Asbestos-laced goods: Importers to be aware of massive ABF penalties

By Margaret Bux
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The Australian Border Force (ABF) is urging all importers to ensure adequate due diligence is undertaken that goods do not contain asbestos particularly when sourced from countries that have asbestos producing industries.  Some goods may even be labelled “asbestos free” but actually still contain asbestos if they are below a certain acceptable level in that country.

Martin Moyano, Director at Clarke Global Logistics, has observed the popularity of importing classic Vespa’s from Vietnam where a large number were left behind during colonial times.  They have since been restored and exported out inexpensively.   Citing a recent case, after handling the customs clearance for a restored Vespa from Vietnam, the import was stopped in Adelaide by Australian Customs for evaluation.  The bike was moved to another depot for testing and was found to contain asbestos in the brake pads.  The inexpensive bike now incurred extra costs of $2,000.

If Australians are importing classic or old motorbikes they need to make sure they are not dealing with a “dodgy” supplier and to seek adequate documentation, assurances and testing if unsure.  This does not just apply to second-hand goods, but new articles.  Australian Customs is currently focusing their attention on brand new building materials, most from South East Asia, particularly since asbestos containing products were found in materials used on Perth Children’s Hospital about a year ago.

Depending on the risk, importers can request several types of documentation from suppliers to show a sufficient level of assurance, including NATA accredited testing and certification:

  • Declarations from importers and/or suppliers which state that the goods have nil asbestos content
  • Documentation outlining the level of assurances taken throughout the supply chain
  • Invoices demonstrating the supplier of the goods
  • Information about the supply chain and possible quality assurance process in place
  • Illustrative Descriptive Material
  • Ingredient lists
  • Test certificate or laboratory report
  • Material Safety Data sheets

The ABF states that it is the responsibility of importers and exporters to ensure they do not import or export prohibited goods such as asbestos.  Should the ABF suspect goods arriving at the border contain asbestos, the goods will be held and examined.  If found, the goods will be seized and the importer could be subject to massive penalties and/or prosecution.

For more information about importer due diligence for asbestos, accredited testing and what happens when asbestos is found, please refer to the ABF Asbestos Factsheet.  Please feel free to contact the team at Clarke Global Logistics on 9854 3000 or email for advice before importing any goods you are unsure of.


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