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Notification of impending arrival In Australia to Customs Authorities

By doina — last modified Mar 13, 2007 11:52 AM

Published: 2007-03-13 11:52:43
Countries: Australia

Yachties – Be Warned!

If you intend to enter Australia on a yacht and fail to notify the Australian Customs Authorities of your impending arrival, YOU WILL BE CHARGED.

I recently attended the court case of an American citizen who arrived in Port Bundaberg with his Swiss wife on board their yacht in September 2006. They failed to provide Australian Customs with the necessary notification as is required under the Australian Customs Act before their arrival in Australia and were charged. As a result of these charges they were found guilty and fined $4,000 plus costs of $15000.00 and court charges of $130.80. The maximum possible fine sought by Australian Customs at the hearing could have been $6000 for each of the two charges plus $50,000 in costs. There would also have been the added costs of their defence lawyer. A very costly mistake!

In their defence the skipper of the yacht provided details that they had attended the Australian Consulate in Noumea, New Caledonia and were provided with an out-of-date document which clearly stated that they should give not less than 48 hours notice and not more than 10 days notice to Australian Customs Authorities by way of:

  1. Call on VHF 81 to Volunteer Marine Rescue
  2. Email Australian Customs
  3. Fax Australian Customs or
  4. Telephone Australian Customs

When giving their evidence they stated that they had sought the advice from the Australian Consulate because they knew that Australia’s rules for arrival of international vessels were tough.

However they believed that the document given to them meant that they should give exactly 48 hours notice. They had on board only a VHF handheld radio with a maximum range of 5 to 10 miles. They had no other radio equipment, satellite telephone or email facility. They elected for option 1 and planned to call VMR when they were within range.

Australian Customs Authorities require a minimum of 96 hours notice of impending arrival in Australia. This does not mean AT 96 hours, it means that the yacht must give notification of AT LEAST 96 hours. This can be done before departure from the last port, whether it be Noumea, Port Vila or Suva.

During the court case it was clarified that under the law, Australia’s coastline must be protected from possible illegal importation of drugs, people, diseases, marine life, firearms etc. And the magistrate clearly agreed with the rights of the Australian people to be protected.

It is a sad reflection of our times that these requirements are necessary to be provided before entering our country and that such harsh penalties should apply when the conditions are not met.

So be warned – do your research and seek updated information before departing your last port at the following web site http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=4791

Lesley Grimminck

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