Customs intercepts four tonnes of kava

Customs seize 4t kava shipment.
 
Customs investigators have executed search and seizure warrants in Sydney in connection with the illegal importation of four tonnes of kava, an intoxicating powder made from the root of the kava plant.
 
Kava is used as a social and ceremonial drink especially among Pacific Islanders and in remote communities in Australia.
 
The investigation began on 20 November after Customs officers at the Customs container examination facility at Port Botany in Sydney selected for inspection a refrigerated sea cargo container from Tonga. When they unpacked the container, they discovered 176 bags of kava among a declared shipment of taro and yams.
 
Customs National Manager Investigations, Richard Janeczko, said import restrictions on kava were tightened by the Government in June last year.
 
"The misdescription of the goods as well as the large quantity involved is of particular interest to Customs. Large-scale importations of kava are prohibited and are not allowed except for medical or scientific purposes with the appropriate permits. This restriction was considered necessary to combat kava abuse and significant associated health problems particularly in Indigenous communities," he said.
 
The standing approval only allows for the importation of up to 2 kg of kava in the accompanied baggage of an incoming passenger (aged 18 years or over) to Australia.
 
"The importation of small quantities of kava is allowed in recognition that kava has traditional social and ceremonial uses for Pacific Islanders," he added.
 
"Customs investigators are working to gather evidence to enable charges to be laid by summons against those responsible," Mr Janeczko said.
 
The maximum penalty for smuggling kava under the Customs (Prohibited Import) Regulations is $110,000.

Australia signs with East Timor, NZ

The Australian Government has signed important aviation, security and trade agreements witht he governments of East Timor and New Zealand.

East Timor

The Australian Government will invest $100,000 in the East Timor Aviation Security Project to provide training for more than 250 East Timorese airport and aviation security officials. 

The East Timor Aviation Security Project will improve aviation security skills in areas such as passenger and baggage screening, and it will help East Timor strengthen its aviation security laws and regulations.

Australian Government transport security experts will work on the ground with their East Timorese counterparts at Dili Airport and within the East Timor Department of Civil Aviation.

Officials from both countries will work together to make sure the East Timorese get the training they need to deliver internationally recognised aviation security standards.

New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand Customs have committed to a series of initiatives that will further streamline travel and trade between the two countries.

The Australian Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, and NZ Customs Minister Nanaia Mahuta met in Canberra to discuss closer ties between the respective Customs Services.

Mr Debus said Australian and NZ Customs were involved in a data sharing pilot that could ultimately allow Trans-Tasman traders to submit a single data entry to both Customs administrations simultaneously. This would allow for earlier and more accurate receipt of data by Customs and for reduced compliance costs and time-savings for industry.

The ministers also committed to enhance border security through more effective cooperation targeting criminal networks, maritime security threats and intellectual property theft.

Customs are now working on joint intelligence and investigation responses to identified border risks, including those posed by criminal networks common to both countries.

Mr Debus said Australian and NZ Customs would shortly sign an agreement to formalise a cooperative relationship between Border Protection Command and the National Maritime Coordination Centre in New Zealand.

"This agreement will significantly enhance security in the trans-Tasman maritime environment and provide a greater capability for each nation to assess and respond to maritime security threats," he said.

"The seizure of 27kg of cocaine in 2006 from the hull of a vessel which transited NZ en-route to Australia is a prime example of the value of such an approach," Ms Mahuta said.

Both Ministers also agreed to work together to continue building the capacity of Customs agencies throughout the Pacific region.

"It is essential that Pacific nations possess the skills and technology to be able to tackle emerging problems such as terrorism, drug and people smuggling," Mr Debus said.

"Both of our Customs agencies face large increases in cargo volumes and passenger numbers at ports and airports in coming years. In addition, criminal networks are becoming more sophisticated," Ms Mahuta said.

Ms Mahuta said initiatives to tackle these developments jointly, rather than in isolation, recognise that the challenges are not unique to either side of the Tasman.

 

New Customs ship for remote north-west waters

Australian Customs' Ashmore_Guardian

The fight against environmental degradation, illegal fishing and people smuggling in Australia’s remote north-west will be increased with the new Australian Customs Vessel Ashmore Guardian set to become a permanent presence in the area.

Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus and Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett said that a new era in surveillance and enforcement would begin today after the vessel sailed from Darwin.

Mr Debus said the 35 metre long, 339 tonne vessel was a specially modified commercial fleet support ship capable of carrying up to ten Customs officers and government officials.

"It will give Customs the ability to conduct operations on a near-continuous basis at the Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island Marine Reserves," Mr Debus said.

Mr Garrett said the presence of the Ashmore Guardian would be a great boost for monitoring and compliance of activities in the Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island Marine Reserves.

"These reserves are internationally significant coral ecosystems that are threatened by illegal fishing," Mr Garrett said.

"Turtles, dugongs, sharks and seabirds use these reserves for feeding and breeding and the presence of the Ashmore Guardian in the area will be an excellent deterrent against illegal fishing.

"We know that illegal fishing for turtle, shark fins, sea cucumbers, trochus and giant clam shells has occurred in the area. The Ashmore Guardian will be a permanent reminder of the Australian Government’s determination to protect this remarkable environment."

The Ashmore Guardian will enhance surveillance and enforcement activities undertaken by Customs and Australian Defence Force aircraft and patrol boats which are coordinated by the Border Protection Command to protect Australia’s offshore maritime areas.

The two marine reserves, covering an area of 750 km2, are about 320 km off the Australian coast but only 150 km south of the Indonesian Island of Roti.

Traditional Indonesian fishermen are allowed to fish in the area under a Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and Indonesia. Within a small area of Ashmore Reserve only limited fishing for personal use is allowed.

Sunday costs more on the docks

Swandon Dock at night.

Swanson Dock at night.

(Image courtesy of the Port of Melbourne)

Additional costs arising from stevedore DP World’s Sunday operations must be passed on in the transport chain, the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has argued.

In July, DP World Melbourne announced its West Swanson Terminal would treat Sunday as a normal receival, delivery and storage day from October, in response to the significant increase in the number of vessel calls and congestion at the terminal particularly over weekends.

Under the new policy, Sunday will be included as part of the three days of availability for the delivery of imports and as an export receival day. Storage charges will also accrue for ‘time-up’ containers on a Sunday.

VTA CEO Philip Lovel said the issues of handling container trade volumes effectively at the terminal were yet to be resolved.

“We continue to have significant dialogue with DP World on the issues. It is appreciated that while on average some 30 per cent of container volumes are received into West Swanson Terminal from vessels over weekends, only some 11 per cent of containers are distributed through the stevedore’s gate on a weekend,” Mr Lovel said.

“We also continue to work with transport companies to encourage greater uptake of vehicle booking slots at night and over weekends.

“This is having an effect, with more volumes moved by road in the Port of Melbourne during night-shifts and on weekends than in any other major capital city port in Australia,” he said.

However, he said additional costs were unavoidable because of the limited importer and exporter operating hours on weekends as well as very limited opportunities to de-hire empty containers on weekends, leading to further staging added costs.

He added that Customs’ container examination facility and some of the AQIS external wash facilities were shut on Sundays.

“The immediate practical outcome of DP World’s Sunday operations policy will be added costs in the landside logistics task ‘downstream’ from the stevedore’s gate, and increased terminal storage costs as containers become ‘time up’ on a Sunday,” Mr Lovel said.

“We have urged all road transport operators engaged in container transport to ensure that the added costs of transit operations and the additional costs of moving towards 24/7 operations must be borne by the end-use of their services – importers, exporters and freight forwarders.”

He said the container transport sector should push harder to solve the mismatch of operating hours across its chain to effectively cope with continuing container growth.

“Studies all point to the need for parties in the container transport chain to consider the ramifications of their existing operational practices against the realities of continued strong container trade growth and the pressures of 24/7 operations at the ocean terminal interface,” Mr Lovel said.

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