Arrangements for aircraft invoking sovereign immunity

Under international law, foreign governments are entitled to invoke sovereign immunity on state-owned or operated aircraft arriving into Australian Territory (Australia). The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources acknowledges this right whenever the claim of sovereign immunity is invoked. As a result, biosecurity officers do not board sovereign immune aircraft to conduct inspection or other official activities. Biosecurity officers will continue to carry out biosecurity functions without boarding the aircraft.

All aircraft invoking sovereign immunity must comply with the requirements set out below.

Landing permissions for aircraft and unloading of goods

Depending on where an aircraft is intending to land or unload goods in Australia, permissions may be required prior to arrival (up to 10 working days) . A representative of the foreign government is required to lodge an application to:

  • Land an aircraft subject to biosecurity control at a non-determined first point of entry. Requests will be assessed by the department in Canberra and must be submitted at least five (5) working days prior to first arrival in Australia. If approved, permission to land will be provided in writing.
  • Unload goods subject to biosecurity control at a non-determined first point of entry. Requests will be assessed by the department in Canberra and must be submitted at least ten (10) working days prior to first arrival in Australia. If approved, permission to unload goods will be provided in writing.

Conditions may be imposed by the department as part of any approval.

Pre–arrival notification

The operator of the aircraft must provide the following information, either directly to the department or through their ground handling agent, as close to top of descent as operationally practicable but no later than 30 minutes prior to arrival:

  1. information identifying the aircraft;
  2. the intended first landing place of the aircraft in Australian territory;
  3. the estimated day and time of arrival of the aircraft at the place referred to in paragraph (b);
  4. the name and contact details of:
    1. the operator of the aircraft; and
    2. if the operator is not the owner of the aircraft—the owner of the aircraft;
  5. details about any animals or plants in the cabin of the aircraft.

In addition, if any of the following conditions occur during an international flight, the commander of the aircraft must notify the department, either directly or through their ground handling agent, at top of descent:

  • details of any person on board the aircraft who has, or had, signs or symptoms of a listed human disease during the flight;
  • details of any person on board the aircraft who died during the flight;
  • whether there are animals or plants (or both) in the cabin of the aircraft;
  • whether any animal in the cabin of the aircraft died during the flight;
  • if the aircraft is an incoming aircraft and the prescribed disinsection measures for the aircraft have not been taken, or will not have been taken, before the aircraft arrives at its first landing place in Austral ian territory .

Where any of the above conditions are reported, all passengers and crew must remain onboard the aircraft until approval to disembark is provided by a biosecurity officer.

Disinsection

On arrival at the aircraft’s first point of entry in Australia, and prior to the aircraft being unsealed or any passengers or goods disembarking the aircraft, evidence must be provided to the department that the aircraft has been disinsected in accordance with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources/MPI Schedule of Aircraft Disinsection Procedures for Flights into Australia and New Zealand. This will involve the presentation of used disinsection cans or relevant disinsection certificates.

Where the aircraft has not been disinsected, a biosecurity officer will direct the aircraft to be disinsected immediately, and prior to any passengers or crew disembarking or goods being unloaded from the aircraft. If necessary, the officer will supply disinsection spray on a fee–for–service basis. Following the disinsection of the aircraft passengers and crew will be permitted to disembark and goods will be permitted to be unloaded from the aircraft provided no other issues were identified in the pre–arrival notification.

Biosecurity waste

All biosecurity waste onboard the aircraft must be securely stored. If waste is to be removed from the aircraft, it must be placed in double plastic–bags and be removed by a third party that has an approved arrangement with the department to handle biosecurity waste or surrendered to a biosecurity officer for disposal on a fee–for–service basis . Alternatively, waste may be retained onboard the aircraft for export from Australia.

Baggage and goods

All passenger and crew baggage and goods must be presented to a biosecurity officer following removal from the aircraft. The biosecurity officer will determine if an inspection of any or all of the baggage and goods is required.

Check the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) for the import requirements for all goods being imported. Some goods must meet specific import requirements, some may need an import permit before they will be permitted into Australia and some goods cannot be brought into Australia.

Baggage or goods covered under diplomatic privilege will be processed by the department in accordance with the Vienna Convention for Diplomatic and Consular Relations .

Aircraft remains subject to biosecurity control

As the department cannot verify that the aircraft is free from items of biosecurity concern, the commander of the aircraft will be advised that the aircraft remains subject to biosecurity control until it leaves Australia.

Foreign governments are required to provide a detailed itinerary of proposed aircraft movements within Australia, and details of when and where the aircraft will be opened.

If a detailed itinerary has not been provided prior to arrival, the biosecurity officer will obtain this information from the commander of the aircraft on arrival. The commander must notify the department of any amendments to the itinerary.
Upon closing of the aircraft doors and holds, the biosecurity officer will direct the commander (either orally or in writing) that the aircraft must remain closed. The aircraft will now be considered by the department to be ‘sealed’, and must not be opened unless a biosecurity officer is present or authorisation has been granted by the department to open the aircraft. This applies to both cabin doors and holds. The department may implement surveillance on ‘sealed’ aircraft to prevent the removal of goods of biosecurity concern.

Travel to subsequent airports

If the aircraft is scheduled to land at a subsequent airport(s), prior to departing Australia, the aircraft remains subject to biosecurity control. The measures outlined above for passenger and goods clearance will apply at all subsequent airports, unless otherwise advised.

If the aircraft is travelling to an airport that does not have appropriate Department of Agriculture and Water Resources inspection facilities, only goods released from biosecurity control at a first point of entry for those goods , and clearly identified by a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources stamp or mark , may be removed from the aircraft at that airport. Permission to unload goods while a biosecurity officer is not present may be subject to approval from the department.

Further information

Further information relating to Australia’s biosecurity requirements visit the Aircraft, vessels and military web page.​