Asbestos: be aware, urges ABF

At the recent Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia National Convention in Melbourne asbestos was a hot topic one.  Customs brokers and freight forwarders discussed with Australian Border Force (ABF) officials about the expectations placed on them – here’s some of what transpired:

Australian Border Force superintendent trade & goods operational policy Alison Watson addressed some concerns about the ABF’s expectations of brokers and forwarders.

Ms Watson said the ABF expects importers to undertake adequate assurance measures to demonstrate that goods that are known asbestos risks don’t actually contain the substance.

“We’ve been asked: What does adequate assurance mean – what does it look like? Our online fact sheet contains that information,” she said before giving several examples of what it might look like.

“Adequate assurance can be provided by way of supporting documentation, and what that documentation is and the level of information that is in that documentation will be guided by the risk of the goods containing asbestos,” Ms Watson said.

“I would love to provide you with a checklist, but unfortunately there is no checklist in the fact sheet.”

“The documentation that you obtain as a customs broker (or that your importer obtains) needs to contain an understanding of what makes up the product: What the components are, what the ingredients are, what is the manufacturing supply chain process for the goods, what are the measures that the supplier or the manufacturer has put in place to ensure that goods are not contaminated with asbestos.”

Ms Watson went on to say the documentation could include things such as safety data sheets, ingredients lists, information about the supply chain and quality assurance processes that are in place.

Ms Watson acknowledged the difficulties in ensuring imported goods contain nil asbestos while other countries may allow varying amounts of the substance in manufactured goods.

“Australia is one of the few countries that has an absolute band on asbestos. This puts us in a little bit of a challenging position, and we recognise that.”

She continued, saying the ABF has ramped up efforts on managing the importation of asbestos.

“We have significantly increased our operational and strategic focus on the import of goods that pose a risk of containing asbestos, and we are taking an intelligence-led, risk-based approach,” Ms Watson said.

“A list of the goods that have a high risk of containing asbestos is available on our website, and I encourage you to look at that and share that information with your clients.”

We are continually reviewing and refining the goods that we are targeting for asbestos. Things might change, our approach might change over time.

“Please continually look at the website, in particular the list of high risk goods because we will continue to refine this.”

Ms Watson continued, saying the ABF encourages importers to implement contractual obligations with suppliers that specify nil asbestos content and to test samples of the goods before shipment, and also to undertake regular risk assessment and quality assurance processes.

“These processes should take into account things like what the raw materials are that are used in the manufacturing process, who is involved in the supply chain and where they source their raw materials, and then identifying and minimising asbestos risk activities at the point of manufacture” she said.

“If we do suspect that goods involve or include asbestos, the goods will be held and they will be examined. As part of that examination the importer might be required to arrange for testing and certification.

“Be aware of the import prohibition. Make your clients aware of the import prohibition.”


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