Arrangements for vessels invoking sovereign immunity

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

All vessels invoking sovereign immunity must comply with the pre-arrival reporting requirements set out below.

Pre-arrival reporting

  • Pre-Arrival Report (PAR) - Vessels entering the Australian Territory are required to submit this form 96 to 12 hours prior to arrival.
  • The commanding officer (vessel master) of each vessel claiming sovereign immunity must declare to the department on arrival:
    • whether the galley areas and dry stores are hygienic and free of infestations
    • whether waste is stored appropriately (in bags/bins and not exposed)
    • whether there are any dry stores on the vessel from the countries listed as being at risk from Trogoderma species (as per the department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) case for raw seed, also see Attachment 1), and
    • that crew are aware of the department’s requirements to not remove any food products, plant or animal material from the vessel and that targeted gangway watches of the vessel may occur.

This written declaration should be submitted by the commanding officer/vessel master by email to the Maritime National Coordination Centre (MNCC).

For details on the MNCC’s operating hours and contact details, see the Vessels webpage. For out of MNCC hours, contact the department’s local port where the vessel will be arriving. See Vessel Contacts.

The MNCC will risk assess the vessel based on information provided in the PAR and declaration and will advise the vessel’s agent of any further conditions and/or measures placed on the vessel (for example, whether or not the vessel has the department’s permission to discharge ballast water) on the approval to berth.

The vessels’ agent should discuss the vessels’ sovereign immunity requirements with biosecurity officers prior to a vessel’s arrival.

Biosecurity documents required by the department upon arrival

  • All vessels must submit a Ballast Water Report and other appropriate vessel papers (for example, Certificate of Freedom from Gypsy Moth Certificates and Ship Sanitation Certificate) to a biosecurity officer upon arrival at the port briefing.

The vessel will be issued a Biosecurity Status Document, informing the commanding officer/vessel master of the department’s requirements regarding pratique, waste removal and biosecurity intervention of crew and passengers that will occur wharf side during the vessel’s stay in port.

Biosecurity waste bins used by vessels at all intended ports of call

  • Sovereign immune vessels, or their Australian agents, are required to provide adequate biosecurity waste bins at all Australian ports where the vessel intends to visit.

Biosecurity officers are not responsible for the collection and disposal of biosecurity risk material, however, at times may remove small amounts (a fee for service will be charged to the vessel or their Australian agent). If it is not possible for a biosecurity officer to remove the waste, it is the commanding officer’s (vessel master's) responsibility to ensure that the waste is disposed of by a service provider on an approved arrangement with the department.

Treatment of biosecurity waste coming off the vessel

  • As the disease/pest status of the galley and provision areas are not known by the department, all waste being removed from the vessel must be treated as high risk biosecurity waste, in accordance with the department’s requirements, taking into account specific port capabilities and infrastructure.
  • Full departmental supervision will apply to all vessel waste as it is removed from vessel to barge (if applicable), and to the wharf side collection point. In circumstances whereby a vessel is at anchor and a barge is used to transfer waste to shore and where front-loading lift bin type receptacles are used, receptacles must be lockable and be kept locked during transfer.
  • If crew intend to remove waste, a biosecurity officer must supervise the removal of the waste.
  • All waste must be double bagged prior to being removed from the vessel.

Where the integrity of the receptacles has been compromised or there is an identifiable risk such as:

  • non-cosmopolitan insects or insects of an unknown species are sighted on or near waste
  • waste is not doubled bagged
  • bags containing waste are damaged
  • the vessel has a history of insect related problems; for example Trogoderma.

The following treatment will apply:

  • Waste collected off sovereign immune vessels will be sprayed with an insecticide aerosol spray. Spray will be applied to the top of the biosecurity waste and all external and internal surfaces of the bin. For very large volumes of waste the vessel’s master will be encouraged to use industrial style spraying devices in lieu of a pressure pack spray and/or engage a pest controller to undertake required treatment.
  • If a biosecurity pest is identified the further removal of waste from the vessel will cease pending treatment of landed waste in an approved manner, such as fumigation.

All costs associated with the treatment and/or destruction of any biosecurity waste being removed from the vessel will be at the expense of the vessel or its Australian agent.

Increased gangway watch of disembarking crew

  • While the vessel is in port, any baggage carried off the vessel by officers, crew and/or visitors to the vessel will be subject to biosecurity intervention as they disembark the vessel.

Any non-compliance with biosecurity requirements will result in increased mandatory gangway watches and monitoring by the department for the duration of the vessel’s stay in port. Any additional activity will result in appropriate department fees being applied.

All costs associated with the intervention of disembarking officers, crew and/or visitors will be borne by the vessel or its Australian agent.

Further information

Further information relating to Australia’s biosecurity requirements for aircraft, vessels and military can be obtained by visiting the aircraft, vessels and military web page on the department's website.

Attachment 1

Countries of origin of dry stores

Countries with stored product pest (Khapra Beetle – Trogoderma sp.) April 2016

Please also refer to the department’s BICON case for raw seed when reading this list. A current listing of countries is available by visiting the department’s Khapra beetle webpage.

Foreign government vessels are to notify the department prior to arrival if they are carrying dry stores from one of the following countries:

Countries with stored product pest on April 2016
South America SubcontinentGuinea Bissau, Republic of
VenezuelaAfghanistanIvory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire)
Middle EastBangladeshKenya
IranSri LankaLibya
Israel AfricaMalawi
Saudi ArabiaCameroonNiger
SyriaCentral African RepublicNigeria
United Arab EmiratesComorosSenegal
YemenCongoSierra Leone
South and East AsiaCongo (Democratic Republic)Somali Republic
Cambodia (Kampuchea)DjiboutiSudan
Korea, Republic ofEgyptSwaziland
LaosEquatorial GuineaTanzania
Myanmar (Burma)EritreaTogo