Important changes to Australia’s biosecurity system came into effect on 16 June 2016 with commencement of the Biosecurity Act 2015.
Under the Biosecurity Act, there are some changes that affect installations and petroleum industry vessels, and how the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources manages the risks associated with domestic vessels and aircraft that interact with conveyances located
outside of Australian territory.
The term ‘installation’ refers to a structure that is:
- attached to or resting on the seabed or is attached to a structure that is attached to or resting on the seabed
- able to float or be floated
- able to be moved from one place to another, and
- is wholly or principally used in exploring or exploiting natural resources.
A ‘petroleum industry vessel’ means a vessel (other than an installation) that is, or is to be:
- used wholly or principally for exploring or exploiting petroleum, with equipment on or forming part of the vessel; or
- used for operations or activities associated with or incidental to exploring or exploiting petroleum.
Australian territory in the context of the Biosecurity Act consists of Australia and relevant external Territories (Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and from 1 July 2016, Norfolk Island), their airspace and their coastal sea. Coastal sea generally extends to 12 Nautical Miles. As a result all installations outside 12NM are located outside of Australian territory.
While the installations outside 12NM themselves will not be subject to biosecurity control, conveyances (vessels and aircraft) which leave Australian territory and are exposed to installations outside 12NM will become subject to biosecurity control when returning to Australian territory.
International vessels and aircraft that interact with installations outside Australian territory
International vessels and aircraft that service installations and petroleum industry vessels located outside of Australian territory are not regulated by the Biosecurity Act. This means that operators of international vessels and aircraft are no longer be required to seek approval from the department to interact with the installation.
Interactions outside Australian territory
Domestic vessels and aircraft that interact with installations outside Australian territory
When a domestic vessel or aircraft leaves Australian territory and interacts with an installation or petroleum industry vessel it becomes an ‘exposed conveyance’ and is subject to biosecurity control when it returns to Australian territory unless exceptions can be met. The person in charge of an exposed conveyance carries the responsibility for pre-arrival reporting under the Biosecurity Act and must arrive at a first point of entry.
When a domestic conveyance becomes ‘exposed’
Exceptions to biosecurity requirements
The Biosecurity (Exposed Conveyances – Exceptions from Biosecurity Control) Determination 2016 outlines the circumstances where exposed conveyances interacting with an installation or petroleum industry vessel outside 12NM will not become subject to biosecurity control upon return to Australian territory.
Claiming an exception
When claiming an exception, the operator or person in charge of the exposed conveyance simply needs to know that they (and in certain circumstances the installation or petroleum industry vessel) can meet the conditions specified in this determination. They do not need to apply to the department for the exception. Should the department choose to verify the validity of exceptions being claimed, it is important to note that the operator or person in charge of the exposed conveyance bears the evidential burden in relation to any exception being claimed.
Where the conditions for an exception cannot be met, exposed conveyances that interact with an installation or petroleum industry vessel become subject to biosecurity control upon return to Australian territory, and must make a report.
Goods on board a conveyance that can’t meet an exception
Goods become ‘exposed goods’ if a biosecurity officer suspects on reasonable grounds that they have been exposed to other goods or conveyances that are subject to biosecurity control.
Where a domestic vessel that is exposed to an installation is unable to meet the conditions for an exception, the vessel will become subject to biosecurity control when it enters Australian territory. The goods on board this vessel will be ‘exposed goods’ and after assessment, a biosecurity officer may issue an exposed goods order.
Exposed goods are subject to biosecurity risk assessment in the same manner as if the goods had been imported and were subject to biosecurity control.
Domestic vessels that interact with installations and carry domestic goods including machinery, should
- consider the application of the Act and be conscious of their biosecurity status,
- understand the operation of any
approved arrangements covering the activities of an installation
- maintain awareness of condition of an exception and their ability to meet these conditions.
There are new human health provisions in the Biosecurity Act that may impact personnel working on or interacting with installations. These provisions are administered by the Department of Health and further details about managing human biosecurity under the Act can be found on their website.