Shipping Agricultural Heavy Machinery into Australia

Around 95% of agricultural machinery and equipment used in Australia is imported from overseas – especially from the United States. Australian farmers, companies and distributors are always looking for international suppliers to deliver high-quality products so that they in turn can produce high-demand goods such as meat and cereal (two of Australia’s largest exports).

So, if you’re looking to import agricultural heavy machinery into Australia, you’re in the right place. Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know including the relevant biosecurity rules, packing options, the Incoterms and your insurance. We trust you’ll feel more confident in arranging these types of shipments after reading this article.

Biosecurity measures when importing heavy machinery

The single most important part of importing agricultural products is the biosecurity laws regulating the import of machinery.

Australia has some of the strictest biosecurity measures in the world when it comes to protecting animal and plant health from foreign imports.

All machinery must be completely free from contamination. Failure to comply with these rules may lead to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment exporting your goods at your expense.

There are many different types of machinery that you cannot import into Australia without an import permit. The Federal Government has put in place the Biosecurity Import Conditions (BICON) system, which you can access to determine if a commodity is permitted, subject to conditions, requires documentation treatment or an import permit.

New agricultural machinery

New agricultural machinery

If you are importing new agricultural machinery (as that term is defined in BICON) from the United States, for instance, BICON states (at the time of writing) that an import permit is not required. For this machinery to be “new”, all of its parts must in fact be new and “not field-tested”. If the Department considers the machinery to be “used”, it will be secured and the conditions applicable to ‘used’ machinery will apply.

There is a range of documents you must present to customs, including a commercial invoice, supplier’s declaration, manufacturer’s declaration, commercial invoice and a company representative declaration that the machinery has not been field-tested. The goods will also need to be clean and free of contaminant seed, soil, animal and plant debris.

If your machinery is found to be “unacceptably contaminated”, it won’t be allowed into Australia and may be re-exported at your expense. It may also be directed for treatment such as through disinfecting, vacuuming and high-pressure cleaning. This too will be at your expense.

Used agricultural machinery

If you are importing used agricultural machinery (as that term is defined in BICON), BICON also states (at the time of writing) that an import permit is not required. Similarly, the goods must be “clean and free of contaminant seed, soil, animal and plant debris and other biosecurity risk material prior to arrival in Australian territory”.

BICON, however, also notes that the important places to check when importing your machinery includes (but are not limited to) in between the dual wheels/rims, wheel guards and mudguards. You should also check the spare tyres, toolbox, turret pivot areas, engine bays, radiators, the underside of the machinery, hollows, crevices and the interior of the cab.

All consignments of used agricultural machinery, according to BICON, will also require an inspection by a biosecurity officer.

used agricultural machinery

Cleanliness requirements

The Department states that if your machinery does not meet certain standards of cleanliness, then it may not be allowed into Australia. It is your responsibility, as the importer, to make sure machinery arrives in Australia free from all biosecurity risk material. This includes things like plant and animal materials, soil and seeds.

The Department has created a number of detailed cleaning guides and checklists for every piece of machinery you may export, including dump trucks, dozers, forklifts, excavators, wheel loaders and tractors. Ensure your machinery meets these standards of cleanliness before they arrive in Australia.

Stink bug measures when importing agricultural machinery

As of 1 December 2021, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s New, Unused and Not Field-Tested (NUFT) goods regulation will come into effect for this BMSB Season. The salient points you need to be aware of are as follows.

Life stages of BMSB. Left to right: four nymphal stages (2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th instar), adult male & adult female

First, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your goods manufactured on or after 1st December 2021? (A product is only considered to be manufactured on or after 1st December 2021 if manufacturing occurs from 1st December 2021).
  • Are your goods classed as new machinery, vehicles, vessels/new complex parts and equipment, and are classified under the following tariff chapters: 82, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88 and 89?
  • Are you able to provide evidence in the form of a BMSB manufacturer’s NUFT (new, unused and not field tested) declaration that the goods were manufactured on or after 1 December 2021?

If the answer to all the above questions is yes, under the seasonal measures, certain goods will not be subject to BMSB measures on arrival.

Next, make sure your BMSB NUFT Declaration meets the following requirements:

  • It must be on the manufacturing company’s letterhead and include their name and address
  • It must contain the statement “the product is new, unused and not field tested”
  • It must have a goods description specific to the product and consignment
  • It must be consignment-specific link on the declaration
  • It must have a manufacture start date or range of manufacture dates for the goods
  • It must detail the place of manufacture of the goods (the country of origin is not acceptable and it must be the address/location of the manufacturer)

Please note that, as per minimum documentary and import declaration requirements, the manufacturer’s declarations will only be accepted from the company that manufactured/produced the goods. These declarations must be issued by either the individual manufacturing site or head office within the country of manufacture, unless a valid import permit or BICON case states otherwise.

Please consult the Department of Agriculture’s Minimum documentary and import declaration requirements policy for further information.

Case in Point

A case in point, in December 2021, for example, a sniffer dog at the Port of Brisbane discovered the presence of a brown marmorated stinkbug (BMSB) in a used dump truck. The stink bug, discovered in the truck’s wheel arch, is one of the country’s most dangerous hitchhiker pests, presenting a massive threat to Australia’s local crops.

Shipping agricultural machinery into Australia? Learn how to minimise costs and how to navigate Australia's strict biosecurity.

The details of what happened to the dump truck are not yet known, however, the Minister of Agriculture stated that “biosecurity officers took immediate steps to contain the situation,” including “subjecting further ship cargo to thorough detector dog screening and deploying traps on-site in accordance with the government’s brown marmorated stink bug Response Strategy”.

Packing your agricultural machinery

All packaging you use for your machinery must be clean and new, so it is important to make the right decisions when deciding on the method to pack your machinery and its associated equipment.

There are countless risks that your cargo experiences when being shipped by air and sea, exposing it to be both loss and damage. So, if you’re importing machinery, consider some of the options you can choose when it comes to packing:

RORO Terminal
  • Roll On Roll Off – If you’re importing your machine as a whole piece, it may literally need to be driven onto and off a vessel. This is where using Roll-On Roll-Off (RoRo) vessels comes into play.
  • Out of Gauge (OOG) / Bulk Cargo – OOG cargo refers to any cargo that can’t be loaded into regular six-sided shipping containers because that cargo is too large. This would apply to many types of very large heavy agricultural machinery.
  • Charter vessels – For significant projects, charter vessels may be the most cost-effective way to transport heavy agricultural machinery. ICE, for example, was involved in arranging the import of over 3,000 cubic metres of cargo in the construction of a gas processing plant through the use of charter vessels.

We reiterate at this stage that all your equipment, before packing, should be cleaned, free from contaminants, and otherwise compliant with Australia’s strict biosecurity regulations.

All machinery must also be purged of all fuel. Isolating the battery and removing the fuel from the tanks must be done if you wish to ship the machinery as a non-hazardous cargo.

Use the right Incoterms

When shipping your agricultural machinery into Australia, you always want to make sure your transaction is governed by the Incoterms most favourable to you. These are the international commercial terms identifying the costs, risk and insurance obligations between the buyer and seller. You will often negotiate these terms during the sales process.

There are 11 different Incoterms you can use. Which one you choose ultimately depends on the costs and risks you are willing to incur to land the deal. The Ex-Works (EXW) term, for example, tends to be the friendliest for the seller because the buyer takes on virtually all costs (including shipping) once they’ve collected goods from a particular premise.

By contrast, the Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) term is buyer-friendly, as the seller takes on all costs and risks for the entire shipment. All the buyer is responsible for is unloading their goods once they’ve arrived.

Refer to our Incoterms guide for an explanation of all the different options.

Incoterms® 2020 chart

Make sure you have insurance

Agricultural machinery is usually very expensive. Insurance should be considered a standard part of your import, given the sheer amount of risk your machinery faces over the course of a shipment.

Some of the risks you may have over the course of a shipment includes:

  • Poorly designed or inappropriate packaging – poor product packaging can lead not only to cargo damage but fatal consequences, especially if your cargo constitutes dangerous goods.
  • Theft – stressed supply chains in light of the COVID-19 pandemic has created unique opportunities for thieves to steal cargo (especially as ports in the U.S. are experiencing labour shortages)
  • Improper handling – cargo is handled in multiple stages of the supply chain and there will always be a risk that your machinery is damaged at some stage throughout the process.
  • Vessel running aground – the infamous case of the Ever Given running around in the Suez Canal caught international attention.
  • Collision with another vessel – vessel collisions present risks to the safety of both the crew and your cargo.   
  • Natural disasters – bushfires, storms, typhoons, tsunamis and snow all present very clear risks to cargo vessels. A tsunami in September 2020 resulted in the capsizing of the Gulf Livestock 1 and only 2 survivors found.
  • Stack collapse – one of the worst stacks of containers occurred in November 2020 when the ONE APUS experienced bad weather and 1,816 containers fell overboard.
  • Political unrest – civil unrest throughout a country can have a major impact on the operation of shipping ports which in turn can affect shipping cargo – South Africa being a recent example.
  • Piracy – sailing through the Gulf of Guinea and the Horn of Africa presents a significant risk of ships becoming hijacked by pirates.

Contact your freight forwarder today to discuss the best marine insurance options for you and your shipment.

containers falling overboard container vessel

How should I pay my supplier?

For high-value cargo such as agricultural machinery, we always recommend working with your supplier on suitable payment options.

This would normally be split with a deposit on the manufacturer and a final settlement on arrival.

How long do you have to wait for my cargo to arrive?

If your machinery is transported in a Less than Container Load (LCL) shipment, it will typically take between 5-7 days for you to receive it once it arrives at the port.

However, if your cargo is shipped Full Container Load (FCL), it is a quicker process. You’ll typically receive your cargo from the port to the warehouse in 3 days. This is because you won’t be sharing your container with anybody else.

For more information, please refer to our article on transporting goods from the port to the warehouse.

containerised machinery

What are my delivery options once the machinery has arrived in Australia?

Once your goods have arrived at the Australian ports, you will need to think about how you will transport your machinery to your end destination. This could either be by road, rail or even air if you need to transport your machinery far inland into the country.

You will need to, first, consider how your product can be moved and needs to be moved, based on how it has been packed. How containerised cargo can be shipped will be very different if your machinery arrived in one piece via RoRo.

If your cargo is long or out of gauge, it may be necessary to arrange special transport with escort vehicles across Australian roads.

However, if you are taking your container directly to your site, remember that you only have a certain amount of free time before you must return the container back to the port. You will typically have 7 days for your cargo to be unpacked and the container returned to the wharf within this timeframe. Failure to meet this deadline may result in you needing to pay detention fees.

Use a freight forwarder to help you import your agricultural machinery

There are a lot of moving parts when arranging an import of heavy agricultural machinery. From documentation and customs to quarantine requirements and insurance, these are complex components where mistakes cannot afford to be made. Even the most minute detail missed can result in more money spent, unnecessary delays and your goods even being seized and re-exported out of Australia.

freight forwarder sydney

Our freight forwarders and customs brokers across Australia can help facilitate the entire process of importing heavy agricultural machinery from overseas into the country. From scrutinising every document and paying the correct customs duty, to ensuring the most cost-effective transport available, the team at ICE can assist at every stage.

Reach out to a shipping specialist at one of our offices today in Melbourne, Sydney, Fremantle and Brisbane or leave a comment below.

Request a Free Quote or call us on 1300 227 461

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