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Non-commercial vessels (yachts and private superyacht) biosecurity - Starting on the right tack

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What happens when you arrive in Australia?

If you are visiting, returning to Australia or importing a yacht (a non-commercial vessel), the master and/or operator of the yacht is responsible for complying with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources biosecurity rules and regulations.

These rules reduce the risk of harmful pests and diseases entering and establishing in Australia and enable the appropriate management of pests and diseases that pose a risk to Australian environment and agricultural industries.

All vessels arriving from an overseas destination or which have come in contact with international vessels must:

  • enter Australia through a designated first point of entry
  • report your pending arrival.
  • have an inspection from a biosecurity officer.
  • comply with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Department of Agriculture and Water Resources pre-arrival reporting conditions.

How to report you are coming to Australia

All non-commercial vessels arriving in Australia are required by law to give notice of impending arrival at least 96 hours before arrival. Notify your arrival by:

  • Email: Yacht Report
  • Phone: Department of Immigration and Border Protection +61 2 6246 1325

See the Department of Immigration and Border Protection: Let us know you're coming for more information.

To go ashore without prior clearance is an offence. Contact with other vessels in port prior to clearance is also prohibited.

When you arrive in Australia, a biosecurity officer from the department will board your vessel to ask questions, assess documents and conduct a physical inspection. The outcome of these activities is to assess the common biosecurity risks associated with yachts and superyachts such as timber pests, food, plant material, animals and/or human health concerns. For more detailed information about the process and/or biosecurity risks, please refer to the Vessels web page.

What can you bring in on a vessel including yachts and superyachts?

Australia has strict laws relating to the importation and/or possession of certain goods to minimise the risk of the introduction of exotic pests and diseases into Australia. It is recommended that passengers should consume as much organic provisions as possible prior to arriving in Australia.

  • Vessel masters must declare and present all food/provisions, plant material and animal products for inspection on arrival in Australia.
  • Some products may require treatment to make them safe. Other items that pose pest and disease risks will not be permitted to remain on board the vessel in Australia.

For a list of goods that you must declare on arrival in Australia, see Arriving in Australia - declare it!

For further information on the products that can be brought into Australia, refer to the Biosecur​ity Import Conditions system (BICON).

What needs a permit?

Some goods may be allowed into Australia if it is accompanied by an import permit (issued by the department prior to arrival) or with treatment in Australia to make them safe (fees and charges apply).

What you can do to help and prepare your non-commercial vessel for arrival in Australia?

For an efficient biosecurity inspection, please ensure the following actions are undertaken:

  • report your pending arrival or any changes in voyage or other circumstances onboard.
  • do not let anyone leave or board the vessel before the inspection.
  • contain/confine pets or animals on board.
  • secure the vessel in such a way that prevents excessive movement during the inspection.
  • remove all hazardous items.
  • remove panels, personal effects and other equipment from lockers/cupboards.
  • have fresh fruit, meat and waste bagged on arrival for removal.
  • ensure all areas of the vessel are accessible for inspection, particularly timber surfaces.
  • have information available regarding timber components, such as history of refits.

The inspection process for non-commercial vessels

1. Interview with the master or operator

An interview with the master provides a biosecurity officer with the opportunity to verify the biosecurity status of the vessel, people and animals (where applicable) onboard. The officer will also view all relevant documentation, such as information related to timber components.

2. Inspection

On arrival at a first point of entry, your vessel will be physically inspected. This includes inspection of:

  • health of persons onboard
  • personal effects/articles
  • timber components of the vessel and any history of damage or refits
  • kitchen facilities and store rooms
  • hull, anchors, chains and other ancillary gear
  • water collection/storage containers.

Inspections will only be undertaken in safe conditions, during daylight hours and usually within normal operational hours. You should also be aware that more than one inspection may be required to resolve any identified biosecurity risks.

If no biosecurity concerns are detected during the inspection, the biosecurity officer will release your vessel.

3. Managing risks

To manage common risks, the biosecurity officer may undertake or request that you undertake certain directions and/or treatments, including (but not exclusive to):

  • confirmation of the management of any plants or animals onboard
  • removal of waste
  • stripping to coastal (the process/moving from international articles to coastal articles)
  • other treatments as directed.

If biosecurity concerns are detected, the biosecurity officer can take any of the following actions:

  • seek further advice from departmental technical experts or other authoritative body
  • refer concerns such as human health issues to other relevant Australian Government agencies
  • use an alternative detection methods (e.g. detector dog or device for termites)
  • direct the vessel undergo remedial action via approved methods, such as timber treatment
  • direct the vessel to a particular place or for export where the vessel can be imported as cargo.

Your vessel may also be subject to verification inspections on succeeding days at the first point of entry and subsequent port/s of call to ensure continued compliance with directions as instructed by a biosecurity officer if your vessel has not been released from biosecurity control at the first point of entry.

4. Pratique and initial on-arrival biosecurity inspection

Once the biosecurity officer has completed the inspection, a post inspection interview is conducted to discuss any biosecurity issues identified in the vessel inspection with you. Pratique and biosecurity clearance may be provided at this time and confirmation of any conditions for your further travel within Australia. The biosecurity officer will advise you if your vessel is released from biosecurity control and no longer subject to biosecurity inspections.

Vessels with timber components

All vessels with timber components entering Australia must be inspected for timber pests, whether the vessel is sailed in, itinerant, a returning Australian vessel or imported as cargo.

When a vessel is sailed in, the inspection of timber components is likely to be included as part of the arrival inspection. If the inspection of timber components cannot be performed on arrival, the inspection must be completed within 14 days. If the inspection of timber components cannot be performed on arrival, the inspection must be completed within 14 days. It is the vessel operator’s responsibility to make arrangements for this inspection to occur and to ensure the vessel is presented at the port of arrival within this timeframe. The vessel will continue to be subjected to biosecurity control, including restrictions, until this inspection has been performed and the vessel can be released. See Requirements for vessels with timber components.

If you are importing your vessel refer to the (BICON) system for information on import requirements for individual commodities and cargo.

What if there are pets or animals onboard?

Vessels which carry pets are considered high risk and therefore require increased verification whilst in Australian waters. Some animals are not permitted into Australia and you should always check the restrictions prior to travelling to Australia with your pet.

As Australia is fortunate to be free from many dog and cat diseases such as Rabies that affect other parts of the world, the department does not allow the import of dogs and cats from certain countries.

Prior to arrival at an Australian first port of call, the master must notify the department of the presence of animals onboard.

The inspecting biosecurity officer will issue the master or owner with the 'Reporting Requirements for Animals on Vessels' form. This form sets out the general conditions for the keeping of animals onboard the vessel and may include additional conditions. The 'Master Declaration' section of the form must be completed.

The general conditions for yachts with animals onboard include the following:

  • The vessel must be secured at mid water mooring.
  • All animals onboard must be confined in a manner so as to prevent contact with persons or Australian domestic animals.
  • The animal must be confined below decks if the vessel is left unattended.
  • All animals waste must be disposed of in a manner approved by the department.
  • The department must be notified immediately if the animal becomes sick, dies or escapes whilst in Australia.
  • A biosecurity officer will visit the vessel at each port of call in Australia, or on a regular basis if the vessel is remaining in the same port, to ensure that the conditions stated on the 'Reporting Requirements for Animals on Vessels' form are being met.
  • All subsequent movements around Australia must be reported to the department prior to departure and arrival.
  • Continuous verification of pets will incur department fee for service charges.
  • If the animal is to remain permanently in Australia, see cats and dogs travelling to Australia via private vessels to determine eligibility for import.
  • If you do not have a valid import permit for your pet (including a dog or cat) and it cannot be confined onboard the vessel (and associated conditions as specified in the biosecurity direction - such as mid-water mooring and reporting obligations are not able to be complied with) then you will need to consider one of the following options:
    • Immediately exporting your pet(s) under the direct supervision of a biosecurity officer. (Note: This option will only be available for certain animal species and from certain ports with an immediately adjacent international airport and where the department has the resources to supervise the export. It is unlikely that the department would be able to issue any international health certification for a pet which was to be exported in this manner and the exporter would need to ensure that the destination country (not Australia) would accept the pet on arrival.
    • In extreme situations and where the pet is not able to be confined on board the vessel and not able to be immediately exported then the animal may need to be euthanased by a departmental Veterinary Officer.

Fees and charges

Where a vessel is cleared and inspected at the first port of call, an arrival levy and a fee for the time taken to inspect and clear the vessel will be charged.

  • Fees and charges for vessels sailed in can be paid on the spot via credit card, or at Department of Immigration and Border Protection or at a Department of Agriculture and Water Resources office.
  • The department service fees are invoiced, normally through your broker for yachts imported as cargo. Some fees must be paid prior to inspection taking place.
  • Inspection services for yachts and superyachts are payable at the time of inspection. Only a valid credit card payment can be accepted and all credit cards will be authorised when presented.
  • Cash will not be accepted by biosecurity officers. If you have no other form of payment other than cash then you will be required to go to the office to present payment to a ‘Collector of Public Money (CPM)’, which is at your own expense.

Where there is no biosecurity risk detected, the inspection is covered by standard departmental vessel fees and no additional payments are required. Where a biosecurity issue is detected, vessel owners will be charged fee-for-service and any additional charges relating to removing biosecurity risk materials.

More information

For further information on travelling to Australia, refer to: