When Things Go Wrong: Biosecurity


Australia has one of the strictest biosecurity measures in the world.

The same measures that protect our country’s biodiversity, can quickly lead to a costly process for importers and shippers if Government rules are not followed.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has zero tolerance for any error or mistake, even where every effort has been made to comply with treatment or document requirements.

australia inspection quarantine

These measures include and are not limited to – not permitting the goods to arrive, re-export, destruction, treatment and inspection, all at the shipper’s or importer’s expense.

Given the current global supply chain crisis instigated by COVID-19, we are seeing increasing delays at the border and more quarantine challenges than ever before.

Below, we outline some real-life case studies and share some considerations for importers.


Case 1 – Stink Bug Fumigation

In 2021, a flat rack container was imported into Australia from a BMSB risk country. According to Stink Bug Season mandatory measures, these non-enclosed shipments must be laden on board a vessel within 120 hours of being fumigated. The shipment was treated at the last possible moment before the required gate in time at the wharf for export. Due to congestion at the port, the loading of the vessel was delayed for a few days. This resulted in the loading time falling just outside the Department’s 120 hour rule.

The result

The shipment got rejected on arrival. The goods needed tarping, regular inspection every 24 hours, re-export to Singapore, treatment and only then could be returned to Australia.  No consideration or allowance was given for the fact that the relevant treatment had been done and that the shipping delay was a supply chain issue out of anyone’s control.

Case 2 – Khapra Beetle Certificate

In another case, an importer made arrangements to import rice into Australia. Rice is a Khapra beetle risk commodity and needs to have a certificate to verify that the goods have been checked and are free from contamination. Due to staffing issues and delays with the arrangement of the shipment, the rice was shipped before the official certificates were completed.

The result

The goods arrived and were denied entry in Australia. The rice was then exported at the importer’s expense for incomplete documents.


Importing does not come without risk. As an importer, you are ultimately responsible for your cargo.

In some instances, even doing everything right does not guarantee a risk-free shipping process.

With so many challenges with shipping and importing goods, it is critical that suppliers and importers are fully up to date with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s rules and requirements.

The Department has rules regarding the packaging materials used, the commodity itself, and specific rules for seasonal pests – Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and Khapra Beetle in particular.


What you can do

  • Ensure paperwork and processes are followed but also accept that you could meet unpredicted obstacles on the way.
  • Read the Department’s biosecurity website, BICON, to understand the compliance rules.
  • Minimise risks as much as possible by protecting your cargo and your business with Marine Insurance. ICE can present you with different policies according to your risk appetite, noting that not all events are covered through insurance.
  • Stay informed! Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest announcements or simply give a call to your ICE representative for a casual industry catch-up. We are always on hand to assist you.


Anna Angelkoska - Operations Manager


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