage.

Cargo

We use a range of techniques and technology to screen goods entering Australia including x-ray, physical inspection, substance testing and our detector dog programme.  Some cargo may be held pending payment of duty or GST or the production of a valid import permit. Some cargo containing prohibited goods may be seized by Australian Border Force or Department of Agriculture.

International mail

All arriving mail is cleared by the Australian Border Force prior to delivery by Australia Post.  Imported mail may be subject to inspection using techniques such as x-ray or detector dogs and may be opened for physical inspection and substance testing.  Some mail articles may be held pending payment of duty or GST or the production of a valid import permit.  Some mail articles containing prohibited goods may be seized by Australian Border Force or Department of Agriculture.

Detector Dog Program

Detector dog teams work at all Australian airports, seaports, cargo depots and international mail centres. Detector dogs have the ability to screen large volumes of goods in an efficient and effective manner. They are trained to detect a range of illicit drugs, firearms, explosives and currency. For more information on the programme is available at Detector dog program.

Border technologies

The Australian Border Force uses a wide range of technology at airports and seaports to protect against terrorism and the movement of illicit drugs and prohibited imports. Border technologies include any equipment that aids the detection, search, examination or surveillance of ships, aircraft, goods or persons entering or departing Australia.

As we increase the security of our systems through the increased use of biometrics, automated gates and trusted trade schemes, we will deliver a more seamless experience at the border for legitimate travellers and traders and those legitimately seeking to call Australia home.

As part of our commitment to providing travellers self-processing options and managing traveller growth, we are working towards 90 per cent of travellers being able to use automated e-Gates by 2020. We will design and install next-generation e-Gates and expand eligibility to a large number of additional nationalities and options for mobile passenger processing.

Intelligence

We manage border risks through intelligence-led interventions. We partner with law enforcement and intelligence agencies to enable targeted inspection and examination of people and goods at the border, whilst streamlining border processes for legitimate trade and travel.

Access to secure areas

Aviation Security Identification Cards (ASIC) and Maritime Security Identification Cards (MSIC) are photo identity cards that indicate the holder has had their background checked and is permitted to be in secure areas of aviation or maritime zones, or perform particular roles and functions.

The Department’s ASIC MSIC Issuing Unit processes applications for cards only for personnel from Commonwealth, State and Territory government agencies who have an operational need for a card.

More information is available on the Aviation and Maritime Security Identification Cards (ASIC and MSIC) page.